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Opinion: Will the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot become a permanent program?

Let's follow the lead of the Atlantic Pilot
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The Atlantic Immigration Pilot program is going to become a permanent immigration stream.

So what, you ask? What does that have to do with North Bay?

Here’s what.

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program, of which North Bay is a part, was loosely based on the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, which began in 2017. The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, or RNIP, includes North Bay, Timmins, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, plus six other municipalities in western Canada,and is in its second year of a five-year pilot.

The fact that the Atlantic pilot is transitioning to a permanent Atlantic Immigration Class stream bodes well for RNIP. The two programs have the same objectives:  disperse immigrants to where they are needed, away from Canada’s top 10 immigration destinations; help grow the population, and entice employers to look to immigration to fill jobs they cannot fill locally or nationally and expand their businesses.

Evaluation of the Atlantic Pilot by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada showed the program successfully addressed regional labour market needs and increased immigrant retention. The evaluation found that 58 per cent of surveyed employers said this was the first time they used an immigration program to hire a foreign worker.

It also showed the majority of immigrants continued to live in Atlantic Canada after their first year.

That is a challenge in North Bay and the other 10 RNIP municipalities—getting the employers to see the benefits and sign on to the program. Those who have, are enjoying the rewards of hiring skilled people in positions they could not fill locally. Some North Bay employers have hired many immigrants through RNIP and the word spreads among the immigrant community that they are good employers.

The North Bay program got off to a slow start with the Memorandum of Understanding process between the lead agency, the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce, and IRCC taking much longer than it should have. It was also slowed by the COVID-19 epidemic which closed our borders.

Fortunately, we have a supply of qualified candidates living here already, with most of them being graduates of Canadore College. Yes Employment Services works closely with the Chamber to funnel people through the first phase of the application process.

The goal is to put 150 people and their families through the program in 2021. I have seen a considerable number of Filipinas with BSc degrees in nursing from their home country, plus nursing experience, plus another health care diploma from Canadore, go into our local health care professions.

Our aging population should be thankful these highly qualified and caring people are attracted to North Bay and want to stay here and work and raise their families.

While Canada’s population growth is mostly dependent on immigration at present, by the early 2030s it is expected to rely exclusively on immigration. In 2018 four in five immigrants lived in Canada’s 10 largest cities, which makes the Atlantic and RNIP programs necessary. We need to spread immigration more evenly to all areas of the country.

Those interested in obtaining permanent resident status through RNIP have to meet the federal program requirements, which they can find at They include having a job in a qualifying field, passing an English test, having at least a high school education, and intending to live in North Bay.

The candidates I have seen speak English as well as I do, have university degrees and college diplomas, plus considerable work experience in their field. We are lucky to have them.

If they are successful with the local vetting process they receive a coveted community recommendation, bearing the signature of Peter Chirico, CEO at the Chamber. Then, a second and more thorough vetting process begins.

They must prepare a complete permanent residence application, which includes many forms and documents. Questions relate to their parents, brothers and sisters, their foreign travels, their work experience, education, language ability with test results, whether or not they were in the military, and much more. Documents required include passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates or proof of common-law relationship, education diplomas and transcripts, English or French language test results, proof of work experience, proof of settlement funds if you are not already working in Canada, police clearance certificates from every country you have lived in for six months or more, plus medical exams.

The local process can take a few weeks or a couple of months, depending on the candidate, and the federal process can take up to 12 months, or even longer.

It’s a long and taxing process but permanent residence and the promise of a good life in Canada is the end goal.

We now have a number of RNIP candidates nearing the end of the federal process, with dozens more right behind them. It amazes me that so few people know about this exciting program that is already enriching the culture, schools and workplaces in North Bay.

Our MP, Anthony Rota, was one of the vocal proponents of RNIP. Now that the Atlantic pilot will become a permanent immigration program I hope he is already lobbying to have RNIP follow suit.

Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant living in North Bay.

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Don Curry

About the Author: Don Curry

Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and president of Curry Immigration Consulting and a former journalism instructor
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