North Bay is one of 11 rural and northern communities across Canada selected to be part of a pilot project to attract immigrants to settle in smaller communities.
"As the Canadian population ages and the birth rates decline, rural Canada's workforce has seen a significant decrease in available workers," says a news release from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. "This pilot will help attract people that are needed to drive economic growth and help the middle-class support jobs in these communities."
Patti Carr, Vice President of Policy and Communications for the local Chamber of Commerce is thrilled at the news.
The Chamber was the proponent in the application process.
"I'm very excited, but we have lots of partners," she told BayToday. "It was certainly a quick turnaround on the application and the government was thinking of only picking three or four locations right across Canada so we weren't sure what our chances were at getting the pilot, but we're pretty proud of the application we put in with a week and a half turnaround."
The area is a big one stretching from Temiskaming Shores and Kirkland Lake down to Burk's Falls, over to West Nipissing and east to Mattawa.
It won't be a quick process says Carr.
"We'll look forward to bringing in immigrants in 2020. It's for certain categories of employment that we need that we can't find locally or provincially.
"We want to be cautious and make sure the immigrant families are settled well and not wanting to head to major centres."
The government has not given a solid number on the amount of immigrants going to each community, but Carr says it's not a minimum number but a maximum.
The project could last up to five years.
Deborah Robertson is the executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre.
"This is great news for the community," she said. "It's a mechanism that allows us to fill labour shortages with newcomers. Our role will be to provide settlement support and we welcome this opportunity."
Other selected communities are:
- Sault Ste. Marie
- Thunder Bay,
- Gretna Rhineland-Altona, Plum Coulee (MB)
- Brandon (MB)
- Moose Jaw (SK)
- Claresholm (AB),
- West Kootenay (BC), and
- Vernon (BC).
The communities were selected as a representative sample of the regions across Canada to assist in laying out the blueprint for the rest of the country.
"The equation is quite easy," said Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration. "Attracting and retaining newcomers with the skills needed equals a recipe for success for Canada's rural and northern communities. We have tested a similar pilot immigration in Atlantic Canada and It has already shown tremendous results.
Communities will be responsible for candidate recruitment and endorsement for permanent residence.