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Atlantic provinces see rapid growth in immigration, Census figures show

October 27, 2022

By CBC News |

Chijioke Amadi has called Prince Edward Island home for the past 15 years since arriving from Nigeria.

He landed in the province in 2007, when he was 21, to study engineering at the University of Prince Edward Island. His road hasn’t always been easy.

In his third year, Amadi was late paying his tuition and was asked to leave an exam hall. “I got kicked out of school, my final exam,” he said in a recent interview.

He went to Alberta for a few years to work and save, before returning to the Island to finish his classes and put down roots. He now has multiple volunteer positions and jobs including a business, Wheelie Bin Doctors, that washes and sanitizes garbage cans.

“I chose to stay in P.E.I.,” Amadi said. “P.E.I. has always treated me well. P.E.I. felt like home for me. Alberta felt like work for me.”

Census data released Wednesday shows the Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have become magnets for immigrants like Amadi.

The share of immigrants to Canada who are settling in the region has tripled, rising to 3.5 per cent last year from 1.2 per cent in 2006.

Patrick Brannon, a senior researcher at the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, said Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are seeing the biggest growth in immigration, with steady increases between 2016 and 2021.

With the overall population in these areas aging, he said targeted immigration to offset the labour shortage has paid off. Most of the newcomers are from China and India, he added.

Service shortages

But there are fears the gains could be short-lived, as critical services haven’t kept pace with the growth. High rents, a lack of sufficient housing and an alarming shortage of doctors and nurses that has caused hospitals and emergency rooms to cut hours have become a recurring lament across the region.

Most of the people coming in “may struggle a little bit” to get a doctor with about 300,000 Atlantic Canadians on wait lists at the moment, Brannon said.

“That is a challenge that a lot of people in the [region] are facing, so it’s a very big concern.”

Jeffrey Reitz, a professor in the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, said provincial initiatives to attract newcomers are one reason more people are looking east.

“The real challenge for some of these non-traditional destinations is not so much that they get immigrants, but whether they actually are able to keep those immigrants,” he said.

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