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Rural communities need more settlement dollars: Conference Board

February 28, 2022

By New Canadian Media |

Settlement services for new immigrants, especially in small towns and rural communities, need to be boosted to ensure the successful integration of newcomers, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Yet, over the last five or six years, “settlement service funding has not kept up with the growth in the immigration levels plan,” states the independent think tank, which focuses on economic and public policy issues.

This has been true “especially during the pandemic,” explains Iain Reeve, the Board’s associate director of immigration research.

“Settlement funding must follow the ambition of the levels plan,” he told New Canadian Media in an interview.

His comments follow last week’s announcement that Canada aims to attract about 1.3 million new immigrants over the next three years to help fill critical labour shortages and fuel post-pandemic growth.

According to Reeve, who recently penned an op-ed on the issue for the Globe and Mail, given that more communities across Canada are becoming pro-active in trying to welcome and retain immigrants, governments and the immigration sector must pivot toward ensuring their successful settlement and integration.

That’s why “attracting immigrants is only half of the process,” especially during the pandemic, he says, “because not every immigrant is best served by choosing to live in a major city,”

“We need more targeted and specialized services especially in rural communities to attract new immigrants and ensure they have access to essential services especially during their first year in Canada,” he said. Without this,  “our record influx of newcomers won’t achieve their full potential.”
Additionally, he says, “settling in a greater diversity of locations also flattens the infrastructure costs of a growing population, while the benefits of immigration are shared.”

Luring newcomers
Canada’s new immigration plan will set a record for annual new arrivals starting with 431,645 in 2022 and rising to 451,000 by 2024.

Driven mostly by immigration, Canada’s population rose to 37 million people in 2021, up 5.2 per cent from 2016, according to a  Statistics Canada report, with almost 90 per cent of new immigrants settling in urban centes.

In an attempt to lure more newcomers to smaller communities, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently announced an investment of more than $35 million to expand settlement services.

This investment includes $21 million to add nine new Resettlement Assistance Program service providers in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick. In addition, 14 existing settlement service providers will get one million dollars each to expand programs to assist more vulnerable newcomers.

This investments will be key to enhancing access to support services in smaller and rural communities, said  Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser.

The Conference Board of Canada has welcomed recent initiatives by the provinces of Manitoba and Alberta to attract more new immigrants to its smaller communities.

Alberta has announced two new immigration streams to help rural communities grow by attracting skilled newcomers. The new rural immigration streams are part of the federal-provincial  Alberta Advantage Immigration Program, which nominates individuals for permanent residence in that province if they have skills to fill job shortages or are planning to buy or start a business there.

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