The aim of this document is to provide a basic understanding of how the immigration ecosystem works in Canada generally and in Newfoundland and Labrador in particular. In the absence of such understanding, myths and misunderstandings will predominate, likely leading to poor policies and decisions that are counterproductive to creating a sustainable province.
The basic assumption underlying this document is that immigration is key to the province’s future. In the absence of immigration, the province’s population will decline, its labour force will decline, its economy will suffer, and its rural areas will empty. A declining population will have a devastating impact on the provision of public services, on the repayment of the public debt and on the province’s influence at the national level, among many other factors.
Ideally, immigrants will integrate fully into their new society. This means that they will see it as their new home and decide to stay for the long term. However, despite the investment of a great deal of time, effort and money to attract immigrants, there is no guarantee that they will remain in the province over the long term. While it is difficult to measure the retention rate of immigrants, one thing is clear: Newfoundland and Labrador does a relatively poorer job than other provinces of retaining those immigrants that it has attracted.
The primary reason is the lack of employment opportunities in the province. This is ironic given the number of unfilled vacancies in the economy. Why is it that immigrants – as well as native-born Newfoundlanders and Labradorians – have to leave the province to find work when there are apparently many job vacancies going unfilled in the province?
International students who wish to transition to permanent resident status may be ineligible for enrolment in the province’s Medical Care Program if they cannot find year-round full-time employment after graduation. They may be forced to move to another province where full-time employment opportunities are more plentiful in order to be eligible for free medical coverage. Graduates who wish to start their own enterprise (and who are not looking for year-round, full-time work with an employer) are not eligible for MCP coverage while they remain temporary residents. This may act as a deterrent to entrepreneurship in the province.
The education system is already straining under the (so far limited) influx of immigrant children. If the number of immigrants was to increase in the next few years, additional resources will need to be invested in the school system: more ESL teachers, speech language pathologists and psychologists; improvements to the LEARN program; and the creation of integrated service teams to deal with exceptionalities.
Another reason for the province’s relatively low retention rate of immigrants may be the spouse’s feeling of isolation. Some spouses of newcomers may have difficulty operating day-to-day in the English language and may want to move to a community elsewhere in Canada where there are more people who speak the same language.
Public attitudes, at both the local and provincial levels, play an important role in all facets of immigration. If the general public does not support immigration, its elected politicians are also unlikely to do so. This means that, at the provincial level, politicians will set low targets of immigrants and will not provide sufficient funding to the municipal level to encourage settlement. At the local level, a hostile attitude toward newcomers will discourage the latter from settling there or at the very least, from remaining over the long term. Among other things, this points to the need for more diversity training within organizations and communities.
A short, plain language report summary can be found here.
The full report can be found here.