EDITORIAL: A welcome matters for immigration

Chronicle Herald, 11 July 2016. 

Despite a small population bump last year, the long-term outlook for Nova Scotia’s growth is far from rosy.

Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, both with rapidly aging demographics and a trickle-away population pattern, are particularly troublesome.

Nova Scotia’s population is forecast to shrink over the next 20 years as young people continue a pattern of leaving the province to seek employment. The 2014 Ivany Report predicts that, by 2036, Nova Scotia will have 100,000 fewer working-age residents than it did in 2010. Newfoundland and Labrador has the oldest age profile of any province, with Nova Scotia a close second.

Those disturbing numbers have inspired Liberal Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison to encourage Atlantic Canadians to ditch the “come-from-away” label some of them sometimes pin on transplants to the region.

Mr. Brison, the federal Treasury Board president, told The Canadian Press it’s “in our collective interest, economically and socially, to not use terms that reflect a negative view of people who choose to make Atlantic Canada their home.” He rightly says, “We’ve got to do more to welcome people here.”

Nova Scotia’s senior federal minister is looking for a change in attitude as part of a larger strategy to implement new immigration measures to alter a “terrifying demographic trend line.”

Mr. Brison is on to a good thing. We need to do all in our power to make new Atlantic Canadians feel welcome and at home. It is equally important to find ways to provide the opportunities that will keep our youth from packing their bags for greener pastures elsewhere.

The former can support the latter. A more culturally diverse Atlantic Canada is a more interesting and vibrant Atlantic Canada, which will provide more reasons for young people to stick around.

Despite a down-home, easy-going demeanor, Atlantic Canadians can be apprehensive toward newcomers. Mr. Brison is right. We cannot afford to be apprehensive and cliquish. Without more people coming our way, we will continue to fade and grey.

Our embrace of thousands of Syrian refugees who started arriving here late last year shows it can be done.

We can all do our part to lay out the welcome mat. After all, unless you can trace your roots to our aboriginal First Nations, we are all from another place.

Multiculturalism has worked well to enrich and grow other parts of Canada. Let’s embrace it as a way to attract others to come here to live and stay.

We need to truly embody Nova Scotia’s famous official greeting: Cead Mile Failte, a hundred thousand welcomes.

Let’s come away with that. We’ll all be richer for it.