Attracting new immigrants and keeping them in Nova Scotia was the topic of a brain storming session at Canada’s Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 on Monday.
Increased immigration has been identified as a vital key to building the provincial economy.
Immigration groups, provincial officials and business leaders sat down to find solutions following a series of eight conversations across the province this past summer.
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants first touched Canada’s shore at Pier 21, so it was fitting for the discussion about how to increase and keep new Canadians in Nova Scotia to take place there.
Nova Scotia’s Immigration Minister Lena Diab was among those involved in the conversation. She says a lot has been done over the past two years, from nearly doubling Nova Scotia’s nomination cap to improving settlement services.
“Immigration is really hot and Nova Scotia is on the map,” said Diab. “The goal is to build on the momentum that we have in this province around immigration, around growing our population, around that immigration will push us forward economically.”
Dr. Colin Dodds, the Past-President of Saint Mary’s University, says universities not only need to recruit people from other countries, but help the 7,000 international students already in the province make Nova Scotia their home after graduation.
“Many of them want to stay, they love it here,” said Dr. Dodds. “They’re here for four years and they like the communities and they want to stay. We have to be a little more welcoming. We have to be willing to make adjustments so that people do feel they’re a part of the community.”
Ali Duale is a refugee from Somalia. He arrived in Canada 18 years ago. He says Nova Scotia generally is friendly, but some people still have negative attitudes toward immigrants.
“I did ask the committee in their effort, how they can change the perception (that) immigrants are lazy people, are taking our jobs, they don’t produce any benefit for the province, and quite honest, that’s not true,” Duale said.
He says there are immigrants with PHDs that are working as janitors in Canada.
Diab says when the new federal Liberal government takes power, she’ll be asking the immigration cap be eliminated altogether in Nova Scotia.
“I don’t see why we need to have it in Nova Scotia. I want more flexibility and we need more control over our own program, more than what we’ve ever had in this province.”