Source – thestar.com
– “…If we want to able to grow economically, we need to be willing to grow culturally and socially as well,” Atallah said. “It’s great that more and more Nova Scotians are seeing themselves as part of the welcoming community and not leaving that to government…It’s time for us to stop keeping this a secret, and let the rest of the country know”
Why fellow Canadians are Joining the Thousands of Immigrants Moving to the Maritimes –(Mon., Sept. 30, 2019)
HALIFAX—When Adam Fenech first moved from Toronto to Prince Edward Island, his friends weren’t sad to see him go. In fact, they gave him six weeks.
Fenech was born and raised in Toronto and worked there for years, but when he was offered the opportunity to help build the University of Prince Edward Island’s Climate Research Lab in 2012, he packed up and headed to the country’s smallest province.
His Ontario friends made a pool on how long Fenech would last, since they considered him the ultimate “urban person” who cherished theatre and opera. Seven years later, Fenech has settled in for life.
“I love it here, ever since I arrived,” Fenech said in an interview Monday.
“People say it’s quiet. I don’t say that; I say it’s calm. I’ve never been busier in my life, it’s just that I’m not stuck in traffic or standing in line doing something. It’s pretty crazy going back to the big cities. It doesn’t take long for me to long for the beauty of P.E.I., that’s for sure.”
More immigrants and Canadians are making the Maritime move, according to Statistics Canada data released Monday that compares population between July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019.
All the Maritime provinces experienced population growth in 2018/2019, but Prince Edward Island had the highest in the country at 2.2 per cent. Ontario was second with 1.7 per cent.
In the rest of the Maritimes, Nova Scotia saw a 1.2 per cent increase while New Brunswick had 0.8 per cent. The other Atlantic province, Newfoundland and Labrador, does not fit this upward trend as it was the only province that recorded a population decrease (-0.8 per cent) for the third consecutive year.
A Statistics Canada report explains that last year saw a “record high” number of international newcomers head to the Maritimes but it also solidified a pattern that hasn’t happened in decades: people from other parts of Canada are moving to the East Coast.
According to the report, three to four consecutive years of positive interprovincial migration had not been seen since the mid-1970s for New Brunswick, the early 1980s for Nova Scotia and the turn of this century for Prince Edward Island.
Nova Scotia gained 3,306 people through exchanges with the other provinces and territories over the last year, particularly with Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Interprovincial gains stood at 606 in New Brunswick and 129 in Prince Edward Island.
Fenech’s tenure position and marriage to his wife Jill Stewart, “a potato farmer’s daughter,” has anchored him to P.E.I. and made him see himself “as an Islander.” Still, he said he’s never had to give up the things he loved in a big city: The Island has great theatre, a wonderful local music scene, independent cinema and, yes, even employment opportunities.
The Island may have far fewer people than his birth province (P.E.I.’s population hit 156,947 as of this July, versus Ontario’s 14.5 million), but Fenech said that means there’s also fewer people to say no to you.
“I like to call it the art of the possible. Because you can sort of contact the people you need to, you can’t really hide here,” Fenech said. “Because our capacity is so low here, I find everybody works so well together.”
While interprovincial migration is up, international immigration made up the largest portion of the Maritimes population bump: Nova Scotia welcomed 10,073, New Brunswick 6,557 and Prince Edward Island 3,235.
In both cases, streams of people from across Canada and outside the country seem to be drawn to the Maritimes for similar reasons, said Dalhousie University professor Howard Ramos, a political sociologist who researches immigration.
Maritime cities like Halifax, Charlottetown and Moncton are “booming” as larger centres like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal have become too expensive for younger people, Ramos said.
While Monday’s report did not break down the age groups moving to various provinces, it showed nationally the biggest demographics of interprovincial migrants last year were young people aged 25-29 years (49,843) and 30-34 years (34,018).
Those cities have also hit a “sweet spot,” he said, in that all are small enough that it doesn’t take long to commute or access nature and the ocean but are also big enough to have an international airport as well as entertainment and culture amenities.
Ramos added that once there’s a critical mass of people arriving it can create “opportunities and momentum” that lead to better employment outcomes, which in turn become more of an anchor.
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Also, Ramos said Maritime leaders have recognized how vital immigration can be and the importance of creating welcoming communities, to the point where the narrative is “quite unique” in Canada.
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He cited the recent example of the billboards showing Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, and the message “Say NO to Mass Immigration” that were put up in August in some Canadian cities. Not only were they taken down quickly in Halifax after a public outcry, but just a couple weeks later groups including the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) got together to put up digital billboards across the Halifax area that highlighted how immigration grows jobs and diversity.
“Word is getting out that we are open to newcomers. And the old tropes and the old myths of our region being averse to change are quickly being busted,” Ramos said.
That welcoming spirit is why Bereket Guyallo, who arrived from Ethiopia two and a half years ago, has chosen to stay in the Maritimes. In an interview about a newcomer leadership project at the Halifax Central Library last week, Guyallo said Nova Scotians are one of the main things he loves about the province.
“They are very welcoming, everyone is smiling. It is really hard to not get integrated,” Guyallo said.
“I’ve been briefly to Toronto and I found how hectic it was and that everyone is rushing. But here while out walking or just jogging I can stop and talk with someone and everyone is happy to learn about you, to learn about your culture, and I feel like that is absolutely great.”
Ramos noted that Nova Scotia is striving to recruit international workers through Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Immigration Pilot. So did Nabiha Atallah, strategic initiatives adviser for ISANS.
Atallah said having governments focus on retention is really important, as well as having online programs so people can prepare themselves before arrival and come with realistic expectations of the Maritimes.
But at the end of the day, Atallah believes it boils down to people and community.
“Many people are attracted to smaller communities. They feel more welcomed, they feel it is easier to get to know people. The same reasons that the rest of us like living here,” Atallah said in an interview.
In addition, she credits Nova Scotians for “stepping up” and welcoming immigrants. She said simple acts like inviting newcomers to your home makes a “huge difference.”
“If we want to able to grow economically, we need to be willing to grow culturally and socially as well,” Atallah said. “It’s great that more and more Nova Scotians are seeing themselves as part of the welcoming community and not leaving that to government or settlement service providers.”
With more people coming to the Maritimes, Ramos said now is a great opportunity to “challenge the status quo” and start imagining policies for what a province looks like with growth rather than one that’s shrinking.
That means looking at impacts on infrastructure, affordable housing, access to education and health care but also the opportunities that come with a larger tax base, Ramos said.
“It’s time for us to shake off how we think about our region. And, I would say and also to embrace that story, to project it outward as well,” Ramos said.
“It’s time for us to stop keeping this a secret, and let the rest of the country know.”
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