Canada’s goal to attract up to a million new immigrants over the next three years is well advertised and highly talked about. Even with the increased intake, the distribution of immigrants is still a real challenge. The vast majority of newcomers settle in the same three big cities and surrounding areas (Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal) such that the economic and social benefits of immigration do not necessarily reach all communities across Canada.
In recognizing the particular challenges faced by smaller communities in attracting and retaining new immigrants, the federal government has announced the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot for communities in Ontario, Western Canada and Canada’s three territories.
This is a unique program that will work with local communities to identify their needs and create an environment where new immigrants will be welcomed and encouraged to stay in rural and Northern areas that need them. The program is based on the successful Atlantic Immigration Pilot (“AIIP”) program that was created in 2017 and has helped fill local market needs in the Atlantic provinces.
AIIP allows employers in Atlantic Canada to hire foreign workers to fill positions if they have not been able to find the necessary workers locally. In 2018, AIIP allowed 2,500 foreign workers and international students to apply for permanent residence based on these offers from local employers in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot will allow communities and organizations to target immigrants they need for specific jobs based on the needs of their local labour market. Communities that have a population of 50,000 or less if within 75 km of a metropolitan area, or less than 200,000 in more remote areas, may apply under this program if they can demonstrate: they have job opportunities, have an economic development plan and are able to settle new immigrants. Further it will be crucial for communities to have the support of local municipalities and immigrant-serving organizations. The program will be available to communities in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Yukon.
The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot shows the government’s recognition that the economic needs across the country are different and there is room to create unique programs to meet local needs. The ongoing challenge will be to see how well the program can be implemented and if the communities can effectively retain their new members on a going forward basis.
Communities must submit their complete applications by March 1, 2019, and the successful communities will be revealed in spring 2019.
Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.