Immigration is Key for Northwestern Ontario’s Future


THUNDER BAY – Charles Cirtwell from the Northern Policy Institute, Paula Haapanen from the Francophone Centre and Stacey Parks from the Northwestern Ontario Local Immigration Partnership engaged in a panel discussion on issues regarding Immigration in Northwestern Ontario and the upcoming 11th Annual Northwestern Immigration Forum.

The 11th Annual Northwest Immigration Forum will be held February 5th and 6th, 2019 at the Italian Cultural Association in Thunder Bay.

On January 24th, 2019 federal Minister Ahmed Hussen, announced the creation of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, a five-year federal immigration pilot involving communities and selected provincial and territorial governments that work to help participating communities gain access to a range of support to help newcomers settle in as part of the local community.

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot will complement other economic immigration initiatives, including the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and the Provincial Nominee Program. It will also provide an opportunity for IRCC to support the Government of Canada’s commitment to support the vitality of Francophone communities outside Quebec.

“Removing barriers to economic development and promoting growth in local communities across the country is a priority for the Government of Canada. This Pilot will support the economic development of smaller communities by testing new, community-driven approaches to address their diverse labour market needs,” states Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Rural Economic Development Canada.

The Northern Ontario Policy Institute reports “Northern Ontario’s population is facing a large demographic shift.

“Baby boomers, born in the two decades after the Second World War, are entering retirement and, as a result, the region is becoming disproportionately older because later generations are smaller in size. Other trends contributing to the demographic shift include a fertility rate that is lower than the replacement rate, rising average life expectancy and an increase in out-migration by youth and the working-age population.

11th Annual North West Immigration Forum

“These changes will affect Northern Ontario negatively in a number of ways.

“However, not all is lost. One solution is to encourage newcomers – immigrants and secondary migrants – to live and work in the region, and the sooner the better.

Given this need, Northern Policy Institute (NPI) is developing a Northern Newcomer Strategy, which will be the culmination of a series of commentaries that touch upon the legislative, regulatory, administrative, policy, and broader operating environment of newcomer attraction and settlement services in Northern Ontario.

The Northern Policy Institute launched a key step forward in October 2019.

“The first commentary in this series demonstrates the need for a Northern Newcomer Strategy,” states Charles Cirtwill, President of NPI. “In Northern Ontario, our overall population is falling and our total population is ageing. Population and migration trends suggest that our Northern regions need 50,000 newcomers by 2041 just to sustain current population levels.”

Since 1996, 8 out of 11 Northern Ontario districts have experienced a population decline. This is exemplified in Rainy River and Cochrane which have dropped by 13.2 and 14.5 percent, respectively. This decline is projected to continue into 2041 based on estimates prepared by the Ontario Ministry of Finance. For reference, Ontario as a whole has grown by 25.1 percent.

“A Northern Newcomer Strategy could include proactive policies and programs to attract young migrants. Indeed, while attracting newcomers is a short to medium-term solution, it could have significant socio-economic benefits for Ontario’s northern regions,” writes author Christina Zefi. “Migrants will benefit the workforce in terms of supporting high-skilled innovation as well as low-skilled, consistently vacant employment positions.”

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Thunder Bay Multicultural Association

Northern Policy Institute

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