Beyond the Big City: How Small Communities Across Canada Can Attract and Retain Newcomers

Canada is an open, accepting, and generous country. It is built on diversity, and communities are stronger when they welcome and work with newcomers who want to build a better Canada. But with the natural trend of intensification and urbanization, most newcomers to Canada settle in just a few major cities, which offer greater economic opportunities and cultural diversity. The rest of the country has not experienced the same rewards from new people bringing new ideas, and small centres have not proportionally enjoyed the benefits of immigration. Instead, many small centres and rural areas are experiencing declining economic prospects and even shrinking populations, creating a cycle of decline and consequent low attraction of new residents, furthering decline.

The Public Policy Forum, in partnership with Pathways to Prosperity, conducted research to determine how newcomer attraction and retention could be enhanced to contribute to the success of smaller centres and less densely populated regions across Canada. A literature review and jurisdictional scan were conducted to bring together the best available evidence on newcomer attraction to and retention in small centres and rural areas. Data from the Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB) were also analyzed to better understand the mobility and retention rates of immigrants in small centres in Ontario. These findings were validated and expanded on through community consultations with 199 key stakeholders in five small centres across Ontario.