Northeastern Ontario Immigration Project

Research Team: Don Curry, North Bay & District Multicultural Centre; Garvin Cole, North Bay & District Multicultural Centre; Meyer Burstein, Pathways to Prosperity; Michael Haan, University of New Brunswick; Johanne Jean-Pierre, McMaster University; Rochelle Wijesingha, McMaster University

Institutional partners: City of Temiskaming Shores, the Town of Cochrane and the Central Almaguin Economic Development Association

A Northeastern Ontario immigration project launched in September, 2014, has created three new Immigrant Employers’ Councils, provides HR services to employers, and has settlement workers making monthly visits to three previously unserved smaller centres. The project will also assist municipalities in the development of their immigrant attraction and retention strategies.

With $300,000 funding over two years from FedNor (Industry Canada), the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the three participants – Temiskaming Shores, Cochrane and the Central Almaguin Economic Development Association – the initiative is transferring immigration project successes from the larger centres of North Bay and Timmins to the smaller centres.

Led by the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, the project executive consists of the Economic Development Officers from the three municipalities, the three Immigrant Employers’ Council chairs, the settlement agency’s executive director and HR North program manager, plus a representative from the project’s evaluation partner, Pathways to Prosperity.

Don Curry of NBDMC and Garvin Cole of HR North are making their third tour of the region in March to meet with the employers’ councils. The first visit explained the project to invited employers; the second formed the councils and outlined priorities; and the third will begin the work of converting the priorities identified by each council into actions.

The genesis of the project was an immigration symposium held in Temiskaming Shores in the fall of 2013, which 60 people from the region attended to learn more about looming labour shortages and the role immigration can play.

The project budget includes marketing funds to publicize the availability of settlement services and a bilingual ‘how-to’ booklet at the project’s end so that promising practices can be replicated elsewhere in Canada.

Two members of P2P will be conducting the evaluation, starting in the summer of 2015, with a final evaluation at the end of the project, in the fall of 2016. Meyer Burstein and Michael Haan will conduct the evaluation, along with graduate students recruited from among P2P members.

Unlike many parts of Canada, immigration to Northeastern Ontario has been stagnant since mines opened in Cobalt, Kirkland Lake, Timmins and Sudbury in the early 1900s, but in the past few years more newcomers are venturing north. It was anticipated at the outset of the project that it would be a challenge to get employers to embrace newcomer workers, and that is the case for some, but those on the employers’ councils understand the demographic situation very well.

Many youth leave the north for post-secondary education and never return, and baby boomers are retiring in huge numbers. Enlightened employers realize that newcomers and aboriginals are the only populations that are increasing and offer a potential supply of essential workers.