By David Shipley
As appeared on page B1
New Brunswick needs to work with the other provinces in Atlantic Canada to attract immigrants and it needs to do more to keep them here, says a new report. The Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies focused on attracting Chinese entrepreneurs and investors to immigrate to the region.
“We need to spend a little bit more time, money and energy in this area,” said Charles Cirtwill, acting president of the think-tank.
Cirtwill said the Atlantic provinces should take a regional approach to marketing when it comes to immigration. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince edward Island and Newfoundland already co-operate when it comes to attracting foreign students to Atlantic universities.
Such students should be encouraged to stay and live in the region after their studies, said Cirtwill.
When it comes to attracting Chinese business immigrants, the Atlantic provinces need to improve their marketing materials, including websites, he said.
“If we’re going after Chinese immigrants we need several Chinese-language websites,” he said. “We also have to have people on the other end here that can answer the phones and speak those languages.”
“Quite a lot of our immigration marketing work is being done by people with foreign language skills and cultural experience, but we need to expand that exponentially.”
In addition to ramping up the recruiting of new immigrants, the Atlantic region also has to focus on retention, Cirtwill said.
“We need to be a little bit more welcoming to immigrants when we get here,” he said.
Such support includes efforts to recognize foreign professional credentials, English language training and professional networking opportunities.
Efforts in New Brunswick such as the establishment of a Chinese village in Moncton and a Chinese welcoming centre in Saint John “are exactly what we should be doing,” said Cirtwill.
Mike Tilley, president of CanLink Global, a Saint John-based international trade firm specializing in China, said a common Atlantic immigration marketing effort in China makes sense.
“I think the Atlantic provinces should work together. We are unknown to many potential Chinese immigrants. They do know Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver,” he said.
“Those that do come over, that we’re involved with, really seem to appreciate the wide open spaces, the clean air, the countryside,” said Tilley.
“They like the possibilities here for their children.”
At a minimum, New Brunswick should consider a province-wide marketing strategy, he said.
As it stands, individual cities such as Moncton and Saint John have been working separately to attract businesses and immigrants from China.
Greg Byrne, minister responsible for New Brunswick’s Immigration and Repatriation Secretariat, said he’s keen on working with the other provinces to attract more immigrants to the region.
“I think that in the Atlantic region that rather than see each other as competitors we should recognize there are opportunities if we work together,” he said.
“I think it’s important for us to have a united front in dealing with the concerns that are unique to Atlantic Canada.”
Byrne said the province is in the process of ramping up its efforts to retain immigrants.
“Settlement services can be everything from language training to basic assistance in integrating an immigrant into the community.”
Such services may also include helping new immigrants find a family doctor or helping them register their children for school.
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