New Canadian Media

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

Although a mass expulsion in 1755 resulted in their dispersal, the Acadians of present day New Brunswick and Nova Scotia remained undaunted and, upon their return, revived their cultural roots.

The Acadians are the descendants of 17th century French immigrants. For 100 years, they lived as a French colony called “Acadie.”

Under British rule since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, they did not want to bear arms in the event of war and were recognized as neutral subjects within the colony from 1730.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, Governor Charles Lawrence of Nova Scotia refused to trust them because of their religious and linguistic affiliation — Catholic and French. In 1755, the Acadians were deported in small groups to British and French colonies around the Atlantic.

“They (the British) saw them as an obstacle to the larger empire that they wanted to build in North America,” says Maurice Basque, a scientific advisor at the University of Moncton.

Several thousand Acadians died during deportation of illness, drowning and starvation.

Today, as a global strategy, Acadians are working to revitalize their traditions and bring back Acadians from around the world to their origin in Canada.

“[The] 300,000 Acadians that you find today in Atlantic Canada speak French on a daily basis and [call] themselves Acadians.”

The return of the Acadians

The Acadians were allowed to return after 1764 on humanitarian grounds. They rebuilt their villages in eastern Canada and began rebuilding their culture.

“[The] 300,000 Acadians that you find today in Atlantic Canada speak French on a daily basis and [call] themselves Acadians,” says Basque.

The Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos et Centre de recherché in Pubnico-Ouest has preserved Acadian history and culture since 1653. It prominently features the Acadian craft of quilting.

“We have workshops and classes that we give to people who are interested in keeping the traditions alive,” says Bernice d’Entremont, museum coordinator.

With new techniques and sewing machines, quilting is not usually done the way it was 350 years ago. But at “Quilting Bees”, d’Entremont and others enthusiastically teach the art of hand quilting to a new generation.

 “There is a pride in doing the quilting and having it displayed,” she explains.

In eastern Canada, the Acadian flag proudly flies next to the Canadian flag.

Acadian revival

With time, Acadians have become “open-minded.” Basque says that they have proudly adopted Canadian identity. In eastern Canada, the Acadian flag proudly flies next to the Canadian flag.

Basque adds, “Canadian identity is very elastic.”

Now many Acadians work at the international level with Francophone organizations that focus on the youth. Association acadienne des artistes professionnel.le.s du Nouveau-Brunswick supports individual, French-speaking artistes and collectives.

The association, through its immigration initiatives, invites people to delve into Acadian artisan and take missions to other countries. 

René Cormier, president of the Société nationale de l’Acadie says, “We go to promote this region as the real region; we bring with us artists so the people of other countries can see, hear and feel what we are.”

They organize the World Acadian Congress every five years, which invites people from all over the world. The objective is to promote Acadian culture as an active and present part of the Canadian community.

“Our objective is to contribute to the development of Canada — what Acadian people can bring through the development of our culture,” says Cormier.

The group has members in almost all the provinces of Canada. They work for Francophones’ immigration that includes post-graduate students, young entrepreneurs and artisans.

Cormier adds, “We [are] really an organization that brings people together, not only to talk, but to work together.”

Future challenges

Among the challenges facing Acadians today is creating a closer relationship with the First Nations people of New Brunswick and helping them preserve their language.

“Acadians are Francophone and should understand, in my opinion, the wish of the First Nations to keep their languages, so the first languages of this continent won’t disappear,” says Marque.

It’s still mostly what we could call traditional white.”

Historically, the Acadians were allies of the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations who taught them how to survive extreme cold, dyke marshland, fish, farm, and locate spices and medicines.

“I must say as a historian that there is lots of goodwill, but concrete actions may be missing,” suggests Marque.

Acadians also need to build bridges with new groups that are arriving in Canada. New Brunswick is one of the least multicultural provinces in the country. “It’s still mostly what we could call traditional white,” Marque explains.

Marque concludes, “But the city I live [in], Moncton, is changing. More people that are arriving and settling here with different cultures, Acadians are now opting to the cultures of the world that are becoming part of their culture now.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in History
Commentary by Marco Navarro-Genie in Halifax
 
When prominent Nova Scotia MP and President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison recently spoke about banning the expression “come from away” (CFA, in short) from the vocabulary of Atlantic Canadians, he drew attention to our hospitality toward immigrants.
 
His discussion also led me to reflect on my own origin as a newcomer to Canada, and more recently, as a new arrival in Atlantic Canada.
 
The precise meaning of “come from away” remains unclear to me.
 
It seems to refer to people who come from elsewhere, but the degree of distance varies.  In some cases, to qualify as a CFA, one can be from the next county, or the next Maritime province, or the next province outside the region, or from a faraway land.
 
The expression has never exclusively been used to apply to immigrants from other countries.
 
Nova Scotians, for instance, apply the term to other Nova Scotians, as well. While in all instances it refers to someone seen as an outsider, it is not always used in pejorative ways. In some cases, it is purely descriptive, as a synonym for a stranger. Sometimes, it is used in humorous ways.
 
Attitudinal change
 
None of this should be a surprise: words have various and varying meanings. In the exact same sentence, an expression can mean more than one thing depending on who utters it, who hears it, and the tone and intention with which it is said. For that reason alone, the idea of banning a phrase from usage seems curious to me, but I am sure the minister only meant to use “ban” in a figurative sense.
 
As for the negative uses and connotations of the expression, the minister is correct in pointing out that attitudes need changing. In my observation and personal experience, they are changing.
 
When my sisters and I requested asylum in Canada in 1979, I was assigned to the École Polyvalente in St.-Henri, a neighbourhood of Montreal then well-known for its poverty and high unemployment.  There, I first encountered hostility toward “les maudits immigrants,” those damned immigrants. In the minds of many of the local children in the school, immigrants represented a threat to their cultural identity and to their parents’ jobs.
 
Their identities seemed threatened by the presence of the many foreign languages they could not understand. Even the teachers seemed resentful at St.-Henri. At our school, they looked the other way when many of the refugee or immigrant children were pushed, shoved, threatened, and on one occasion, attacked — not with a hockey stick, but with a most un-Canadian instrument — a baseball bat.
 
Immigrants to Atlantic Canada and their children are not at the receiving end of physical violence. But, the extent to which immigrants may be made to feel like outsiders if someone refers to them as CFAs, it is not in the more affluent spaces such office towers and banks, stores, and shopping malls.  
 
[T]he extent to which immigrants may be made to feel like outsiders if someone refers to them as CFAs, it is not in the more affluent spaces such office towers and banks, stores, and shopping malls.  
 
In the nearly three years that I have been living in Atlantic Canada – and having already travelled through all four provinces — I have heard the expression “come from away” many times, most of them in jest, but I have never witnessed anyone being subject to it in an unwelcoming way. Nor have I been at the receiving end of any unkindness.
 
While the negative attitudes need changing, we need to be reminded that attitudes will change if the context in which they are born changes.
 
Words do not beget attitudes; rather, words describe or express them. What gives rise to words are social and economic experiences. In that sense, suppressing a word without dealing with the experiences that begot them would only send the expression underground, and create new terms that would simply be expressed code for the one suppressed.
 
[S]uppressing a word without dealing with the experiences that begot them would only send the expression underground ...
 
 
"The Other"
 
After the horrible baseball bat incident at St.-Henri, many of the newcomers were shipped to other schools in Montreal. I was sent to École Sécondaire St.-Luc, still on the edge of affluent Westmount, but this time on the west side, bordering Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Hampstead.
 
These were neighbourhoods with higher economic profile, much lower unemployment and greater ratios of university education. Here, it was the immigrant children who were sometimes thuggish, picked fights, and were more unruly than the locals. But there was peace, and I never felt unsafe in the way that I had felt in St.-Henri.
 
At St.-Luc, I never felt the threat and insecurity that I experienced in St.-Henri. The attitude of the vast majority of the students and teachers at St.-Luc was much more welcoming.  Having visited homes of classmates in both areas, I am quite sure that the pupils from Westmount and Hampstead didn’t leave their home for school in the morning showered with parental complaints about jobs, lack of money to eat or pay the rent, or heard epithets about immigrants who were stealing jobs from locals. 
 
That was the great difference.
 
Socio-economic context
 
The animosity and suspicion we hear toward immigrants and newcomers, almost everywhere, has a socio-economic context, a background profile that is very similar across borders and cultures.
 
Atlantic Canada is no different.
 
Maritimers’ suspicions of “the other” will erode with more prosperity. The more prosperity, the more they will also be exposed to immigrants coming to settle here.
 
Atlantic economies will only improve and thrive on their own when they become less dependent on subsidies from outside the region, and when home policies foster economic growth through more efficient government and lower taxes, less cumbersome and repetitious regulatory regimes, and when our economic policies exhibit greater friendliness toward entrepreneurs and innovators.
 
With a better economy, fewer Atlantic Canadians will feel threatened by newcomers, whether they have arrived from the next county, or from the other end of the planet.
 
Marco Navarro-Genie is the President of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS.ca). This comment is part of our continuing series on immigration to the Atlantic provinces. 
 
Related reading: The Report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy (Feb. 2014) - Section on "Immigration is Essential"
Published in Economy

by Marcus Medford in Toronto 

Settlement agencies in Canada’s Atlantic provinces are working closely with provincial governments to better service immigrants, but say they need federal support to attract newcomers to smaller communities.

The provinces and territories select which immigrants they want to accept based on their local economic needs. In the past 15 years, the number of immigrants settling in the Maritimes has increased, but their numbers remain the lowest of all the provinces, explained Ather H. Akbari, an economics professor at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. 

“Larger provinces are traditional destinations for immigrants and have established communities with multiple religious and ethnic institutions, which help immigrants with aspects of settlement, but [these resources] are scarce in Atlantic Canada,” he explained, while leading a workshop titled “Economic Integration of Immigrants in Atlantic Canada,” at the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto earlier this month. 

The five steps of economic integration are home ownership, car ownership, citizenship, English proficiency and earning a better income said Akbari. These five things are indicators that newcomers to Canada are invested in their new destination and intend to stay. 

[R]etention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities.

Akbari noted that the retention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities. 

“If the networks are not instrumental then there is clearly a need for government policy and settlement agencies to play a larger role in immigrant settlement and integration,” he said. 

Resources for Entrepreneurs 

In New Brunswick, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has partnered with the government to provide financial support for French-speaking immigrant entrepreneurs in an effort to retain the francophone community. 

Attracting and retaining immigrants in rural areas can be difficult admitted Paul-Emile David, senior policy analyst for ACOA. David and ACOA work closely with businesses, governments and research institutions to find and develop entrepreneurial opportunities. 

“We offer programs, initiatives and support so entrepreneurial activities can take place in these areas,” he said. 

There are more than 40 Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) in Atlantic Canada, many of which are in rural areas. 

Entrepreneurial initiatives need access to financing, resources and business skills development courses, David explained. One example of this is Island Advance in Prince Edward Island, which stimulates entrepreneurial projects and helps immigrants recognize good business opportunities. 

For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration.

More funding for integration supports 

As of the end of February, 25,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada, and by the end of the year that total is expected to reach 50,000, making localized support for integration a key issue across the country. 

“We’re hoping that Ottawa will provide some strategic investments very soon in order to put the supports that are needed in place as soon as possible,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. 

He said he hopes that the new federal funding plan for the provinces and territories, along with help from local agencies, will speed up the process of matching immigrants and refugees with language courses. 

For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration. 

It can take up to 16 months for newcomers to Canada to be accepted into federally funded language courses. Some have reported feeling “trapped” because of their lack of English knowledge, meaning they can’t fully interact with society. 

One of the reasons for the long wait-times to get into language programs is a lack of funding and resources. Wait-times also tend to be longer in bigger cities. 

Challenges with government-assisted stream

Of the 25,000 Syrian refugees more than half of them are government-assisted, the others are sponsored privately or with some support from the government. 

For refugees and immigrants alike, one of the most important steps to settling into Canada is finding a job and becoming economically independent. 

[F]or some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income.

Approximately 14 per cent of government-assisted refugees find work within their first year of being in Canada compared to more than 50 per cent of those who are privately assisted. 

“One of the unique challenges for government-assisted refugees is that they’re funded by the federal government for one year,” explained Nabiha Atallah, communications and outreach manager at the settlement agency ISANS (Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia). “After that they need to support themselves or go on social assistance, but they want to work. They really want to work.” 

Atallah spoke during the workshop about strategies for economic integration for immigrants. 

She explained that for some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income, but helps with overcoming the depression, frustration and feelings of loss of self or status that can accompany relocating. 

Even highly skilled immigrants with work experience, education and English proficiency are experiencing difficulty finding jobs, Atallah said. 

ISANS works with several companies to understand their employer needs and to develop training curricula so that immigrants and refugees know what it takes to work at a particular business or organization. 

Matching clients’ interests, skills and abilities with the right employers and planning with end goals in mind are some of the keys to successful job searching, Atallah explained. 

“We also do a lot of work with interview skills because a lot of that is culture-laden. In some countries they don’t have interviews at all and if they do, they don’t look like ours.”


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy
Tuesday, 16 February 2016 19:58

Myth Busting in Nova Scotia

Commentary by Howard Ramos in Halifax 

With a rapidly aging population and low birth rate, Canada’s Atlantic provinces have turned full force towards immigration. 

Nova Scotia, for instance, has nearly doubled its allocation of provincial nominees and Premier Stephen McNeil has been a vocal supporter of immigration as a solution to the province’s problems. 

This being the case, it is worth asking how immigrants fare there. 

Individuals such as Globe and Mail columnist, John Ibbitson, believe that, “Immigrants avoid the Maritimes because of the lack of economic opportunities and because they tend to gravitate toward communities that already have newcomers.” 

However, a recent report for Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) by Yoko Yoshida, Madine VanderPlaat and myself of Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities, in partnership with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), suggests that immigrants do well in Nova Scotia. 

Debunking myths

The report busts a number of myths. The first is that immigrants don’t find work in the province. 

This may have been the case a couple of decades ago, however, recent economic immigrants who arrived in Nova Scotia between 2010 and 2012 out-performed newcomers in other parts of Canada. 

Immigrants to the province actually have higher rates of employment one year after arriving (76 per cent) compared to Canada as a whole (73 per cent). 

[I]n Nova Scotia, economic principal applicants’ average earnings are $44,000 compared to $36,000 nationally.

Another busted myth is that immigrants will be underemployed compared to other parts of the country. 

The report finds that one year after landing in Nova Scotia, economic principal applicants’ average earnings are $44,000 compared to $36,000 nationally. 

Changes in policy and the success of settlement organizations, such as ISANS, have clearly worked at better integrating recent cohorts of immigrants to the province. This is largely because of the work they do in terms of language training, employment and interview coaching, and bridging programs that link immigrants to specific job sectors.

One more busted myth is that immigrant spouses and partners do not fully contribute to the economy. 

The report shows that 96 per cent of spouses and partners who come with economic immigrants and 91 per cent of family sponsored spouses and partners are of “prime” working age, between 20 and 55 years old. 

The majority of spouses and partners are also employed one year after arrival and over a third have a university degree. 

When spouses and partners immigrating to Nova Scotia are compared to immigrants settling across Canada we find that rates of employment are about the same, however, when earnings are examined the report again shows an advantage for family sponsored spouses and partners in Nova Scotia. 

For those landing between 2010 and 2012, average earnings were $26,000 one year after arriving compared to $22,000 for immigrants across Canada. Policy makers should not underestimate the economic potential of sponsored family immigrants. 

Emerging trends 

Such findings show that the federal government’s decision to increase the cap on immigrants to the province is well justified and that Nova Scotia is right to continue to ask for more immigrants. 

[M]ore autonomy in crafting immigration policy ... could be a way to stem population pressures and even grow the economy.

If the trends identified in the report continue, more autonomy in crafting immigration policy to the region with a broader mix of immigration pathways could be a way to stem population pressures and even grow the economy. 

The report, however, also identifies some trends that should be examined further and that need policy attention. 

In particular, when a comparison is made between economic and family-sponsored stream immigrants, interesting findings emerge. 

For instance, among cohorts of immigrants landing in Nova Scotia in the 1990s and early 2000s, family-sponsored spouses and partners rivalled and even outperformed economic-stream principal applicants, which suggests that there is an important role for the family stream in the immigration mix. This is a trend unique to the region and one that has shifted in recent years. 

[I]t is important for Nova Scotia to continue to invest in researching immigration.

Also worth policy attention are the noticeable differences identified in the report between economic versus family-sponsored spouses and partners. 

The economic successes have been greater for spouses and partners coming through the family pathway rather than those who come with economic principal applicants. It is unclear why this might be the case and this should be a focus of future analysis. 

A need for more research

Questions like these mean that it is important for Nova Scotia to continue to invest in researching immigration. 

It is through investigation and critical review that strong evidence-based policies can be developed. 

Such policies combined with quality efforts by settlement organizations are what have led to the dramatic shift in how immigrants fare in Nova Scotia. 

Premier McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab, who is the daughter of first generation immigrants herself, are right to encourage immigrants to come to Nova Scotia. They will likely be successful in integrating into jobs and making meaningful contributions to the province. 

It is now time to let the rest of Canada in on the secret: immigrants do well in Nova Scotia.


Howard Ramos is a professor of sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada.

Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 14:32

Nova Scotia Aims to Lead in Immigration

by Kelsey Power in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia now has the ability to fast track an additional 300 immigrants through new express entry streams.

The announcement made by Premier Stephen McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab earlier this month came after the federal government gave into the province’s pressure.

It’s great news, we have worked extremely, extremely hard in this province and that’s recognition that the federal government and CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) has seen that,” Diab told New Canadian Media. “We want to be seen as the hardest working provincial jurisdiction in the country when it comes to immigration.”

Nova Scotia will now be allowed to nominate 1,350 immigrants under the provincial nominee program (PNP) this year, nearly double the 700 nominees the province was previously capped at.

Originally 350 spots had been reserved for the express entry streams, and they were already filled at the time of this increase.

It was also recently announced that Nova Scotia’s PNP will now include two new streams: the entrepreneur stream and the international graduate entrepreneur stream.

“It’s important to poke at the notion of how much things are increasing or decreasing,” says Howard Ramos, a political sociologist who is a professor at Dalhousie University. “We’re not talking about a huge increase here, 300 more spots under express entry is not a large number of people.”

Despite this, Ramos does view the announcement positively. 

“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province.”

“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province,” he says. “I think that it will mean change, but change is a good thing.”

Express entry applicants bringing their families, buying property and engaging in other markets and services is a step towards solving Nova Scotia’s demographic and economic issues, explains Ramos, but it may not solve the province’s rural needs.

“I think the intent is to spread out migration to all the parts of the province, but if the jobs are actually in Halifax I’m not so confident there will be so much of a spread as people may hope for,” says Ramos.

According to Gerry Mills, director of operations for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), approximately 25 per cent of people coming into Nova Scotia have said they were interested in settling outside the urban area of Halifax, but many eventually have to move to the city to find employment.

“I think there are communities across Nova Scotia who really see immigration as part of the solution to their demographic challenges,” says Mills. “The reality is that immigrants come from large urban centres. They’re risk takers and they want to move to urban centres.”

Nova Scotia’s pioneering streams

The national express entry system is an electronic system that was introduced in January to better manage how skilled workers apply to immigrate to Canada. It prioritizes people based on their ability to settle and take part in Canada’s economy, rather than the first come, first serve system.  

Its main improvement has been decreasing application processing times, although it also aims to fill labour shortages.

The three federal economic immigration programs it is tied to are: the federal skilled worker program, the federal skilled trades program and the Canadian experience class.

“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada.”

Nova Scotia was the first province to create its own associated streams. Under the PNP, these are Nova Scotia demand, created last January, and Nova Scotia experience, introduced in May.

Both streams, like the national express entry system itself, are aimed at highly skilled immigrants. Ideal candidates for Nova Scotia would be individuals already living there and contributing to the economy – like international graduates.

“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada,” recalls Diab. “We received numerous calls from other provinces looking for advice on how we’re doing what we’re doing, which is actually wonderful.”

The program was launched specifically to help students working in Nova Scotia to become permanent residents, aiding both international graduates and their employers.  

“This is exclusively for Nova Scotia graduates who are working for Nova Scotia employers in jobs where these employers are saying these are the people that we need and want because they have the skill that we couldn’t find in other graduates,” says Diab. “It’s a win for everybody.”

Benefits of a provincial stream

When an express entry candidate is nominated through any PNP they are invited to apply for permanent residency.

These applicants must have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy of the province or territory they are applying to and must want to live there. There is no requirement as to how long they must stay.

“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream."

The difference between applying to the provincial express entry systems versus the national one is if the candidate is nominated by a PNP he or she gains a higher Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. This is the tool used to evaluate an express entry individual’s profile credentials.

A PNP nomination, and associated job offer, garners 600 of a possible 1,200 points.

Without the direct nomination, hopefuls must apply to the Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) job bank in search of one. The idea is employers in provinces and territories would then search through this pool for candidates.

Nine months later, though, the job bank is still not operational.  

“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream because you get those 600 points, which now automatically gets you in because the numbers are so low,” explains Mills. “It’s like a cream rises to the top situation: in January you had to have 700 and something points, last week it was 400.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

 

Published in Top Stories

 by Peter Halpin

Canada’s labour market may not be showing much demand for bakers or tailors or candlestick makers, according to the CIBC report The Haves and Have Nots of Canada’s Labour Market. But, market demand remains strong for university graduates.

Indeed, university education is preferred if not essential for most of the 25 most in‐demand professions listed in the CIBC report. Skills shortages exist in numerous professions that require university education -- from engineering, architecture and auditing, to optometry, counselling and various health professions.

The CIBC report welcomes government proposals to admit 53,000 to 55,000 new Canadians this year to help meet the national skills shortage. At the same time, CIBC warns that this initiative is “simply not big enough to turn things around.”

Retaining skilled professionals

How can Atlantic Canada attract and retain skilled professionals inside what is a highly competitive market for their services?

First, we could start by looking at the thousands of international students already enrolled at Canada’s East Coast universities. New research commissioned by the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) shows that our international students are willing and able to help fill the region’s skills gap.

Indeed, the survey of this student cohort reveals that a majority of international students would consider staying in Canada after they graduate. Here are a few highlights from the survey, which was conducted by Corporate Research Associates:

• 33% of respondents ranked a “desire to live in Canada after graduation” as the single most important reason for their decision to attend a Canadian university.

• 76% of respondents were interested in applying for permanent residency through the federal government’s Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration stream.

• Academic factors were (in aggregate) the primary reasons international students cited for choosing to study at a Canadian university – with 49% referencing the quality of teaching.

Global talent pool

It is important to note that the global talent pool is growing deeper at our universities. According to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, the number of international students attending universities in the Maritimes has more than doubled over the past decade. In Atlantic Canada, the number of full‐time visa students increased 12 per cent to almost 11,000 last year.

How can our region leverage this valuable skills asset? Fortunately, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program is designed in part to keep international students in Canada after graduation.

In short, the right immigration policy is in place; the demand for skills is evident in the Atlantic Canada labour market; and thousands of international students are already attending our East Coast universities. In addition, like all university students, they offer the job market what it most needs – not only specific skills, but the ability to think critically, reason, adapt and get along with other human beings.

So the puzzle pieces are all at our fingertips. What we now need to do is build a partnership to put them together.

The universities will play their part by making international students more aware of the CEC program. This program can provide a pathway to citizenship, but the CRA research shows that many international students do not know that the program exists. Nor do they know that eligibility criteria include French or English‐language competency and a year of skilled work experience in Canada.

A team effort

Other players – including the private sector, provincial and federal governments – must also step up to make the CEC program work for international students who show a willingness to stay and work here in the region.

Business leaders and business organizations are also key partners in this initiative. They are best situated to identify the skills gaps in the Atlantic Canadian workforce, and to welcome international students inside their organizations to help fill those gaps.

Governments must also play a role, by unleashing the real potential of the CEC program to help place international students in careers that will prove essential to the region’s prosperity.

The bottom line is that many of our international students – from nations as diverse and geographically dispersed as China, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia -- would like to thrive and prosper in Atlantic Canada after graduation and to contribute to the region’s development and prosperity.

We should do everything that we can to help make it so. Governments, our universities and the private sector should now partner in transforming the CEC program into an East Coast success story. Our international students represent a talent pool that must be tapped.

(Peter Halpin has served as the executive director of the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) since December 1, 2003. In his capacity as executive director, Halpin serves as an advocate for the region’s university sector with governments and other key stakeholders in higher education, regionally and nationally.)

Published in Commentary

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