Need to think seriously about how we welcome newcomers

Date: September 16, 2014

This commentary is about the Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets concerning immigration, migration and components of population change. It is provided by Alex Goss, Project Manager at the Guelph Wellington Local Immigration Partnership.

The Guelph Wellington Local Immigration Partnership is a group of over 80 partners, organizations, businesses, and individuals that are working on immigration issues. Our vision is to create a welcoming community by addressing barriers to employment, economic development, access to services, and inclusion and awareness of immigration issues. While we focus on immigrants, our vision is for everyone, and immigration and population growth means a larger, more skilled workforce, that can attract businesses to the community and create a more resilient and thriving economy. To create a welcoming community, we need to both understand how our communities are evolving, and demonstrate the value and importance of immigration – Focus on Rural Ontario information on immigrant arrivals and migration helps in both regards.

We believe that immigrants create an overall economic benefit to our communities and strive to encourage other immigrants and newcomers to move to Wellington and Guelph. The Focus on Rural Ontario information tells us who is coming to Wellington and Guelph and from where. We’re able to access annual information about immigrant arrivals, see how we compare to other communities across Ontario, and whether we’re doing a good job of encouraging immigration to this area. This helps us understand the attractiveness of our communities to newcomers and where some of our strengths are. It also helps identify potential challenges and opportunities around the attraction and retention of newcomers.

In speaking with people across our region, we’ve found that there are some misconceptions about the role that newcomers and immigrants play in our communities. We sometimes hear that immigrants are taking our jobs, or that immigrants are lowering wages for Canadian-born workers. However, the opposite is true as immigrants are economic drivers for many communities in Ontario such as Wellington County and Guelph. Focus on Rural Ontario data presented on international migration, births, and net migration paints a clear picture of how quickly our community is growing and the critical role immigration plays in that growth. This allows us to present the facts to our local stakeholders, businesses, and residents, on some of the demographic and economic benefits that newcomers bring to our communities. For example, we can now say that 32% of all population growth in Guelph Wellington was as a result of international migration, that our labour force and skills in the community are growing because of immigration. While these numbers are encouraging on one level, we also know that immigrants are not evenly-distributed across our region as Guelph is home to nearly 90% of local immigrants. By presenting the facts, and raising awareness about the benefits of immigration, we hope to encourage people in our region – including in the more rural parts of Wellington County – to think seriously about how we welcome newcomers.