Good success in Manitoba | Less than six percent is the norm
Most immigrants who arrive in Canada wind up in MTV, more commonly known as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Those cities are attractive to newcomers because of job opportunities and established ethnic communities, but a group of social scientists have initiated a seven-year study to encourage more immigrants to move to rural Canada.
“We know that only a small percentage of newcomers settle in rural (areas),” said Bill Ashton, director of Brandon University’s Rural Development Institute and one of the researchers leading the study.
“This study will drill down into the challenges of rural immigration, including language training, housing and a host of other factors.”
The $12.5 million study, which involves university researchers from Western, Simon Fraser, Victoria, Waterloo, New Brunswick, Carleton, York and Brandon, will look at ways to attract immigrants to smaller communities and understand why certain communities are able to retain immigrants.
Brandon University is much smaller than the other institutions in the study, but it has the advantage of its location, said Dean Care, the university’s acting vice-president.
“Being a rural-based university, BU is well positioned to make a significant contribution to this project,” Care said in a news release announcing the study.
The university is also well suited for the study because Manitoba has successfully recruited immigrants to rural areas.
Five to six percent of Canadian immigrants typically establish new lives in rural communities, but Ashton said the percentage is much higher in Manitoba.
“Manitoba is kind of the exception,” he said.
“Ten, 15 or 20 percent of the immigrants coming into this province go into rural areas…. There is quite a unique thing happening here.”
Manitoba’s Mennonite towns, such as Steinbach and Winkler, have been successful at attracting German-speaking newcomers from Mexico, Germany and other countries, while the hog processing plants in Brandon and Neepawa have lured immigrants from China, Colombia, Ukraine and South Korea.
Jobs and a familiar ethnic community are important when attracting and retaining immigrants, but Ashton said local churches, language training opportunities, housing and health services are also essential.
Over the next seven years, Ashton will attempt to understand what works, why it works and how community services can co-operate to implement successful immigration strategies.
“How do you make a family, that might be the (only) family (in town) from the Philippines, welcome in your community?” Ashton said.
It’s been widely reported that immigrants will alter Canada’s demographics and significantly influence the country’s economy, but Ashton said many rural citizens still don’t understand that their towns can’t succeed long term without immigrants.
“Rural communities, like they have in the past, will continue to change with immigration,” he said.
“I think that’s the importance of this study, to understand … the new realities and the new normal.”