More immigrants choosing smaller towns: CIC

Newcomers overcome wage disparity faster in smaller communities

While the majority of immigrants traditionally choose to settle in Canada's three largest cities, more and more immigrants are choosing smaller, rural communities, according to figures released by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

A breakdown of where permanent residents have chosen to settle over the past decade, found that while Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver still attract the most immigrants, their numbers are declining. In 2007, 12 per cent fewer immigrants choose to settle in Toronto compared to 2006 and nine per cent fewer chose to settle in Vancouver. Only Montreal saw a slight, one-per-cent increase in the number of immigrants choosing to settle in that city in 2007 compared to 2006.

On the other hand, smaller communities such as Charlottetown, Moncton, N.B., Oshawa, Ont., Saskatoon, Sask., and Red Deer, Alta., have all seen increases in the number of immigrants.

Charlottetown had an increase of 73 per cent, Moncton an increase of 31 per cent, Oshawa an increase of 18 per cent, Saskatoon an increase of 40 per cent and Red Deer had a whopping 94-per-cent increase in the number of immigrants in 2007 compared to 2006.

Canada's far north is also seeing an increase of immigrants with 193 immigrants choosing to settle in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut in 2007, an increase of 13 per cent from 2006.

Immigrants who settle in smaller Canadian cities and rural areas are better off financially than those who head to larger urban areas, according to a Statistics Canada report released at the beginning of the year. The Perspectives on Labour and Income study finds newcomers to small towns earns on average 14 per cent less than the Canadian-born population during their first three years in Canada.

By the fourth year of residence, these immigrants earn slightly more on average than native-born residents, and by their 11th year, earnings are 18 per cent above the median. Income disparity is much larger for newcomers in big cities with the wage gap persisting even after ten years of residence.

Statistics Canada hypothesizes that education and language barriers are easier to overcome in smaller towns. Three quarters of immigrants in smaller cities are fluent in English or French, compared to less than two-thirds (61.5 per cent) of those in large cities. Current labour shortages also mean there are many job opportunities for skilled workers in smaller cities.

To help smaller communities create their own immigration strategies to attract and retain Canadian newcomers, CIC and provincial, municipal, and community partners have released the new guide Attracting and Retaining Immigrants: A Tool Box of Ideas for Smaller Centres.

The guide addresses the following topics:

• creating local opportunities;

• setting practical objectives;

• building consensus;

• involving the community;

• the importance of family ties, employment, and housing services;

• accessing existing opportunities under current immigration rules as they relate to skilled and business immigrants, provincial nominees, refugees and temporary residents; and

• factors needed to create a welcoming community, such as respect for diversity, accessibility of public services and educational facilities, health, safety, faith and spirituality and leisure activities.

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