Give cities bigger role in immigration, N.B. advocate tells MPs

Municipalities need more power to make decisions about immigration, the head of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council told a Commons committee on Wednesday.

Alex LeBlanc of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council calls for municipal nominee program

Alex LeBlanc of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council recommends a municipal nominee program to match potential immigrants with areas that need their skills. (CBC)

Municipalities need more power to make decisions about immigration, the head of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council told a Commons committee on Wednesday.

"Where immigration is controlled at a federal level, integration happens at a local level," Alex LeBlanc, the executive director of the council, said in a presentation to the standing committee on citizenship and immigration.

"Really, it's our cities, it's our communities that are the brokers for inclusion."

He proposed a municipal nominee program, similar to the provincial nominee program, which allows skilled workers and business people chosen from around the world to get into a faster track toward settling into a province that needs them in the workforce.

Calls for pilot municipal project

"Give cities the responsibility of selecting people, in partnership with employers, and then give cities a greater role in the integration and retention process," said LeBlanc, who was asked to speak to the committee about immigration to Atlantic Canada.

Using the provincial program, New Brunswick has brought in 625 immigrants a year to answer certain workforce needs, "and this program has dramatically increased the traffic to New Brunswick," LeBlanc said.  

But LeBlanc wants a municipal program to complement the provincial one, and he recommended running a pilot project in New Brunswick.

"We could use the same structure that we have in place now with the provincial nominee program, but perhaps receive an additional allocation from the federal government which is earmarked to pilot a municipal approach," he said.

"Then it will be up to the cities to allocate any kind of resource staff time to do some of this work."

Municipalities interested

Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard supports a pilot program to get municipalities more involved in bringing immigrants to their communities. (CBC)
LeBlanc said if nothing is done, the population problem in New Brunswick won't go away.

"We represent 6.6 per cent per cent of the population in the country, and yet 3.1 per cent of immigrants that are coming to Canada are coming to our region," said LeBlanc.

He's already talked to people in municipalities across New Brunswick and been able to gather interest.

Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard agreed with the idea to increase the role of the municipalities. 

Local input would help

"If a pilot project would be set up in the province or in Atlantic Canada, I'm pretty sure it would be welcome by most of municipalities who are already looking to the immigration file to get their demographics in a better way," Simard said.

He said that if the pilot program worked in conjunction with the current provincial nominee program, it would be a benefit to communities. 

"It's just a matter of adding more input on a local level in order to fit the profiles of the prospective immigrants in a better way," said Simard. 

About the Author

Philip Drost

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.