There is no doubt the people of Nova Scotia are friendly, but are they truly welcoming?

Immigrants "often have difficulty gaining a foothold in the province," in part because of barriers that stem from "negative attitudes and even racism when it comes to welcoming new people into our communities and hiring people 'from away,'" according to the Ivany report.

On March 8, CBC Radio's Mainstreet will be at the Keshen Goodman Library in Clayton Park for Beyond Hello — a community conversation about how Nova Scotians can be more welcoming to newcomers.

Below are some thoughts from Lena Metlege Diab, the minister of immigration for Nova Scotia.

Working hard to attract new immigrants

Immigrants help build our province and make Nova Scotia a vibrant and dynamic society. Growing our economy is critical to Nova Scotia's future and attracting immigrants is crucial to our economic success.

Through hard work, Nova Scotia successfully negotiated with the federal government for increased immigration nominations.

In 2015, we were able to nominate 1,350 immigrants under the provincial nominee program, nearly double our 2014 cap of 700.

Lena Metlege Diab - Nova Scotia Minister of Immigration

Lena Metledge Diab is Nova Scotia's minister of Immigration. (Government of Nova Scotia)

Last year we announced four new ways to immigrate, including two new express entry streams and two streams aimed at attracting international entrepreneurs and retaining international graduate entrepreneurs.

We are not only working hard to attract new immigrants, our goal is to welcome people who wish to build their lives in Nova Scotia.

Retention is a consideration in every part of our work, from attracting newcomers to designing immigration streams and settlement supports.

According to the most recent Statistics Canada figures, we have retained 74 per cent of the immigrants who moved to our province between 2008 and 2013.

All newcomers matter

This is Nova Scotia's best retention rate to date, and is up considerably from our rate that was as low as 48 per cent in the early 2000s. This improvement is important because all newcomers matter.

We need more immigrants, more refugees and more people from others parts of Canada to stay and make their homes here.

Our success on the retention front is a result of the work the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration is doing with our key partners, the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and the YMCA, to deliver settlement services.

Outstanding settlement services are available across the province including language instruction, job-readiness and cultural integration training.

Of course, government's response is only part of the solution. Our communities and individual Nova Scotians are clearly stepping forward and truly welcoming our new Nova Scotians.

Challenges pointed out

Last summer, I travelled the province and had community conversations in eight communities. These conversations involved newcomers, settlement workers, employers and local decision-makers.

They pointed out the challenges immigrants still face, however I was heartened to see communities and individuals stepping forward to offer and implement solutions.

Retention will continue to be a priority of the province of Nova Scotia but it will require all Nova Scotians to ensure that once new Nova Scotians land in our province they feel truly welcomed.

Lena Metlege Diab is the minister of immigration for Nova Scotia.