New Brunswick

Miramichi poised to lead on immigrant retention in small centres

A recent influx of newcomers has the small city ready to give pointers on making immigrants feel at home.

Community welcomed more than 120 newcomers last year, up from only 15 in 2016

Craig Silliker said more than 100 people attended the city's celebration of Black History Month in February. (Submitted by Craig Silliker)

Miramichi is positioning itself to be a leader for other small Canadian centres hoping to attract and retain immigrants.

The community has seen an influx of newcomers in recent years, from just 15 in 2016 to more than 120 last year.

Last week, leaders from the community presented at a national immigration conference in Halifax to talk about how smaller cities can better welcome immigrants.

Craig Silliker, the executive director with the Miramichi Regional Multicultural Association, was among the presenters.

Silliker said before the recent influx, 94 per cent of Miramichi's population was third-generation Canadians.

He said the community has welcomed people from the Philippines, Africa, the Caribbean and South America, mostly through the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Project.

The pilot project is an employer-driven immigration pathway that began in 2017. Employers can scout internationally for people to fill positions they've been unable to find local workers for, and help get those workers to Canada.

Miramichi has seen a big influx in newcomers in recent years. And many of them stay. The community's retention rate is so good, city representatives - including Craig Silliker with the Miramichi Regional Multicultural Association - gave a workshop at a national immigration conference last week. 8:04

Silliker said local employers were facing the prospect of cutting hours or closing altogether because they couldn't find enough workers, but are now calling the immigration program "a great success."

Now that the city has been able to attract newcomers, Silliker said the next step is to make sure they retain them.

The city and its partners have held events like a welcome barbecue, where newcomers could mingle with their new neighbours and get useful information from Service Canada and Service New Brunswick, as well as other celebration events like the one for Black History Month in February.

Silliker said celebrations of newcomers are among the ways Miramichi has welcomed immigrants. (Sibmitted by Craig Silliker)

Silliker said so far the response has been mostly positive from both immigrants and residents.

"I hear all the time from newcomers that they do feel quite welcome in Miramichi, they often express the friendliness of Miramichers," he said.

"Of course you're always going to have naysayers who say immigrants are coming to take our jobs, we can easily refute that because if immigrants were not in Miramichi we would not have those jobs at all and the business may not be open at all."

With files from Shift