New Brunswick·PODCAST

Canada needs more empathetic, responsive immigration system, panellists say

Canada’s immigration system needs to be become more empathetic and responsive to today’s challenges, according to a panel of immigrants living in New Brunswick.

CBC New Brunswick Political Panel Podcast tackles Canada’s immigration system

New Brunswick's immigration population has grown since 2001, but it still remains a small fraction of the overall population. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Listen to the full CBC New Brunswick Political Panel podcast by downloading from the CBC Podcast page or subscribing to the podcast in iTunes.

Canada's immigration system needs to be become more empathetic and responsive to today's challenges, according to a panel of immigrants living in New Brunswick.

Discussing issues such as family reunification, entrepreneurialism and training certification, four panellists on the CBC New Brunswick Political Panel Podcast described what they see it as a rigid, outdated system.

Kjeld-Mizpah Conyers-Steed, the executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance who has also worked for the provincial government, said her fellow panellists' stories of difficulties navigating the system show a need for newcomers to be at the policymaking table.

"It's one thing to say, 'We've met, we've checked this box, we've spoken to these individuals,'" said Conyers-Steed, who's from Bermuda. "It's another thing to actually sit down and understand the pinpoints surrounding the bureaucracy of it all."

Listen to the full conversation

New Brunswick’s population is facing a demographic challenge: the population is getting older and many young people are choosing to move away. Immigration is one way to solve this problem. But is the province doing enough to attract and keep newcomers in the province? Kjeld-Mizpah Conyers Steede, Mohamed Khirallah, Donghyun Kim and Anthony Njoku joined the CBC New Brunswick Political Panel. 1:01:37

The discussion on improving the immigration system comes at a time when the New Brunswick population is aging, and the province has the second-slowest growth rate in the country after 10 years of decline.

Some experts see increased immigration as a way to buck the trend and improve the provincial economy.

New Brunswick's immigrant population has grown over the past two decades, but it still accounts for a minuscule amount of the overall population.

Between 2001 and 2016, census data show the provincial immigrant population increased from 22,355 to 33,810. The larger total makes up 4.6 per cent of the population. 

Dr. Anthony Njoku knows issues related to reunification and certification all too well. After moving to Fredericton from the United Kingdom, his wife, an endoscopy nurse who trained and worked in the U.K., wasn't allowed to work without at least another two years of university.

"That has been an enormous strain for me, within the family," he said. "She hasn't worked since, and I bet you can imagine what that meant in terms of her own well-being."

Then there are the problems his niece encountered. Ashley Osa Peters, a soon-to-be fourth-year Dalhousie University student, wants to apply to medical school but is not allowed to do so because she's not considered a resident of Canada.

She's been living with Njoku since the age of 10, and he was her legal guardian until she turned 19. Even though her uncle and his family have all become Canadian citizens, she is not considered part of the family under the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The panellists also discussed starting a business, the need for political will and trouble with retaining immigrants.


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