Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to ask Ottawa to axe immigration cap

Provincial Immigration Minister Lena Diab plans to ask the new federal government to remove restrictions that cap the number of immigrants the province can take in under provincial programs.

Immigration Minister Lena Diab says the province keeps reaching its cap every year

Nova Scotia Immigration minister Lena DIab says the province may consider incentives for immigrants to establish businesses outside of Halifax. (CBC)

Provincial Immigration Minister Lena Diab plans to ask the new federal government to remove restrictions that cap the number of immigrants the province can take in under provincial programs.

"I will ask for it to be eliminated. Not just raised, so we'll see," she told reporters after a Monday summit where 175 Nova Scotian leaders discussed immigration.

Diab says she is looking forward to Nov. 4, the day the new federal Liberal government's cabinet will be sworn in, and is hoping to have an improved relationship with Ottawa.

Province looking for more control

In the last two years, the province has pushed Ottawa to raise the number of people it can accept under its provincial nominee programs. In 2014, the province maxed out its nominees at the cap of 700. In 2015, the province negotiated with the federal government to raise its cap to 1,350. However, it is still reaching its capacity.

For that reason, Diab says she will push to have the cap removed.

"I don't see why we need to have it in Nova Scotia. I want flexibility and we want more control over our own program, more than what we've ever had in this province. And I believe we've proved ourselves," she said.

In 2014, the province took in 2,670 people, which includes provincial nominees and their families.

Diab hosted the immigration summit at Pier 21 with Wadih Fares and Colin Dodds, co-chairs of the province's immigration advisory council. Hundreds of people from across the province were invited, including representatives from municipalities, businesses, post-secondary education institutions, and organizations that work with new immigrants.

Many speakers at the conference approved of measures the provincial government has taken to increase immigration, including introducing four new immigration streams for entrepreneurs and international students.

Overcoming negative perceptions

However, some cited research that has been done across the province showing Nova Scotia is perceived as "friendly, but not welcoming" to newcomers. 

Ali Duale came to Canada as a refugee from Somalia 18 years ago. He now works as a firefighter in Halifax. He said immigrants continue to be perceived in a negative way by many Nova Scotians.

"This message has never been delivered: immigrants are good for us, immigrants create jobs. Immigrants are not lazy people, they are hard-working people. When someone immigrates to Canada, it's a survivor," he said.

Dodds, the co-chair of the provincial immigration advisory council, says while not everyone will be won over about the benefits of immigration, things are getting better. He says immigration is being discussed more often at events such as today's summit. 

"In fact what's coming back is that immigration is hot," he said. "People are willing to talk about it. Yes, there are some negatives — confront them, deal with them, move on."

The CBC's Shaina Luck live tweeted from the event

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