CAPE BRETON: The small island of Cape Breton welcomed nearly 200 new residents in 2018.

According to numbers released on permanent residents from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, it was highlighted Cape Breton welcomed 190 immigrants, with a total of 5,970 newcomers province-wide.

Breaking it down by each quarter, 35 people became permanent residents in the first quarter, 50 people in the second, 45 people in the third, and in the fourth quarter of the year, 60 people became permanent residents.

“We are thrilled to see an increase again this year and its evidence that the work we’re doing with settlement partners, employers and community groups is making a difference,” said Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab. “Immigrants want to come to Nova Scotia and attracting and retaining newcomers will help grow our population, strengthen our economy and revitalize our communities – benefiting all Nova Scotians.”

Jennifer Watts, Chief Executive Officer of Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, said there are multiple ways newcomers make impacts on rural communities, with the most direct being employees for jobs that may be very much needed.

“What we’re hearing from employers from around the province is they’re looking for that, they’re looking for people to work in their communities,” she told The Reporter on February 15. “Delivering strong settlement support and services is an important part of welcoming newcomers to our province. These services help create communities where all can belong and grow.”

In addition, Watts said immigrants bring their personal skills with them and in some ways they have multiple skills that may be specialized or have different levels of experience from their time in different parts of the world.

“Some come with investments and are looking to start a local business, or some, may bring a new business like Peace by Chocolate for example in Antigonish,” she said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to see entrepreneurs come in, create more opportunities and building capacity – I think that’s one of the important things in regards to understanding the contribution that immigrants bring.”

More than 65 per cent of the total permanent resident landings were approved through provincial economic programs and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot. Nova Scotia has the highest retention rate in the region at 71 per cent and works closely with settlement partners across the province.

Watts said she has a simple answer as to why Nova Scotia’s retention rate is the highest in the region – Nova Scotians are friendly, caring people.

“Certainly when we look at the response to the Syrian initiative, when there was a tremendous response from the part of everyday, local Nova Scotians looking to respond, organize and sponsor families,” she said. “And I think for people when they come here once they experience that type of welcome that has a huge impact, people feel touched by the compassion that Nova Scotians have shown to help people.”

As people come and settle into communities, it helps build the social-cultural fabric of the community with newcomers being the individuals who will continue to volunteer, help provide support within the community, and have their children go to school in the local community, Watts said. This enhances and expand the ability to leverage experience and opportunity.

Watts believes the more Nova Scotians move from just being friendly, to actually being more open to diversity and inclusion, that will help people feel more connected here.

“This will certainly be the case as the communities build and grow into stronger, local communities that reflect their ethnic-cultural background of the people who are arriving.”