The Cape Breton Local Immigration Partnership hosted a public meeting on June 13 in Arichat to help formulate an immigration strategy for Cape Breton.

ARICHAT: What works and what can be improved in attracting and retaining newcomers to Cape Breton are the focus of a series of public meetings around the island.

Kailey Pedley, local immigration partnership coordinator with the Cape Breton Partnership, said the meetings will help gather input on how Cape Breton welcomes newcomers and explore ways to do better.

The meetings were organized by the Cape Breton Local Immigration Partnership (CBLIP), which is administered by the Cape Breton Partnership. The CBLIP is led by an advisory council representing 30 organizations from across the island, including municipal councils, school boards, chambers of commerce, settlement agencies, and public libraries. That group steers the immigration strategy and Pedley said the CBLIP’s staff implement the plan.

Pedley said the CBLIP has three main areas of activity, one is supporting community level research and planning, another is improving the coordination of services available to newcomers, and the third is raising community awareness around the needs of newcomers.

“We don’t work directly with newcomers in our communities, instead we’re working at the strategy and coordination level to bring all these service providers together to look at the big picture and what’s happening on the island, to identify gaps to find ways that we can work together better,” Pedley explained.

The year-old CBLIP is one of 77 such immigration partnerships in Canada.

“What these local immigration partnerships all have in common is a goal to improve newcomer integration outcomes in communities, to make the experience of settling into communities easier for people by fostering more welcoming and inclusive communities,” Pedley noted.

Photos by Jake Boudrot
Kailey Pedley, local immigration partnership coordinator with the Cape Breton Partnership, records the input offered during a meeting on June 13 in Arichat.

After sessions were held around the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, the Cape Breton Local Immigration Partnership scheduled meetings in Arichat, St. Peter’s, Baddeck, Port Hawkesbury, Whycocomagh, Cheticamp, and Inverness.

The session in Arichat on June 13 was attended by representatives from the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration, the Cape Breton Partnership, local residents, immigrants, and business owners.

Before diving completely into the research phase, Pedley said the partnership needs to do some fact-finding in communities around the island, which involves public meetings and surveys, in addition to researching work already undertaken.

“The first six [public meetings] have been really, really valuable in helping to highlight some themes that are common across Cape Breton, but also to highlight what is unique from place-to-place,” Pedley noted.

According to a Pathways to Prosperity study, there are many characteristics of welcoming communities, such as: employment; social capital; housing; positive attitudes; newcomer serving agencies; links between communities and groups; municipal features and services; education; health care; public transit; diverse religious opportunities; social engagement; political participation; positive relationships with police; use of public spaces for recreation; and favourable media coverage.

According to Statistics Canada, there are 2,930 immigrants in Cape Breton with the top five sources counties listed as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and China. Between 2011 and 2016, there were 405 immigrants to Cape Breton. Since 1980, 57 per cent of newcomers to Cape Breton were economic immigrants. Glaringly only 26 per cent of immigrants who arrived in Cape Breton in 2010 were still on the island in 2015.

Cape Breton Local Immigration Partnership co-chair and Immigration Settlement Officer with YREACH, Trina Samson, provides feedback during a public meeting at the New Horizon’s Seniors Club in Arichat on June 13.

Although they are still in the middle of the process, Pedley said there are many common and unique themes which have arisen from the public sessions, like the need for welcoming committees, increased volunteer opportunities, and connecting newcomers with employers.

“When we ask questions like, for example, ‘what do newcomers love about the community,’ in many, many places they’re saying friendly people, safety, beauty of the geography of the area, those things are pretty common across the board,” Pedley recalled.

“When we’re asking, ‘what services are available in this community to service newcomers,’ that’s different from place-to-place.”

Once the meetings are over and the surveys arrive, Pedley said the CBLIP will be compiling the data, then the partnership will form working committees and develop a strategy based on that feedback.

“We’ll pull out those priorities that we’re hearing from communities and those are the areas that we’ll focus on in our work as we move forward,” Pedley stated.

For full event details and to learn more about the CBLIP, visit: www.capebretonpartnership.com/events, e-mail local.immigration@capebretonpartnership.com, or call 902-258-7331.