Data will help attract and retain immigrants in Cape Breton

The efforts of a local group in amassing data about immigrants to Cape Breton will be invaluable in helping increase the numbers of newcomers to the region.

In the past four years, approximately 200 immigrants have settled in the region according to the Cape Breton Local Immigration Partnership (CBLIP).

In an effort to help Cape Bretoners better understand the immigration landscape, the CBLIP created two resource documents: “Immigration in Cape Breton, A Glossary of Common Terms” and “Cape Breton Immigration, Important Facts.”

Kailea Pedley, CBLIP program manager, said the idea goes back to last winter.

“Cape Breton Immigration, Important Facts” provides information about Cape Breton immigrants, such as what municipalities they have settled in, birth countries, mother tongues, and economic impacts, the CBLIP says. As Pedley noted, this is merely a collection of public information presented in an accessible way.

The content for the documents was drawn from publicly available information, primarily from Statistics Canada and from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Both documents are available at: https://newtocapebreton.com/resources/.

According to those statistics, since 2015 approximately 200 immigrants have settled in the Strait area, with 135 in Inverness County (including the Town of Port Hawkesbury) and 65 in Richmond County.

The most common birth countries of recent immigrants are the United Kingdom, the United States, the Philippines, Germany, and China.

Of those now calling the island home, the most common language spoken is Chinese, followed by German, Arabic, Dutch, Tagalog, Urdu, Scottish Gaelic, then Italian, Spanish, Greek, Polish, Korean, and others.

Since 1980, 57 per cent are economic immigrants, 37 per cent are those sponsored by family, five per cent are refugees, and less than one per cent fall into the other category.

According to the CBLIP, there are a number of common terms that people may come across and “Immigration in Cape Breton, A Glossary of Common Terms” provides a list of those terms and their definitions to promote clear communication about immigration.

Pedley explained this is about using the right words and referencing correct data when talking about immigration.

The immigration partnership also released the results of a check-in survey on COVID-19 – including an on-line event – conducted between May 8 and 20 which consisted of 25 questions.

The number one precaution that respondents are taking to avoid transmission is physical distancing, with the next being the use of protective masks, and others are avoiding public transportation.

Most of those surveyed reported impacts to their daily lives, including difficulty finding or maintaining employment, improving language skills, paying rent or mortgages, and maintaining healthy relationships.

More than half of those who responded said they have had difficulty accessing information about immigration and settlement.

With many responding they feel more socially isolated, newcomers said they feel less connected to their friends in Canada, more than half said they felt less connected to colleagues, classmates and neighbours, while a substantial number said they felt more connected to their family in other countries.

Three-quarters of respondents said they experienced anxiety or nervousness during the pandemic and multiple people said they received food deliveries from the Cape Breton Food Hub.

Based on the survey results, international students reported greater challenges in nearly every area, when compared to the newcomer population as a whole.

Pedley explained the results show there are newcomers in Cape Breton, who arrived just before COVID, who need more support than ever to settle

This report will be shared with all CBLIP partners, as well as other local organizations and decision-makers.

One of the mandates of the CBLIP is to raise public awareness around the needs of newcomers and the benefits of immigration in Cape Breton. Other areas of focus of the CBLIP include improving the coordination of services for newcomers, fostering welcoming communities and supporting community-led research and planning.

Despite the many economic and societal problems presented by the global pandemic now and in the future, Pedley added that the CBLIP is committed as ever to promoting the benefits of immigration.

“Cape Breton has a long history of immigration, of course. Immigrants are helping Cape Breton through the pandemic right now, and immigration is going to continue to be critical to our economic recovery during the pandemic and beyond.”

There is no doubt that Cape Breton needs to attract more immigrants to help diversify and stimulate the economy, and now in the midst of a global pandemic, the island needs immigration to help offset economic losses.

That is why groups like the CBLIP are vital. They do the hard work of attracting and retaining newcomers to this corner of the world. It’s not good enough to just get people here, there have to be mechanisms in place to keep them here.

Thanks to their good work, hopefully those who’ve settled in Cape Breton, those who are new to the island, and those planning on coming, will be able to build a life on the island.