A 2020 report shows up to 50 per cent of immigrants in New Brunswick leave the province within five years. Arlene Dunn believes she can turn that number around. 

Dunn, the provincial minister of Immigration, says, “We are seeing gains in retention rates for several reasons,” including a bigger focus on economic immigration, an increase in immigration services on the ground, improved practices in preparing immigrants prior to arrival, and greater efforts to work with employers and communities to ensure a welcoming environment for immigrants. 

Dunn says these and other improvements start by building on previous immigration efforts to continue recruiting and retaining newcomers. She also believes the province embraces the fact immigrants contribute to the economic, social, and cultural prosperity of the province. That means they have an important role to play in New Brunswick. 

Currently, New Brunswick is home to approximately 780,000 immigrants. Some of its biggest attractions include a strong health care and education system, government programs, and its natural beauty. In addition, some consider N.B. one of the cheapest provinces in Canada to live in, a highly attractive characteristic for many new immigrants. 

However, the government still has a long way to go. Sebastian Salazar is a community and social policy planner originally from Peru. He came to New Brunswick after three difficult experiences in the non-profit, public, and private sectors taught him planning as a profession isn’t understood in Peru. He says although he has found a new home since coming here in 2009, other immigrants have expressed to him several difficulties in establishing new roots in the province. 

“I have known people who have expressed Fredericton was too small and too quiet for them, or they found jobs elsewhere,” Salazar says. He says they want the excitement of a bigger city with more opportunities and easier connections to the rest of the world. 

In addition, some immigrants feel discriminated against in the province from the first day they arrive, poverty and cultural differences being two of the main reasons for bullying schools, workplaces, or any public place. 

“I know people who were insulted on the street for wearing a hijab by rowdy people driving by,” Salazar says. “(They) were told to go back to their country. These things are horrible to hear.” 

Salazar says there are several areas in which the province needs to improve in order to retain more immigrants. These include: 

  • Making it easier for immigrant professionals whose credentials aren’t validated in Canada to achieve certification and find work;  
  • Improving access to affordable housing since many new immigrants can’t afford market prices, especially during the pandemic; 
  • Greater investment in diversifying the economy beyond the existing strengths in biotech, engineering, and natural resource management, especially in areas falling under the heading of green industries; 
  • Improved access to health care as many immigrants find it hard to get a medical appointment or locate a family doctor willing to take on new patients; and 
  • Focusing on creating supportive immigrant communities to alleviate the loneliness and isolation many immigrants feel after leaving their families behind in their home countries. 

Salazar say the New Brunswick government is making a fine effort to attract immigrants for economic and demographic reasons, as well as finding effective ways to promote the province’s healthy lifestyle and the opportunities for immigrants to spend more time with loved ones. 

“The provincial government knows that [immigrants] value this particular quality of life,” Salazar says. “But they also know they have to grow our communities and economies. They seem to be struggling to find a balanced formula to do that.” 

Salazar adds that younger generations value different things than their predecessors. If the province doesn’t create the vibrant communities they seek and provide a good sense of belonging, the new generations are going to seek that type of energy and opportunity in a different place.  

“Our future is going to leave us,” he says. 

Pierina Rivas Robbiano

Pierina Rivas Robbiano

Pierina Rivas Robbiano was born in Lima, Peru, but now lives in Fredericton, NB. She moved to Canada in 2019 in order to get a double major in Journalism and Communications and Public Policy, with a minor in Fine Arts at St. Thomas University. One of Pierina's long-term goals is to travel around the world, getting stories and meeting new people while discovering new places.

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