In recent years, Newfoundland and Labrador has emerged as a centre for doom and gloom. Economic woes and a general sense of uncertainty for our future have darkened the views surrounding my home province. We see this in statistics that paint this issue further with rates of population decrease that no province can beat and student retention rates at rock bottom.
Recently, I’ve had an opportunity to return home for a stint. Being away for two years, I lost a connection with my home. But as I’ve now spent a few months back in St. John’s, in my cozy home on one of the countless colourful streets downtown, I’ve re-immersed myself in the best of my home province—the people, the scenery and the overall spirit of this unique corner of Canada. I’ve also had ample time to think of the issues that shape this province and what solutions we may have.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are known for their resilience, their pride of where they are from and how their home shapes them. The strength of their attachment to this place is evident when you talk to them. These traits are also found with the countless newcomers I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with. While they are always thrilled to call themselves Canadian and be able to call this country home, the attachment to their motherland and pride for her always stays strong and vibrant. Drawing these parallels, I made a realization: Newfoundland and Labrador very well could be the perfect home for newcomers planting their roots in Canada.
Now, I am not naive as to why we see such small rates of immigration to Newfoundland and Labrador, and why many of the few who do come here choose to pack up and leave after a while. For the reasons highlighted above, it’s hard to confidently call a place home when faced with such constant hardships. Given that these factors are combined with an extraordinarily harsh climate or a native culture that can be difficult to figure out and fit into, the apprehension many newcomers face is understandable. But once we overcome those barriers and look past the negatives, we have a place where I can confidently say newcomers can thrive.
While Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have extraordinary pride in their home province, they do not let it get in the way of their welcoming ways. The sense of hospitality you feel instantly upon arriving in this province is truly one of the most humble experiences I’ve had. The newcomers I’ve had the luck to chat with all attest to this; regardless of where you come from and what cultural differences and barriers exist, the people of this province always make sure that you too can call it home. The welcoming nature is the first natural indicator of why the province should be on newcomers’ radar when planning their move to Canada. It is hospitality that goes unmatched throughout this country; an endless willingness to welcome those from away with open arms and minds.
Highly skilled newcomers with post-secondary educations are among the province’s most sought after demographic. Gaping holes exist in many labour sectors, particularly in medicine and engineering, waiting to be filled by professionals. These openings allow immigrants to come here, earn a high salary and gain a high quality of life while helping the larger community. There are positions waiting to be filled and more are being added regularly so a newcomer’s education does not go to waste.
On a similar note, our province has endless potential to offer those coming from overseas to pursue a post-secondary education in Canada. Memorial University of Newfoundland offers a high-quality education at an extraordinarily competitive price. Cheap tuition is not all it has to offer, however. The campus has a tight-knit student body, renowned faculty across countless areas of study, and a thriving international student populace with nearly 3,000 international students representing more than 110 countries. Not only does Newfoundland and Labrador offer a prime place to grow your education, but many initiatives exist which allow you to make this your permanent home.
One of the most striking differences I have noticed between Halifax and St. John’s is the relative lack of diversity. This can, of course, be attributed to many factors, including a substantially lower population in St. John’s. “Diversity is our strength” is a phrase we often say here in Canada, and living in Halifax has truly shown me the meaning with a highly diverse populace that is eager and proud to share where they are from, especially at events such as the Mosaic Festival of Arts and Culture.
But don’t get me wrong—the newcomer population in St. John’s is small but mighty and it’s great to see them grow and share their culture with us. As they say, however, there is strength in numbers. Immigrants don’t just bring labour to Canada, they also contribute to our social fabric through their food, song, dance, clothing and more. This is already a province with a unique and vibrant culture and I’ve seen firsthand how those from other cultures combine their customs with the customs of Newfoundlander and Labrador. Diversity is a beautiful thing and contributes so much to an already beautiful province. Seeing more of this would make that beauty even more radiant.
Newfoundland and Labrador has endless potential. We cannot deny that we have challenges, but these are challenges we have always worked together to overcome. Together, we are also willing and ready to open our doors to newcomers and offer them a place to thrive—and I cannot wait to see this happen.