GUYSBOROUGH – Nova Scotia does fairly well in attracting newcomers but retaining them continues to be a challenge. That was among the highlights of the Auditor General of Nova Scotia’s report on immigration and population growth released on Nov. 8.
While the report had much good to say about programs, it also highlighted issues regarding meeting specific labour shortages, inconsistent assessment of immigrant applications, the need to address the potential for fraud in the system and retention of immigrants.
In a press conference following the release of the report, Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration Minister Jill Balser said, “We do need to attract 25,000 individuals to make sure we are on track to be able to hit the two million by 2060 but we know Nova Scotia is a destination of choice and more and more people are looking to come here. We just need to make sure we have the tools and resources to keep them here.”
Balser was asked if those growth goals were realistic given the housing and healthcare crisis the province is facing.
“We want to be strategic with our population growth and so being able to recruit and retain the workers that are needed…The housing crisis, we need labourers. We need skilled trades workers to come to this province and help build the housing stock that’s needed,” she replied.
Another report commissioned by the department in 2020 to investigate immigrant settlement services and retention found that, “42 per cent of immigrants who stayed in the province, and 55 per cent of immigrants who left, did not access settlement services. Reasons for not accessing settlement services included: not knowing they existed, not available in the area where the individual was living (often outside of Halifax), or unable to get an appointment with a service provider.”
The Journal, when given the opportunity to question the minister, told her that finding accommodation for recently recruited healthcare professionals in the Guysborough area was very difficult in the current housing crisis. The Journal asked what the government would do to increase supports for immigrants in rural areas.
The Deputy Minister for the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration Ava Czapalay responded, “This government, and myself included, are passionate about rural immigration. We also know the challenges of accessing [support], and of course as you mentioned, if there are services that are not directly in community how do immigrants and newcomers and their families know where to go…We need to be able to strengthen that work too and by looking at those recommendations from the Auditor General, we need to make sure that when we are looking at how individuals are accessing programs, that we’re always thinking about that from a rural immigration perspective as well.”
Balser added that the province has set up newcomer navigators to help with the settlement process.
In an email in the afternoon of Nov. 8, a media spokesperson for the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration sent a list of navigators to The Journal including one with a coverage area of Antigonish, Guysborough and Pictou counties. A call and message left on the voicemail of the navigator indicated for Guysborough County elicited no response.
In an email on Nov. 9, a media spokesperson for the department sent the following information regarding settlement service information: webpages https://liveinnovascotia.com and https://novascotiaimmigration.com , telephone 1-866-424-5392 and email LiveHere@novascotia.ca.
Settlement support services are also available in Antigonish and Guysborough counties through the Antigonish Women’s Centre & Sexual Assault Services which can be accessed online at https://awrcsasa.ca or by calling 1-902-863-6221.
The Auditor General’s report on immigration and population growth can be found online at https://oag-ns.ca under Audit Reports.
Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal