NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO -- The federal government is expanding and extending a program that helps create a pathway to permanent residency for skilled foreign workers wanting to live in the region.
On Friday, Sean Fraser the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced the changes to the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot. Thunder Bay is one of 11 participating communities in the program across Canada.
Among the changes is an expansion of the geographic catchment area for seven of the communities taking part. Fraser said this was based directly on recommendations of community partners to include more employers.
“It’s no secret in small communities that a lot of people might live in town but work on the outskirts of town particularly in regions that rely heavily on the natural resources sector, mining particularly in Northern Ontario,” he said. “We need the programs to reflect the reality of the communities they are intended to serve.”
Previously, the RNIP was limited to the Thunder Bay Census Metropolitan Area. Now, the area of eligibility extends much farther west to include most of the Rainy River District Area, a portion of the District of Dryden including Dryden and Sioux Lookout, and the entire District of Thunder Bay.
Marcus Powlowski, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Rainy River called the announcement fantastic as employers in small towns are always looking for employees and can’t find them.
“I have people all the time coming up to me and saying… we need immigrants. And this certainly will help to bring those employees to help many businesses in small towns,” said Powlowski.
The pilot will also be extended until 2024.
The Thunder Bay CEDC which administers the program in Thunder Bay is pleased with the changes.
In a presentation to Thunder Bay city council on Aug. 22nd, the commission gave a report on the RNIP and stated that 78 per cent of the applicants are under 35 and many were from Lakehead University and Confederation College. Most of the applicants come from India, China, Vietnam, and Philippines.
The CEDC said that 150 employers are now signed up to accept applicants, doubling the number from last year.
The commission said that to date 350 nominations have been filed. This will translate into 513 new permanent residents in the city, including employees and their families.
Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source