Vernon, West Kootenay part of new federal rural and northern immigration program

An Okanagan community has been selected to take part in a new immigration program, the federal government announced on Saturday.

The goal of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, is to find permanent homes for immigrants, who can then start helping fill labour gaps.


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The program’s selected communities and regions are Vernon and West Kootenay in B.C.; Claresholm, Alta.; Moose Jaw, Sask.; Brandon and Gretna-Rhineland-Altona-Plum Coulee in Manitoba; plus Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins and North Bay in Ontario.

The newcomers are expected to begin arriving in 2020.

“The equation is quite simple. Attracting and retaining newcomers with the needed skills equals a recipe for success for Canada’s rural and northern communities,” Ahmed Hussen, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said in a press release.

“We have tested a similar immigration pilot in Atlantic Canada and it has already shown tremendous results for both newcomers and Canadians.”

Under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, launched in March 2017 as part of the Atlantic Growth Strategy, the four Atlantic provinces are able to endorse up to 2,500 workers in 2019 to meet labour market needs in the region, according to Immigration Canada.

Under the new rural and northern pilot, participating communities “will have access to a range of supports to test this new innovative, community-driven model that will help fill labour gaps,” said Immigration Canada.

“The participating communities were selected as a representative sample of the regions across Canada to assist in laying out the blueprint for the rest of the country.”

The federal minister of seniors, Filomena Tassi, says the program will benefit the economy.

“Rural communities like Vernon are the beating heart of our country,” said Tassi, who was in Vernon on Saturday. “Attracting immigrants to make the Okanagan Valley their new home will help grow the economy and create and support jobs.”

According to Immigration Canada:

  • Throughout the summer, the government will begin working with selected communities to position them to identify candidates for permanent residence as early as the fall of 2019.
  • Communities will be responsible for recruiting candidates and endorsing them for permanent residence.
  • Communities worked with local economic development organizations to submit an application that demonstrated how they met the eligibility criteria by March 11, 2019.
  • Rural communities account for almost 30 per cent of the national GDP. Between 2001 and 2016, the number of potential workers has decreased by 23 per cent, while the number of potential retirees has increased by 40 per cent.

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