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Municipalities play critical role in immigration process

by Patrick Raftis

GUELPH - Wellington County councillors received an update on Oct. 26 on efforts to attract and integrate immigrants into the local economy.

Guelph Wellington Local Immigration Partnership (GWLIP)  co-chairs Sandra Cocco of Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington and Trish McComb, representing the County of Wellington, provided information on GWLIP aims and activities.

Cocco explained the GWLIP is directed by a leadership  council made up of community stakeholders.

“Really the council is about strategic leadership and setting their direction, other than on projects … we set priorities and we oversee the implementation,” Cocco stated.

“We ensure the folks sitting around the table represent a diverse community and we are connections to our greater community, particularly employers who are seeking some information about recruiting newcomers and just some information on trends.”

McComb said “more municipalities are being approached to support services regarding immigration” and the GWLIP “participated in development of Wellington County’s economic development strategic plan, which includes several references to the importance of immigration as an opportunity for growth as well as action items directly related to the attraction and retention of immigrants.”

The GWLIP, formed in 2009, is hosted by Guelph and serves the city and county. Funding comes entirely from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the local partnership has received $1.4 million in funding since its inception.

Cocco told council the region has a total population of 208,360 according to 2011 census data. Immigrants make up 21 per cent of Guelph’s population, and 11% of Wellington County’s.  The most common non-official languages are German, Dutch and Polish in Wellington and Chinese, Vietnamese and Punjabi in Guelph.

Statistics indicate economic immigrants have made up the bulk of immigrants to the region since about mid-2013. Just over 400 economic class immigrants arrived in 2015, followed by about 250 family class immigrants and less than 50 refugees, with a handful arriving under other classifications.

Cocco told council federal policy changes present new opportunities to fill skills and labour gaps in Guelph and Wellington, with international students, who pay three times the school fees of domestic students, and temporary foreign workers a part of the mix.

She said municipalities need to be aware that, at 11% of the population in Wellington, immigrants help create a drive for services while paying taxes, voting in local elections, creating and support local businesses and attracting visitors.

She added municipalities have a critical role to play in the immigration process as they are increasingly consulted on immigration policy issues, are facing skill shortages and their policies are critical to successful integration of newcomers.

McComb noted recent GWLIP projects include:

- coordination and support for the local response to the Syrian refugee crisis;

- collaboration with other agencies on workforce planning and economic development;

- a 2016 survey to access resources, services and access to education and employment for immigrants; and

- development of an online interactive community services map for the region.

McComb said the map demonstrates how the partnership creates efficiencies.

Originally “a $50,000 project,” it was done for around $2,000 with the assistance of the City of Guelph’s Geographic Information Systems department.

 

November 10, 2017

 
 

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