A drop in immigration to rural Manitoba isn’t something to worry about, says Westman Immigrant Services’ executive director.
Richard Bruce says the province’s latest immigration statistics likely reflect immigration levelling off in the absence of recruiting drives by major local employers of foreign workers.
"I wouldn’t be terribly concerned about it, in terms of the province," Bruce said. "The numbers are still relatively strong."
The latest provincial stats, from 2013, show that in Winnipeg immigration rose within the last five years to 11,100 new arrivals last year.
But that rise isn’t the case in rural Manitoba, where immigration fell by 43 per cent in the last five years, to 2,000 last year.
In total, 13,092 people immigrated to all parts of Manitoba last year. That was a slight change from 2012.
The province pointed to the federal government’s cap on Provincial Nominee Program applicants and stricter federal English language requirements as reasons for the slower flow of immigrants to rural areas.
But immigration consultants also blame the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act, which the provincial NDP government introduced in 2009. That act forbids immigration brokers from also finding jobs for newcomers.
Across southwestern Manitoba, a total of 825 immigrants came here in 2013 compared to 932 in 2012.
Brandon welcomed 457 new arrivals in 2013, while 579 immigrants came here in 2012. In Neepawa, those numbers were 223 and 229, respectively.
Bruce said those figures may reflect that big employers of immigrants, such as Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon and HyLife Foods at Neepawa, aren’t currently on a recruiting drive.
When the larger employers of foreign workers aren’t hiring, Bruce said, the rate of immigration will balance at a level that represents the general local economy and the jobs available.
Bruce pointed to Winnipeg when it comes to Manitoba’s stark rural versus urban split over immigrants.
Winnipeg is by far the province’s largest city, he pointed out, and can likely absorb most of the immigrants who seek work and want certain amenities they may not find in rural parts.
Once outside the Manitoba capital, the populations of cities and towns dramatically drop, and with it the chance of finding work.
And the Manitoba countryside is quiet. Too quiet, perhaps.
"Rural Manitoba is actually a quiet place to live," Bruce said. "When you come from large places, sometimes quiet isn’t very good."
In Souris — the third highest recipient in southwestern Manitoba of new residents from other countries — there was a boost to 30 newcomers in 2013 from 12 in 2012.
Souris Mayor Darryl Jackson said that spike is likely due to the recruitment of nurses from the Philippines. The nurses have remained here and brought spouses, friends and relatives from their home nation.
The cultural makeup of his town has diversified within the last five years, Jackson said. Mexicans and Colombians have also come, some to work in area hog barns, and Souris now regularly hosts a multicultural festival.
"They’ve just really become strong community people," Jackson said, adding he’s happy the new residents found their way to Souris. "It’s great for us."
Meanwhile, the statistics suggest Hamiota saw a dive in the number of immigrants last year. There were less than five in 2013, whereas there were 25 in 2012.
But Hamiota’s chief administrative officer, Tom Mollard, said the fall in the numbers is actually a return to normal after an influx in 2012.
Filipino workers were recruited to work in area hog barns, and Mollard estimates there are now about 50 immigrants from the Philippines in the community.
They’ve settled into positions in health care and other jobs, and the workers’ children are attending schools. It’s a positive development for the town of 868, Mollard said.
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