Put yourself in an immigrant’s shoes, arriving in a new country, a place that has a different culture and language and way of life.
Imagine you’re from a warm-weather part of the world and you land in Canada on a blustery winter day (or night). You step off the plane and are jolted by the cold. You’re unsure what awaits you. You don't have friends. What are you going to do? What’s going to happen?
This is the sort of scenario Gola Taraschi-Carr asked her audience to consider.
She was speaking in Yarmouth to participants in a workshop that was part of the annual summit organized by the Western Regional Enterprise Network, and the focus was on immigration.
Taraschi-Carr is co-founder of the Atlantic Restorative Company in Halifax. She and her husband, Bill Carr, also an ARC co-founder, were facilitators for the Tuesday morning session in which participants were encouraged to try to see things from the point of view of newcomers, to appreciate what people go through when attempting to settle in a new area, to welcome them and to try to understand their culture.
“Every community is based on the quality of its relationships,” Taraschi-Carr said.
This was the fifth summit for the Western REN, where immigration – and how it can help employers looking for new workers – is a priority.
About 65 people attended the Oct. 16 event at the Rodd Grand Hotel, including business operators who say they either are struggling to find workers or expect they will at some point. They see immigration as important in this regard, although the complexity of the system is an issue for many.
“We know there are challenges with immigration,” said Mary-Jo MacKay, manager of external relations with the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration and one of the summit speakers. “It can be daunting, but we have restructured our office ... We’re working with employers, other stakeholders. We’re helping (them) navigate immigration and addressing those challenges as best we can.”
On a positive note, she said Nova Scotia had close to 10,000 newcomers arrive over the last two years and the province has had some population growth.
“Who thought we were going to say that five, 10 years ago in Nova Scotia?” she said.
While the province is doing its part and was represented at the Western REN summit, the federal government took some heat, at least one summit participant saying Ottawa has a role to play too and that he would like to see them do more to make the immigration process easier to get through.
Angélique LeBlanc, CEO of the Western REN, cited the summit’s theme of Building Prosperity through Building Community, saying it reflects an important shift in the region, where employers are leading the way in trying to ensure that the workers they recruit from elsewhere will want to stay here.
“In order to increase western Nova Scotia’s population through immigration, we need to embrace diversity in all aspects of our communities,” she said. “These are important conversations and the Western REN is pleased to help create space for them.”