Small Sask. Towns Learning to Attract Immigrants

Stephanie Flegel, Leader-Post, (Regina, Saskatchewan), February 12, 2008

Small communities in Saskatchewan will be learning about resources to attract and keep immigrants in their communities at a smaller centres conference in Moose Jaw.

The Newcomer Settlement In Smaller Centres: Gateway to Success conference is taking place today through Thursday at the Moose Jaw Heritage Inn.

Lynne Belding from the Citizenship and Immigration regional office in Winnipeg will be presenting on the Toolbox of Ideas for Smaller Centres, which was launched in Lethbridge, Alta., at the beginning of February.

The toolbox is a resource, funded by the federal government, to help smaller communities across the country attract and maintain immigrants.

It is specifically aimed at smaller communities which often do not have the same access to resources as larger cities.

“In a big city it is so easy to get lost but in a small place people really take you into their hearts and they give you that human touch, that human feeling that you need,” said Marge Nainaar of her own experience immigrating from South Africa in 1969.

The toolbox is for “those small centres who have self-identified that they would like to build their capacity to attract immigrants into their communities,” said Belding.

The ideas and resources in the toolbox can be used by anyone in the community who is interested in assisting newcomers.

The toolbox was created by the Small Centres Strategy Working Group, made up of members from the public sector, provincial governments and the federal government who began working together in 2001.

Nainaar, of the Prince Albert Multicultural Council, was the only representative from Saskatchewan.

When churches in Saskatchewan started sponsoring immigrants in the 1970s, particularly from Vietnam, there were no resources available and everyone just did it from their hearts, explained Nainaar.

“Now we know that there are so many resources, tools and also human resources available to help people settle successfully in any small community and the toolbox came into form because of that,” she said.

The ideas in the toolbox have been used for a long time, but now they have been formalized and made accessible in a booklet and online, said Tara Blanchard, executive director of the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council.

The first copy of the toolbox was released in 2005, but the updated version released last week is now available free of charge at http://integration-net.ca.

“In order to help sustain our economic growth we are going to need to increase the number of immigrants coming to Saskatchewan and the focus, although importantly on Saskatoon and Regina, needs to make sure that newcomers to Saskatchewan are moving to other centres as well,” said Rob Norris, provincial minister of immigration.

The toolbox offers very useful and tangible examples for Saskatchewan communities to welcome newcomers, said Norris. He is particularly interested in the themes of intercultural co-operation, tolerance and diversity.

“People will feel more comfortable to sponsor newcomers because they will have something to go by,” said Nainaar.

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