Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien (CBC)

New Brunswick

CBC

Fredericton launched an immigration strategy Friday aimed at attracting and retaining 1,000 newcomers annually over the next 25 years.

The Fredericton Region Five-Year Strategy won’t speed up the process, but is expected to make it easier for new arrivals.

The city and several community partners have created an “online immigration portal” to simplify the immigration process by putting all relevant information in one place, such as a pre-arrival checklist and advice on finding employment,

There will also be a social media promotional campaign called We Speak Welcome to share newcomers’ experiences.

‘Big improvement’

“It’s a big improvement,” said Kinh Huynh, who moved to Fredericton from Vietnam three years ago and took over a UPS franchise.

“And on top of that, the message is, the city is willing to help us newcomers to be successful in our new home,” he said.

“When we come to a new country, we know no one, we know no place. It’s hard for us to knock on many doors to ask for help. But now, they put everything, all the doors into one, so we just need to know one door to knock on.”

Kinh Huynh, who moved to Fredericton from Vietnam, said he believes the city’s new immigration website will be a big help to other newcomers. (CBC)

In 2018, Fredericton was the top destination for immigrants in the province, with 1,470 newcomers arriving.

The city and its partners hope to continue that momentum through the five-year strategy, targeting entrepreneurs and students.

International students key

St. Thomas University student Wasiimah Joomun, who is from Africa, says summer work might keep international students in the city after graduation.

“During the summer the city is very beautiful, but it’s very unfortunate that all the international students leave Fredericton to go home for the summer, because they don’t have a job here,” she said.

If half of the international students who study in Fredericton chose to stay, the city would reach its target of 25,000 immigrants within three years, instead of 25, according to officials.

The goal is to have at least four working-age residents for each retiree by 2036.

3 phases

Phase 1 of the plan consists of an ecosystem review and alignment of services as necessary.

Phase 2 places focus on recruitment and retention of international students and entrepreneurs. It also includes communication activities and government advocacy.

Both of those phases will take place over the next two years.

The third phase, which will be executed within three to five years, focuses on expanding the pilot to support broader newcomer groups. More emphasis will also be placed on full community engagement and marketing efforts.

Clear roles avoids duplication

Under the plan, the Multicultural Association of Fredericton (MCAF) will continue to be the first point of contact for newcomers. It provides settlement assistance and employment services, including language classes and connections to community services.

The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is the main link between newcomers and the business community. It facilitates networking opportunities, government relations and advocacy.

Ignite Fredericton will be the lead on population growth, economic development and entrepreneurial support. It will also be taking over the business development support programs The HIVE and the Business Immigrant Mentorship Program (BIMP) from the chamber.

Fredericton hopes its ambitious plans will become a model for other cities looking to increase immigration to bolster an aging population.