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Involving cities in immigration

Municipal governments should be considered a partner, not a stakeholder, in the selection and retention of newcomers.

People at crosswalk downtown in a city

The municipal level of government is the level with the closest connection to the people it serves. That close connection is one reason why it makes sense for municipalities to have a greater stake in the immigration process, able to do their own outreach and with proper funding for programs to serve this constituency.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has created a draft design for a Municipal Nomination Program and requested feedback on it.

“Municipal governments have no constitutional responsibility for immigrant selection, settlements or integration, yet newcomers live in local communities and interact with municipal services every day,” the CBA’s Immigration Law Section said in its submission to the Department. “Municipal governments have direct knowledge of support services and employment opportunities that could inform immigration strategies. Municipal governments should be considered a partner, not a stakeholder, and should be given a larger role in the selection and retention of newcomers to their area.”

A successful municipal nomination program would allow immigrants to successfully integrate into the economic, social and cultural lives of their communities – especially outside of large urban centres – and make long-term contributions to them, the submission says.

“Attainable selection criteria would give newcomers an increased ability to settle locally. Indicators of success would include the number of immigrants who are chosen to settle and remain in the local area and their settlement patterns such as home ownership, business creation and job status. It can also be measured by the rate of MNP participants acquiring Canadian citizenship.”

Social and economic ties are generally key factors for attracting newcomers, but the quality of the resources available to them, such as recreation, transit and public health facilities, as well as other social services, will often be the deciding factor in whether they stay.

“The federal government should continue to develop the national policy framework on immigration and to delegate authority to provinces, territories and municipalities to operate regional nomination programs,” the Section says, adding that existing immigration partnerships and employment councils that allow the coordination of services should be strengthened.

Francophone communities, municipalities looking to support entrepreneurial applicants, communities in need of charitable and religious workers, those with particular labour shortages and those interested in increasing their level of multiculturalism should be prioritized for an MNP, the Section says. It takes no position on the size of community eligible, but does recommend “prioritizing municipalities with effective settlement programs that go beyond arrival needs.”

To effectively attract and retain immigrants, communities will need adequate support systems and increased funding, training and cooperation with provincial nomination programs.

“This is an opportunity to create an innovative program with flexibility to respond to local economic, social and demographic needs,” the Section says.