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Family who immigrated to Canada says they couldn’t stay amid high cost of living

Click to play video: 'Atlantic Economic Council recommending provinces pace population growth'
Atlantic Economic Council recommending provinces pace population growth
Although immigration has risen rapidly in Atlantic Canada, a new report has found retention remains weak. The Atlantic Economic Council is recommending provinces pace their population growth to keep up with health care and housing demands. Skye Bryden-Blom reports – Mar 20, 2024

A Ukrainian woman who immigrated to Nova Scotia says she could not keep up with the high cost of living.

Tetiana Melnyk moved to the province in March 2023 and took on three jobs so should she could begin to build a life for her two children.

After working for five months, she was able to bring them to Canada.

“I had maybe $3,000 a month,” she recalls. “I worked without days off from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.”

Melnyk says she worked so much there was little time to spend with her kids — and they missed her.

“After three months I understood it was not good for me and my children, and I needed to go home,” she says.

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She returned home to Georgia, a country which sits at the intersection of Europe and Asia.

Melnyk says she’s now able to make ends meet with just one job, and she also has family nearby for support.

Tetiana Melnyk took on three jobs so her family could start a new life in Canada. Courtesy: Tetiana Melnyk

Atlantic Economic Council warns immigration retention weak

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Melnyk’s story comes as the Atlantic Economic Council releases a new immigration report showing rates have climbed rapidly over the last decade.

Immigration reached a record 32,000 in the region in 2023, up from nearly 6,000 in 2013. But it says the five-year retention rate is around 50 per cent.

“There are challenges around housing, around access to doctors, access to education — schools are growing in size, too. So those factors do negatively impact the ability to retain people, so that’s something we need to get on top of,” says senior researcher Patrick Brannon.

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An organization that helps newcomers to Nova Scotia agrees there is room for improvement despite the current services offered.

A senior leadership team member with Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) says an area where work is ongoing is around helping to fill labour shortages.

“So (that means) being able to make sure that people who come in who have been trained professionally in other countries are able to get their qualifications recognized in a fairly easy way,” says Jennifer Watts.

Retention is also a priority for the province.

Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Jill Balser says they’re investing in support services, but adds there are many factors that can help make a place home.

“When a new family arrives, that sense of welcoming and that sense of belonging is so crucial in someone’s decision to actually stay,” she says “And a connection to a job opportunity is another important piece.”

Although Melnyk couldn’t build a life in Canada, she says her time spent in Nova Scotia will have a lasting impact.

“Of course I miss Canada, because Canada is a part of my life,” she says.

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