National conference on immigration to spark conversation, ideas in Halifax

National conference on immigration to spark conversation, ideas in Halifax
WATCH: Halifax is hosting a three-day conference looking at immigration and how North America is dealing with newcomers and integrating them into their new homes. Whitney Middleton-Oickle has more.

Halifax will be the site of a national conference looking at immigration and how Canada and North America are currently dealing with newcomers and integrating them in their new homes.

“Doing Immigration Differently” is the theme for the three-day National Metropolis Conference on immigration, that is getting underway in Halifax March 21 and continues until Saturday, March 23. 

READ MORE: Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program will run until 2021

The national conference will bring together immigration experts from across the country and globe — including politicians, policymakers, leading academics and also newcomers who will share their immigration experience.

Conference co-chair and CEO of Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), Jennnifer Watts, says the event will examine immigration from a historical perspective and analyze the country’s past, while looking to find innovative ways forward in terms of welcoming more newcomers to Canada.

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WATCH: Immigration retention with ISANS Jennifer Watts

Immigration retention with ISANS Jennifer Watts
Immigration retention with ISANS Jennifer Watts

It will also focus on ways of keeping them here in communities like Halifax.  

“I think the retention numbers have been growing and getting stronger, particularly in Nova Scotia,” said Watts. “What we’re hearing is that people are feeling that there’s an opportunity here and that people are feeling welcomed here.”

Earlier this month, the federal government in partnership with the Maritime provinces, announced the extension of the Atlantic Immigration pilot project until 2021. The project gives Atlantic employers the chance to hire qualified candidates for jobs that they haven’t been able to fill locally. 

Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced the extension on the pilot project back on March 1 at a press conference held at Pier 21, the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax.

Hussen highlighted the success of the Atlantic immigration program and says its goal is to attract skilled workers and their families to the East Coast to help employers fill job positions.

READ MORE: Low uptake for new immigration program in Nova Scotia, numbers reveal

More than 1,800 employers have signed up and are on board with the program said Hussen, and to date, more than 3,700 jobs offers have been made and 2,500 applications for permanent residency have been filed.

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Halifax Regional Municipality Mayor Mike Savage said the area is seeing strong growth when it comes to immigration numbers and he’ll be a panelist at the conference to examine the role cities play in attracting and settling newcomers. 

Historically, Savage points out that Halifax was the first place where immigrants landed when coming to Canada but suggested people would then often make their way west to larger centres, such as Montreal and Toronto, and even further west into provinces like Alberta and B.C. to settle.

“Today immigrants that come here are staying here in large numbers, The retention numbers are high, both for people who come here with investment ideas and money, that’s great, but also for people who come and want to build a new life for themselves and their family here in Canada. We’re seeing all of that in Halifax,” he said.

The Metropolis conference will feature more than 140 workshops, panel discussions, and round table events and will all take place at the Halifax Convention Centre.