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Saint John, N.B. aims to become new hub for immigration as it welcomes Ukrainians

Click to play video: 'Saint John hopes to become a hub for immigrants' Saint John hopes to become a hub for immigrants
The Maritimes have become a hub for immigrants looking to start a new chapter in their lives. The city of Saint John is hoping a new strategy can help it become the destination of choice for newcomers in the region. Robert Lothian reports.

It has only been a few days since the Shaladonov family arrived in Saint John.

The family of three — Myroslav, Oleksandra and Kira — was forced to flee war-torn Ukraine following the start of the unprovoked Russian invasion.

Anette Malinowski, who, along with her husband, is hosting the family, brought the region’s newest residents to St. Martins, N.B., to show them the beauty the province has to offer.

“We have a walk there. There are beautiful caves. We go on a beach,” Myroslav Shaladonov remarked.

Read more: ‘I was just trying to save my life:’ Ukranian relocates to Fredericton

Shaladanov said the warm reception by the people of Saint John came as a shock.

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Unfortunately, immigrants haven’t always felt the hospitality when moving to the Port City.

Malinowski emigrated from Germany nearly two decades ago, and after living in Alberta for a few years, she decided to move to the east coast for its lower cost of living.

But, looking back on her move to Saint John, Malinowski describes it as lonely.

Read more: Immigration minister pressed on applications of 2,900 Afghans who helped Canada

“Nobody explained to us about building a credit score up, buying a house, with a driver’s licence, with the taxes, with everything, so we were alone,” said Malinowski.

Now a seasoned Saint Johner, Malinowski can admit it’s a great city — as long as you know people.

Ensuring newcomers don’t have the same experience will be a top priority for the City of Saint John.

A new proposed immigration strategy aims to attract nearly 12,500 immigrants to the city by 2030, and retain at least 90 per cent.

Read more: How two New Brunswick women are helping displaced Ukrainians

“So we want to be a community of choice for immigration, and that’s going to take some work with the federal government as well, to say we are ready for immigrants,” Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon said.

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Through conversations with newcomers, Reardon has become more aware of the barriers that keep immigrants from staying long-term.

“One is transit. A lot of them come from a country where they would have had public transit. They may not have owned a vehicle, don’t want a vehicle, may not be able to afford the expense of a vehicle,” said Reardon.

Read more: N.S. woman hosting Ukrainian refugee family calls for medical fees to be dropped

Another barrier is a place of worship, said Reardon, who noted with empty churches and downsized congregations, it may be worth asking groups to share spaces.

While the city works to establish itself as the new hub for immigration, the Shaladonov family will make themselves comfortable in their new home.

“It’s a nice city, and I hope I will know more about it in the future,” said Shaladonov.

Click to play video: 'Ukrainian refugees waiting to find out what will happen to their towns' Ukrainian refugees waiting to find out what will happen to their towns
Ukrainian refugees waiting to find out what will happen to their towns – May 12, 2022

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