In 2015, we had more individuals over the age of 65 than under 15 for the first time, and that trend is escalating. In light of our rapidly aging population and low birth rates, our country depends on immigration to remain prosperous and to ensure that our seniors have enough people in the workforce to maintain our social safety net system. In rural areas like ours, we also have the challenge of migration to urban centres. The north part of our riding, for example, declined by over 500 people from 2011 to 2016. This has an impact on our rural sustainability.
I myself am the son of a recent immigrant father who came to Canada from Italy in the 1950s, eventually settling in Madoc where I grew up. It seems hard to believe nowadays that when groups like Italians, Ukrainians, and Irish came as immigrants to Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were seen by some as being “other,” and that they would not be able to integrate. How very wrong that idea was, and we even see it as laughable now! The same is true for immigration from others parts of the world today.
My mother’s family has been in Quebec since immigrating there in the 1600s. Through both my parents, I have the benefit of being raised by new and long-time immigrants to Canada, allowing me to understand in some ways the contributions of immigrants and Canadians of diverse backgrounds to the rich fabric and dynamism of our country. We are stronger because of the differences in that rich fabric.
Take, for example, the Hosni family of Napanee, who came to our community as Syrian refugees in early 2016, sponsored by the heartfelt work of the local Lennox and Addington Refugee Group Enthusiasts (LARGE). When I got the chance to first meet them, they shared their story with me of their experience in war-torn Syria, and how grateful they were to be living in peace in Canada. When I welcomed them with Canadian flags, Majed and Razan’s youngest daughter, then only five years old, broke out into song: “O Canada, our home and native land…” Her sister and brothers joined in. It put tears in my eyes and I still get choked up when I think about it. It makes me so proud to be Canadian.
Our rural communities need more people to grow, create more jobs, and ensure rural sustainability. As a result of advocacy from our National Liberal Rural Caucus and Rural Canadians, our government has launched the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program. For communities who want to take part, this program will result in them welcoming immigrants who will contribute to developing the local labour market and economy. If your community is interested, your community must work with a local economic development organization to complete your application. The economic development organization must be the one to submit the application. The application must have the support of your municipal leader(s) and a local or regional immigrant-serving organization. Find more information about the criteria and requirements here: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/rural-northern-immigration-pilot-about.html