Alberta – A Preferred Destination for Newcomers

According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, more immigrants are choosing to settle in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Alberta welcomed 12.4 per cent of all newcomers in 2011, up from 9.3 per cent in 2006, while five per cent of all immigrants chose to settle in Manitoba, up from 2.8 per cent five years earlier. Meanwhile, some 2.3 per cent of all newcomers made Saskatchewan home, up from 0.7 per cent in 2006.

Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are still home to the majority of immigrants to Canada between 2006-2011. About 32 per cent of newcomers settled in Toronto, while 16 per cent settled in Montreal and 13.3 per cent in Vancouver.  About six per cent — or roughly 70,700 people — settled in Calgary, while 4.3 per cent — or approximately 50,000 — of the national total settled in Edmonton.

More and more newcomers are headed for the booming prairies.

I personally had the opportunity to witness this trend while working with many newcomers who chose Alberta as their new home. Being the CIIP (Canadian Immigrant Integration Program) Online Advisor for the last four years, I had the chance to talk to Federal Skilled Workers and Provincial Nominees pre-arrival during the last stage of their decision-making process of where in Canada they should settle. During my time as advisor I saw an increase of over 20% of referrals from CIIP overseas offices coming to Edmonton. Why do newcomers prefer to settle in our city? The Government of Alberta and the City of Edmonton state a shortage of manpower and advertise great settlement support. The word is, in Edmonton and particularly northern Alberta, there are great employment opportunities to be realized.  It is quite common for newcomers to create their own forums and exchange information amongst them. “Word of mouth” is a powerful medium and the ‘words’ in this case are saying that in Edmonton you may be able to get a professional job, a job close to your level of expertise and fairly soon after arrival. As one of my clients put it: “Friends who moved to Vancouver or Toronto, they’re still struggling with their jobs, they can hardly get even transitional or survival jobs…”

The shifting geographic flow of immigrants has an impact on the quality of settlement services provided. The workload of settlement workers increases and the overall settlement funding decreases because of the federal and provincial budget cuts. It raises some serious concerns about the funding for settlement services in Edmonton as our city becomes a home to the vast majority of foreign-born residents and many of them have higher needs.

There is a need for dialogue and a visionary approach to services provided to newcomers, so that there are better connections between the available opportunities and the labour market reality in our province.

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