I am honoured to be here today to speak about immigration. I am motivated by my vision for New Brunswick, having eyes on our region, and a passion for my home province of New Brunswick.
There exists a myth that New Brunswick has a retention problem. Every myth is based on a kernel of truth. That truth is that New Brunswick has a retention problem, and the truth is that it is similar to that of almost all non-cosmopolitan areas of similar economic and population profiles in Canada. The myth is that New Brunswick's retention problem can be compared to that of cosmopolitan Canada.
The statistics are misrepresented. Currently, New Brunswick's retention statistics include immigrants who never make it to New Brunswick. For example, there are economic principal applicants or economic class immigrants who have stated their intent to live and start a business in New Brunswick, but upon landing in cosmopolitan MTV—Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver—go no further. They don't just go poof and disappear. These Canadian metropolises are now benefiting from our immigration allocation. New Brunswick is an intake point for Canada, but Canada is not an effective intake point for us.
The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration was instructed to undertake a study on immigration to Atlantic Canada. I am here to speak to the study point addressing the challenge of retaining new immigrants. My perspective on the experience of newcomers is shaped by years working in Asia and by my experience researching intercultural mentorship as a support for newcomer immigrant entrepreneurs arriving in non-metropolitan Canada.
One case study for such research is the business immigrant mentorship program, piloted in 2008 by the New Brunswick Population Growth Secretariat, in partnership with the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce. The program was the first of its kind, not only in Canada but in North America. The business immigrant mentorship program is currently delivered in Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John, Edmundston, and Bathurst. Other jurisdictions in Canada and elsewhere have borrowed from that model.
These immigrants, our newest Maritimers—or what I call modern pioneer settlers—have moved to small-town Canada, where they won't often see themselves reflected back. In small-town Canada, networks are particularly homogeneous, mainstream New Brunswick. Modern pioneer settlers need more assistance.
Recognizing the limitations of the current business ecosystem, the business immigrant mentorship program was designed to mix things up a bit. It's a social innovation designed to provide newcomer immigrant entrepreneurs, our modern pioneers, with the opportunity to learn from seasoned entrepreneur mentors, pairing immigrant mentees with local business people who act as mentors. The business immigrant mentorship program offers both networking opportunities and professional support. These business mentors not infrequently find themselves organically becoming newcomer community hosts.
There is a great interest in what's happening in New Brunswick. Other jurisdictions are now replicating New Brunswick's business immigrant mentorship program in their communities. In part through the International Mentoring Association's recognition of my research of the program, this program is now recognized globally.
We have acknowledged that New Brunswick does have a retention problem, shared by other non-metropolitan communities in Canada. The current comparison at a provincial level with provinces with larger metropolitan cities puts New Brunswick at a disadvantage.
I would now like to speak about retaining our new immigrants. In addition to the business immigrant mentorship program and the Atlantic immigration pilot, what will the rest of us do to pitch in? What can individuals do? The absence of institutionally complete communities or strong ethnic communities in non-metropolitan Canada means that immigrants, this century's modern pioneer settlers, are often unable to rely on co-ethnic ties, nor on their own community resource elements, considered essential for retention and resiliency.
Newcomers want to be a part of the community, and they really want to be part of caring communities. Each of us has an ongoing role to play. Being giving and friendly is, many would say, in the Maritimers' DNA. We are famous for our down-east warmth. In my mind, it's not a big stretch for us to get more up close and personal—and I don't mean “let's be friendly”. All of us are proficient at drive-by kindness in the Maritimes. What I'm saying is that we need to take some time and become mentors to our newcomers, all of us. Let's reach out in an intentional and personal way.
Most recently, when Syrian refugees arrived in Fredericton, an integration committee called First Fredericton Friend saw at least two volunteers matched with each new family. The program was so successful that it caught on and was replicated, spreading across the country. The retention of New Brunswick Syrians is 90% currently.
Mentorship is increasingly seen as an important part of a larger retention strategy. Mentor character traits include curiosity, integrity, positivity, humility, and compassion. For mentors it can take courage to embark on the role. If you're not sure if you have what it takes, go to the TED Talks channel on YouTube. There are TED Talks on mentorship, including mine. They may be a useful guide.
Fundamentally, it all comes down to the individual. While the Atlantic immigration pilot and the business immigrant mentorship program are important, and the involvement of private sector investment and immigrant servicing agencies are also essential, there still remains a gap in our strategy for retaining newcomers. Cultivating relationships with local residents assists in anchoring immigrants in their new community and forming an identity as part of that community, but how are these relationships cultivated? Who should reach out to whom, and where should that effort come from? Mentorship at the individual level will strengthen the bonds of existing communities, encourage diversity of thought, culture, and experience in a region, and revitalize volunteerism.
Mentoring our newcomer modern pioneers is essential to ensuring retention of newcomers. Members of Parliament, I'm asking you to create awareness and formally and informally encourage individual Canadians, those you know and those you come to meet, to become newcomer community hosts.
Thank you for your time.