A select group of individuals tasked with recommending improvements to the province’s current immigration policies and programs has been officially appointed.
Twenty Manitobans were appointed to the Immigration Advisory Council, which will review the vast continuum of immigration, from promoting immigration to retaining newcomers, council co-chairs Lloyd Axworthy and Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration Minister Jon Reyes announced Monday at a press conference.
“This is an important juncture point for the province in terms of resupplying and reinvesting workforce, training and skills, which is the backbone of the province and where it goes,” Axworthy, a former federal foreign affairs minister, said.
The council will focus on finding ways to attract and recruit more immigrants and business investors to Manitoba, streamlining the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program and fostering the province’s settlement and integration programs and services, as well as foreign credential recognition programs.
The latter will hone in on increasing the labour market and bolstering immigrant retention.
“The only way we are going to improve our numbers in terms of retention is talking to stakeholders, like some of the council members,” Reyes said at the announcement, held at the Manitoba Immigration office on Notre Dame Avenue in Winnipeg.
More than 20 per cent of Manitoba nominees settled in regional areas outside Winnipeg’s capital region last year, with Brandon, Neepawa, Steinbach, Winkler, Thompson and Portage la Prairie the top regional destinations.
Despite the influx outside of Winnipeg, only three of the appointees live outside of the greater Winnipeg area: Altona’s Chad Friesen, president and chief executive officer of Friesens Corporation; Debasish Mukherjee, a small business owner in Beausejour; and Brandon’s Enver Naidoo, executive director of Westman Immigrant Services, and co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Immigration Research Network.
Collectively, however, the group is made up of individuals with an array of backgrounds and expertise related to immigration services, governance, economic development, analysis, project management and community integration.
Manitoba has a strong immigration record, but Axworthy believes now is a good time to review it.
“How do we lead again in making a premiere program for the country, as well as our own provincial needs?” he added.
The province is also facing labour shortages in several sectors of the economy, and the ability to attract more skilled workers is going to be key.
“There’s no doubt that the skilled worker in a wide variety of sectors is really the catalyst that’s going to enable this province to restore its vitality in a number of areas, and lead the country in many ways,” Axworthy said.
As the province continues to recover from the pandemic, there is a need to encourage economic growth, invest in education, training and job creation and support investment, according to Reyes.
Reyes says immigration is one part of the plan.
“Manitoba is and will continue to be a welcoming new home for all newcomers, including immigrants, refugees and their family members and a destination of choice for international students,” Reyes said. “This important work will ensure we’re better able to attract and retain newcomers to help build our economy for the future.”
The nominee program received 6,275 applications last year, the highest number of nominees since the program was established in 1998, and Reyes is optimistic the province will eclipse that number in 2022.
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