July 1, 2017

International students go north


Happy 150th birthday Canada!

I enjoyed my visit north this week to be the guest speaker at the Hearst & Area Economic Development Corporation Annual General Meeting.

I was pleased to learn that Universite de Hearst has approximately 50  international students from French-speaking African nations spread among its three campuses in Hearst, Kapuskasing and Timmins. 

They are seeking business degrees and are changing the faces of the smaller centres of Hearst and Kapuskasing. 


June 8, 2017

Busy June continues


​I enjoyed my time at the Northern Ontario Service Deliverers AGM last evening.

June 15 I will be in Kirkland Lake to speak at their immigration forum. June 23 I will be in Sudbury to meet with the Ontario North Economic Development Corporation and June 28 I will be the guest speaker at the Hearst Economic Development AGM.


May 2, 2017

Two June speaking engagements


I will be the June 7 keynote speaker at the Northern Ontario Service Deliverers Annual General Meeting in North Bay. My topic will be the need for increased immigration to Northern Ontario.


June 28 I will be in Hearst to address the Annual General Meeting of Hearst Economic Development. I will give a presentation on the recent Curry Consulting report for the Far Northeast Training Board on immigrant entrepreneurs in the region.



April 27, 2017

Immigration symposium in Sundridge


My presentation at the event consisted of a review of the Northeastern Ontario Immigration Project, its evaluation, a report on the major findings of the immigrant entrepreneur study for the Far Northeast Training Board, and an outline of a new partnership project with the Northern Policy Institute to create new immigration streams for Northern Ontario.

Following the event we had interest from the two Kirkland Lake participants to do something similar there. Plans are in the works.


April 12, 2017

NPI commissions a "Northern Newcomer Strategy"

Northern Ontario needs a surge in population, newcomers will play a key role


75,000 workers, 150,000 people. These are the forecast workforce and population shortfalls throughout Northern Ontario by the year 2041, even after allowing for the expected growth in the Indigenous population.


In order to meet those goals the north would have to attract on average some 6,000 people a year, starting next year and every year thereafter for 25 years. This will require real resources, significant effort, and serious commitment.


It will also require an evidence based plan. Northern Policy Institute has launched a new project, Northern Attraction,  to collect the evidence, engage with experts, and develop that action plan to share with key decision makers, community partners and the broader public.


As part of the Northern Attraction project, Curry Consulting of North Bay has been commissioned to recommend any needed changes to current policies and programs related to migration.


These could include economic incentives for newcomers, local control of immigration programs based on local needs, methods of targeted recruitment and the capacity of settlement services to provide the necessary supports to ensure newcomers feel welcomed in communities.


Members of the Curry Consulting team are Don Curry, Meyer Burstein, a former Director-General with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and Dr. Michael Haan, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Migration and Ethnic Relations in the sociology department at Western University.


According to available data, approximately 1,800 more people left Northeastern Ontario than came to the region in 2014-2015. That same year, approximately 700 more people left Northwestern Ontario than settled there.


"Shrinking population and negative net migration numbers represent a significant challenge for the  North and one that needs to be addressed," said Charles Cirtwill, President & CEO of Northern Policy Institute. "The Northern Attraction project is one-half of our focused response to this challenge. The second is our Shared Economy project which explores needed changes to help Indigenous peoples achieve their economic potential. This is not an either/or exercise, both of these projects must set us on a path for success if the north is going to grow and prosper."


April 5, 2017

BayToday.ca

City has more than 70 immigrant-owned businesses

North Bay can learn from an immigrant entrepreneur study recently completed for the Far Northeast Training Board, says the study’s author.

Don Curry, president of Curry Consulting of North Bay, says staff at the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre identified more than 70 first generation immigrant-owned businesses in North Bay. He said the results of a study he did for the region from Latchford north to Hearst, and Kirkland Lake to Chapleau, likely apply for North Bay as well.

He interviewed 38 immigrant business owners in the study area at their places of business and found that together they own and operate 58 businesses. Twenty own restaurants or fast food franchises, 15 own motels, 10 own convenience stores, seven own gas stations and two own pharmacies. Other businesses include a landscaping business, a nail salon, a strip mall and a movie theatre. Immigrant professionals other than pharmacists in the study area were not interviewed.

Twelve businesses employ five people or fewer; 18 employ six to 10 people; two employ 11 to 15 people; three employ 16 to 20 people and four employ more than 21 people, with the largest having 37 employees.

“What was really interesting,” Curry said, “was that more than half of those interviewed said they knew family and friends who might move north for the right business opportunity. That means that if someone is looking to sell a business in North Bay the immigrant business community already here is a good place to start.”

Curry said almost all the business owners were secondary migrants, mainly from the Greater Toronto Area. Most were originally from India, he said, noting that failing to find a local buyer a business owner may be wise to advertise in the Indian media in the GTA.

The full 37-page report can be found in English and French at www.fnetb.com/reports

Curry said he will present the report at a Northeastern Ontario Immigration Symposium in Sundridge April 26. He said he will also discuss a new Curry Consulting project with the Northern Policy Institute to develop new immigration streams for Northern Ontario.

“What struck me about the immigrant entrepreneur study was that almost all the business people were secondary migrants,” he said. “Northern Ontario receives only 300 immigrants a year directly from their home countries, when our population should demand six times that number. Immigrants in all categories are positive contributors to local economies and the north needs lots more of them. People may say they take jobs away from Canadians, but the proven reality is that they create jobs for Canadians.”

The April 26 immigration symposium, sponsored by the Central Almaguin Economic Development Association, the Labour Market Group and the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided. To attend you must register at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/immigration-symposium-for-northeastern-ontario-tickets-31995981843


April 3, 2017

Immigration Symposium April 26

​I will be presenting at the Northeastern Ontario Immigration Symposium in Sundridge April 26.

I will speak about immigration strategies developed for three communities, a "how-to" guide, a completed study on immigrant entrepreneurs, a project to develop new immigration streams for Northern Ontario, and next steps for Northeastern Ontario.

There is no charge to attend and lunch will be provided. Email me if you would like further information.

You have to register online at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/immigration-symposium-for-northeastern-ontario-tickets-31995981843

 ​

March 31, 2017

Increase immigration to Northern Ontario

​Curry Consulting signed a contract today with the Northern Policy Institute to recommend new immigration streams specifically designed for Northern Ontario.

I will once again be working with colleagues Meyer Burstein and Dr. Michael Haan on this project.

For more information please email me at don@curryconsulting.ca


February 25, 2017​

Immigrant entrepreneurs moving north

​My article on immigrant entrepreneurs moving to Northeastern Ontario was published today at www.newcanadianmedia.ca

You can find it here.

My full report for the Far Northeast Training Board is now posted on their website  at www.fnetb/reports.


January 18, 2017

By Lindsay Kelly

Northern Ontario Business

Newcomers welcome


A new report from the Far Northeast Training Board has found that secondary immigration can be a viable answer to succession planning in the North.

The North’s New Entrepreneurs details the results from interviews with business owners identified in the Training Board’s catchment area, which includes Latchford, Temiskaming Shores, Earlton, Englehart, Kirkland Lake, Matheson, Timmins, Chapleau, Cochrane, Kapuskasing and Hearst.

In that area, 55 newcomer business owners were identified, but only 38, or 69 per cent, were interviewed.

Compiled by Don Curry of Curry Consulting, the report explains who the newcomers are, where they’ve come from, how they found out about business opportunities, which businesses they own, who they employed, and their plans for the future in their adopted communities.

Three years ago, while Curry was the director at the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, the organization conducted an informal survey to see how many of the first-generation newcomers were business owners in North Bay.

It yielded some compelling results: more than 70 businesses in North Bay were owned and being operated by newcomers.

The new report suggests those numbers are replicated across the region.

“I had suggested that we look at every municipality in their region to see if what we see in North Bay is happening through the North as well,” Curry said. “It was encouraging to see it’s happening everywhere.”

The Training Board report notes that two-thirds of the business owners are secondary immigrants: they first immigrated to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and then relocated to Northern Ontario.

Two-thirds of the people interviewed are originally from India.

Curry said it’s interesting to see that so many newcomers from India, via Toronto, are entrepreneurial in nature.

Many said they wanted to start a business in Toronto, but were thwarted by the cost of living and an inferior quality of life.

“They were not happy with the crowded conditions, the congestion in the Toronto area, and the high cost of living,” Curry said. “If you want to buy a house in Toronto — and it’s been in the news steady — it’s very expensive. So they did their research, and they looked at prices in the North and thought, ‘Hey, I can afford it there.’”

Many of those interviewed were informed about opportunities in Northern Ontario through family and friends who are already living there. But a majority said if they were looking to expand or acquire new businesses, next time they would use the internet.

The average family size of newcomer business owners is 3.4, “which is higher than the Canadian average,” noted Curry, who said families are typically younger, with children who will go to school and be raised in the North.

In some cases, the newcomer business owners were having trouble finding local people to fill employee vacancies, and so they were recruiting workers from Toronto to move north; many of those recruits were also newcomers to Canada, Curry said.

A few of the newcomer business owners were trained in other careers before coming to Canada, but on arrival, went into business instead after failing to find work in their fields of expertise.

However, that wasn’t reflective of the majority.

“The vast majority are businesspeople who want to work for themselves, and the franchise operation is a quick way to get in,” Curry said. “The franchise teaches you how to run it and the business investment is not as significant as building from the ground up.”

Of the newcomers interviewed, 20 owned restaurants or food franchises, 15 owned motels, and 10 owned convenience stores; many had gas bars attached to them. Altogether, the businesses employ 206 full-time people, 139 part-time people, and 20 on a seasonal basis.

Curry said if the North wants to recruit more successors as business owners retire, they would do well to market and recruit from the Indian community in the GTA.

“The fact that very few of the people came directly from their home country was significant,” Curry said. “So it shows that federal and provincial immigration programs aren’t working very well for Northern Ontario.”

In fact, a report by Michael Hahn, the Canada Research Chair in Migration and Ethnic Relations at Western University, showed that Canada recruits 300,000 newcomers a year, the majority of which go to Ontario, and more specifically, the GTA.

Yet Northern Ontario receives only one-tenth of one per cent, or 300, of those newcomers.

For the most part, the newcomers said they enjoyed living in the North for its quiet, slower pace, its beauty and the friendly, welcoming nature of its residents. The majority planned to remain in the North to raise their families.

A few had experienced racism, although Curry noted they were in the minority, and education in the schools could help to combat those negative experiences.

The report, which will be released in both French and English in mid-February, includes a number of recommendations; however, it will be up to the economic development officers in each community to devise any strategies stemming from the information in the report.

Curry said there will, however, be opportunities to develop new immigration streams for Northern Ontario, some of which are being worked on right now.

“So, if that happens, that’ll affect the entirety of Northern Ontario and get more immigrants here, but it’s going to be long-term,” Curry said. “We’ll have to get people together to come up with a plan and then get governments to adopt it.”


January 5, 2017

Northern Ontario Business interview


I enjoyed speaking with reporter Lindsay Kelly of Northern Ontario Business today.


She was following up on the Metro Morning interview about the Far Northeast Training Board project on immigrant entrepreneurs I just completed.


Her story will be in the February print issue and will be online in late January. The immigrant entrepreneur report is now being translated to French and will be available to the public in February.



December 28, 2016

CBC Metro Morning interview


​It was a pleasure to chat with CBC Metro Morning host Mary Wiens this morning about immigrant entrepreneurs moving north from the Greater Toronto Area.


The conversation was a result of my study for the Far Northeast Training Board. You can listen to the six-minute interview here.


December 21, 2016

New Canadian Media commentary

Brockville, look to GTA, not India


Municipal councils in Canada’s smaller centres do not appear to be at the forefront in analysing demographic and diversity trends affecting their communities.

I see it in discussions with municipal politicians from my perch in Northern Ontario, and in a recent Brockville Recorder and Times news article about attracting immigrant entrepreneurs.  The municipality secured a provincial government grant to commission a study on the topic, one in which I am particularly interested.

The population of Canada is rising steadily and is more than 36 million people. Approximately 300,000 immigrants are now arriving annually. Generally, newcomers to Canada do not emigrate to smaller centres, but to the larger ones, with Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver taking the majority. What is becoming more prevalent, however, is secondary migration to smaller centres.

In North Bay, population 54,000, where I live, there are more than 70 first generation immigrant-owned businesses. This is a relatively recent occurrence. Temiskaming Shores, population 10,500, is 90 minutes north of North Bay and it has more than 20 first generation immigrant-owned businesses. There too, this is a recent occurrence.

The Brockville story that caught the attention of New Canadian Media noted the municipality of 22,000 people could attract immigrant entrepreneurs already in Canada. It was based on a study by Jacqueline Schoemaker Holmes that contained a number of recommendations to make the municipality more receptive to immigrants.

I completed a study for the Far Northeast Training Board that will be released in January that covers some of the issues that Brockville council was discussing. I interviewed 38 immigrant business owners in 11 municipalities in Northeastern Ontario, the smallest with only 400 people and the largest the City of Timmins, population 43,000.

It supports the conclusion of the Brockville study that you don’t have to recruit internationally for immigrant entrepreneurs—they are already here. The study is now in the design, French translation and printing phase. I will report on it in this space when it is officially released in January.

But for now, I can tell you that it shows two-thirds of the immigrant entrepreneurs in the study area were born in India, but did not come to Northern Ontario from there. They came from the Greater Toronto Area.

Dissatisfied with the high cost of GTA home ownership, high cost to purchase a business, and the congestion of the big city, they looked for alternatives and found them in Northern Ontario. They are just as likely to find them in Brockville, just a few hours down Highway 401, and in other smaller Ontario centres.

For municipal councils and economic development organizations, this is terrific news.  Many smaller centre business owners want to sell their business and retire. Demographers have seen this coming for years, as more baby boomers retire. In many cases their children have moved to a larger centre, or they are not interested in continuing the family business. In our region we are seeing immigrant entrepreneurs moving north to fill the void.

The municipal council in Brockville, according to the newspaper report, was receptive to the study but reluctant to allocate funds in its budget to make Brockville a more welcoming community for immigrants. That is typical of what I hear in Northern Ontario as well.

Municipal councils, in my experience, spend far too much time on the mundane day-to-day issues that should be the purview of municipal staff members, and far too little time looking at the long-term future of their communities. The large cities in Canada, however, understand the value of putting policies, procedures, and people in place to ensure they are doing all they can to attract and retain immigrants.

Many of the smaller ones still haven’t figured it out. Studies such as the one presented this month in Brockville and next month in the Far Northeast Training Board catchment area of a large chunk of Northeastern Ontario should serve as a wakeup call.

 While municipal councils in smaller centres spend months poring over budgets, their population may be in decline and they are doing little to reverse the trend. They are preoccupied with minutiae.

Now they know it is far easier to recruit people from the GTA than from India. But it will take municipal will to make things happen on a larger scale than what is now occurring serendipitously.


November 18, 2016

Grow your municipality


​I have printed copies of the booklet A 10-Step Process to Grow Your Municipality Through Immigration on hand.


Published in both of Canada's official languages, I also have a PDF version. For your free copy of either, or both, email me at don@curryconsulting.ca


November 13, 2016

Northern Ontario's new entrepreneurs


​My first draft of a report on Northern Ontario's new entrepreneurs--immigrant small business owners--is off to the project evaluators.


By the time it is evaluated, edits completed, design and French translation done, it may be January. It contains very valuable information for economic development officers trying to attract immigrant business owners.


November 13, 2016

Northeastern Ontario Immigration Portal


Copy writing for the new Northeastern Ontario Immigration Portal is well under way.


It promises to be a significant marketing tool for Northeastern Ontario municipalities trying to attract immigrants.


​​August 31, 2016

Second leg done


​​The second set of  interviews with immigrant business owners in Northeastern Ontario have been coanampleted, with a trip to Englehart, Earlton and Kirkland Lake.


August 2, 2016

​First leg done


The first set of interviews with immigrant business owners is done, after a road trip to Hearst, Kapuskasing and Cochrane.


Early indications are that the project will tell us who is here now, why they came north, and a host of other information that will be helpful.


July 14, 2016

​Immigrant business owner project


I have started work on a new project for the Far Northeast Training Board.

I will be interviewing immigrant business owners in Timmins, Temiskaming Shores, Chapleau, Hearst, Kapuskasing,  Smooth Rock Falls, Cochrane, Kirkland Lake and Englehart to find out what brought them north and how they are doing.


July 4, 2016

New Canadian Media commentary


Critics are looking at Quebec’s so-called “sweetheart deal” on immigrant investors the wrong way.

Instead of complaining about Quebec other provinces and territories should be demanding equality.

A June 23 article by Peter O’Neil in the Vancouver Sun  noted Quebec struck its deal in 1991, when the sovereignty movement was strong.

Quebec had the bargaining chips, certainly, but what is stopping other regions of Canada that would benefit from an immigrant investor program -- Northern Ontario, the Maritimes and the territories come to mind -- from opening talks with the federal government?

The federal immigrant investor program had its critics, who called it a “cash for citizenship” scheme, and it was cancelled in 2014. There were also reports of fraud. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver didn’t need the program but it would be a huge economic and social impetus for the regions mentioned above, that are starving for increased immigration and economic investment.

Surely smart bureaucrats could modify the Quebec program so that it fits the needs of other regions of the country.

Regional development

In Northern Ontario, the region of the country I’m most familiar with, a program that attracts foreign investors for an $800,000 financial commitment, with a $200,000 down payment, would go a long way toward municipal and regional infrastructure programs.

The Ring of Fire project, long dormant but with billions of dollars’ worth of metals sitting in the ground, would benefit significantly as a joint regional economic development project.

We are talking billions in investment through such a program. Two thousand immigrant investors for Northern Ontario at $800,000 each is an awful lot of money. Even if some left Northern Ontario to live elsewhere and forfeited their $200,000 deposit, it is still an awful of money.

Bureaucrats and politicians are saying they can’t force permanent residents to live in specific regions, because once they have that status they can live anywhere in Canada. But what is stopping them from creating incentives to live in designated areas?

That’s how the prairies were settled.

Housing prices

Insane housing prices in Vancouver are partially blamed on Chinese immigrant investors moving from Quebec.

More to the point, the blame can be laid at the feet of the Vancouver real estate industry and its unscrupulous practices, detailed in a Globe and Mail investigation.

Premier Christy Clark, fed up with 10 years of lack of self-regulation in the industry, has created a government oversight body. 

Northern Ontario, to name one region, is being short-changed in the number of immigrants landing here and, as a result, the immigrant settlement funds allocated. While almost half of the immigrants to Canada land in Ontario, one-tenth of one per cent landed in Northern Ontario in 2011-12.

Northern Ontario has a higher population than New Brunswick.  This statistic is from a 2015 study by Western University professor Dr. Michael Haan and Elena Prokopenko, completed for the Far Northeast Training Board, based in Hearst, Ontario.

Declining populations

While the Greater Toronto Area is bursting at the seams, the northern part of Ontario is experiencing population stagnation or decline. An immigrant investor program would provide a significant boost. Immigrants now in Northern Ontario are secondary migrants from the GTA, mainly, or other parts of Canada.

Immigrant investors would be inclined to stay in the north (North Bay and Sudbury are less than a four-hour drive to Toronto) where opportunities abound, there are good schools and no congestion. A recent phenomenon is immigrant entrepreneurs moving to Northern Ontario to purchase businesses. (I will soon be embarking on a research project to document the movement of immigrant entrepreneurs to nine Northeastern Ontario municipalities.)

There are more than 70 first generation immigrant-owned businesses in North Bay, most of them having moved from the GTA. Once they live here, they stay and raise families. A lasting legacy of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, who is from North Bay, is a four-lane highway all the way to Toronto.

Call it social engineering if you like, but there has been very little done by the federal government and the provinces to entice immigrants to settle where they are needed. Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa continue to dominate the immigration discussion. We are long overdue for change.

​​June 7, 2016

​Proposals submitted


​I have been away from this blog for far too long.


I have been busy completing immigration strategies for Temiskaming Shores, Cochrane and the Central Almaguin Economic Development Association.


I have also submitted a proposal to the City of North Bay for an updated immigration strategy, and one to the Far Northeast Training Board to research immigrant business owners in its large catchment area.


I hope to hear back on both initiatives before the end of June. They are two projects I would love to be working on.


April 20, 2016

More cities need GARs

New Canadian Media


The federal government needs to take off its MTV glasses (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver) and resume looking at the rest of this vast country when it makes immigration and refugee decisions.

It used to, but that came to a crashing halt June 1, 2012 when 19 Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) offices were closed. The cuts were right across the country — Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George, Victoria, Lethbridge, Regina, Barrie, Kingston, Oshawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, Trois Rivières, Moncton and Charlottetown.

The cuts saved the government only 67 jobs, but changed the dynamics negatively for those in the regions and, arguably, positively for those in MTV and other large cities that retained their CIC offices. Local knowledge disappeared overnight.


Government settlement officers who knew their region and all settlement agencies well, ended up, in some cases, selling cars for a living. There were 238 layoffs across CIC around that time as then minister Jason Kenney did his bit to slash government spending.

Those remaining tried hard to keep up, but if you are working in a government office tower in a large city you may be unaware that North Bay and Thunder Bay are at opposite ends of Northern Ontario. You may have little knowledge of what lies between them. You can’t possibly develop the relationships necessary to identify a strong settlement agency from a mediocre one.

Effect on settlement services

The cuts affected settlement agencies that no longer had a government settlement officer dropping by to check on challenges and successes and sending that information up the line. They affected clients who now had to travel much further to renew a Permanent Resident card or seek another service that only the government could provide.

Clients and settlement agencies were told to use the help line. Try it and clock how long you are put on hold. Then call back later and ask the same question to another call centre employee. It is quite likely you will get a different answer.

I've previously argued that the Syrian refugee crisis has demonstrated that smaller centres across the country can accommodate refugees quite well, perhaps even better than the large centres.

The latest announcement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, the new name for CIC) is that it will now include Brandon, Kingston, Mississauga and Thunder Bay as temporary sites for the settlement of Government Assisted Refugees.

The fact that there was a request for proposals was not well known or many other centres would have applied. And what is this temporary status all about? Is it big brother saying we’ll let you do it for a while but then we revert to the big cities that know what they’re doing?

If IRCC still had eyes and ears on the ground across Canada the decision would have been more inclusive. There would have been more applications and the government people in the regions would have known which settlement agencies had the capacity to succeed and which did not.

Clogging the system

Congratulations to Brandon, Kingston, Mississauga and Thunder Bay, but common sense and personal knowledge tells me there are many more cities across Canada capable and eager to become settlement centres for Government Assisted Refugees.

Many Syrian refugees landing in MTV are clogging the system, stuck in hotels with no access to language classes, and this is happening in cities such as Ottawa as well.

We have a new, and in my view, more enlightened federal government that is doing a pretty good job with resettling Syrian refugees. But it could do so much better by doubling or tripling the number of cities across Canada that accept Government Assisted Refugees.

Smaller centres need population growth and larger centres are bursting at the seams. A little social engineering on the part of the federal government would be a good thing.

Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting (www.curryconsulting.ca) He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and now serves as a board member. 


March 24, 2016

RAP centre designation


An excerpt from my acceptance speech for the Nipissing District Human Rights Hall of Fame award last night. The event was the 28th annual Evening of Applause commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.


With the Students Who Make a Difference, the Human Rights Hall of Fame, the anti-racism poster contest, the entertainment of the evening, the work teachers do in the classrooms prior to this evening, the media exposure, the people who watch this event on Cogeco TV…many thousands of people in this area have been exposed to the message.

Next week will be the second annual Evening of Applause in Timmins and we are looking forward to bringing it to other Northern Ontario communities.

With the International Day program, and many other interventions launched by the multicultural centre, including anti-racism training, peer mentoring for newcomers, dozens if not hundreds of social integration events, and the daily work of settlement workers, we have created a welcoming community. Sure, we have our share of internet trolls who slam anything to do with immigration, but these are the same people who slam every other positive initiative as well.

This work has to continue. We cannot afford to sit back and say, our work is done. It will be never-ending. But, we are now at a point where we can think bigger.

The local Syrian refugee sponsorship project demonstrated that we have a caring and giving community. Every time there were negative comments about the project online even more people walked in to the multicultural centre the next day with their chequebooks. The energy first created by Mayor Al McDonald spilled over to the community, and on to Almaguin, West Nipissing, Temiskaming Shores and Timmins. We now have a volunteer refugee constituent group, chaired by Stuart Kidd, that is getting our first family settled in the community.

I was having lunch one day with Jimmy Kolios, an immigrant who came to Canada with nothing and now owns two very successful restaurants and considerable real estate in North Bay, and I said it looks like we will have enough money raised to sponsor two Syrian refugee families. His reaction? We should be sponsoring 200. Apart from the humanitarian necessity, he said, they will get jobs, pay taxes, buy homes, buy vehicles, eat in restaurants and improve the economy.

Many studies have shown this to be true. Newcomers do not take jobs, they create them. One day at the multicultural centre I asked staff members to list every first generation immigrant-owned business they could. Together we listed 67 businesses in North Bay owned by newcomers. The number is surely higher than that. We don’t know how many people they are employing, but it’s a lot. On top of that we have hundreds of immigrant professionals, teachers, administrators, students, and people in just about every sector in North Bay. They are raising families, buying homes, and paying their taxes.

So why don’t we step it up? North Bay can apply to be part of the federal government’s Resettlement Assistance Program and become a RAP centre. Peterborough, population 78,000, was added to the list last month. So was Leamington, Ontario. Its population is lower than 50,000. There are no RAP centres in Northern Ontario.

When you have RAP centre designation Government Assisted Refugees are sent to your community. You don’t have to fundraise because their first year in Canada is paid for 100 per cent by the federal government. We have shown with the Syrian refugee situation that we have a caring community. So many people volunteered to help that there weren’t enough tasks to satisfy the demand.  We can certainly handle more than the two families from the mayor’s campaign and the additional one through St. Brice’s Anglican Church.

In the big cities there is a waiting list for language classes. In North Bay we can get them started in 24 hours.

We should be aggressively pursuing immigrants in the entrepreneur category…and indeed in all categories, including family class and international students. We have set the table and it’s time for new arrivals.

We moved to North Bay in 1978 and it was pretty white back then. We have seen a significant change, especially in the past 10 years, but we still have a long way to go to catch up to the diversity of Ontario. Canada’s population passed 36 million last year but Northern Ontario is not even close to keeping pace with the rest of the country.

We have created a welcoming community together. Now it’s time to think big and grow the community.


March 8, 2016

Cochrane is next


The Central Almaguin presentation went well today. The last presentation  will be in Cochrane March 31.


March 7, 2016

Temiskaming Shores immigration strategy

​​

Colleague Garvin Cole and I presented  a draft of the Temiskaming Shores immigration strategy to the Immigrant Employers' Council today and it was well received.

Off to Sundridge tomorrow to present the Central Almaguin strategy to the Immigrant  Employers' Council there.


February 29, 2016

Joining board of directors


​​The board of directors of the North Bay &  District Multicultural Centre appointed me to the board at their February meeting.

It will be great to stay connected to an organization that means so much to me.


February 15, 2016

Population in decline


​The latest Statistics Canada figures show the population of Northeastern Ontario was 558,765 in 2015, a drop of 963 from 2014

Northwestern Ontario's population showed a marginal increase of 224 people to 239,087.


While Ontario receives more than 40 per cent of immigrants landing in Canada, Northern Ontario receives less than one quarter of one per cent, according to a study by Western University's Michael Haan.


The June 7-8 Northern Ontario Immigration Symposium in North Bay will be addressing this imbalance.



February 12, 2016

Hold the dates!


​We had our first organizational meeting for a Northern Ontario Immigration Symposium in North Bay June 7-8.

We are inviting provincial immigration minister Michael Chan and federal immigration minister John McCallum.

It will be a great event at the brand new The Grande at Cecil's on Main Street. The end result will be an immigration strategy for Northern Ontario.

Stay tuned for further details.


February 3, 2016

northbayNOW.ca


I was interviewed today by Ryen Veldhuis, Managing Editor of North Bay's new news website, northbayNOW.ca, about our two Syrian refugee families.

Great to have another news outlet in our city. Best of luck, Ryen!


January 29, 2016

Family of six arrives


​The second Syrian refugee family sponsored by our group in North Bay was the first one to arrive today.

A family of six--mom, dad and four boys, greeted a throng of volunteers and media with big smiles after they got off their flight from Toronto. They had flown from Jordan to Toronto the previous day.

After chatting with the media through an interpreter they were whisked off to their four-bedroom home, fully furnished by volunteers in just two days.

The mosque is holding a potluck dinner tomorrow to welcome the family. The father has a Master's degree in engineering but speaks limited English.

The wait continues for the arrival of the first family sponsored--a mother and nine children.


January 27,2016

Syrian family coming

​We were surprised to learn that the second Syrian family we sponsored is arriving before the first one.

It was a mad scramble to secure a second home but that has been done and we await the arrival of a father, mother and four boys on the weekend.


January 23, 2016

New Canadian Media Commentary

newcanadianmedia.ca

Refugee Housing Hiccups Show Opportunity For Change


Commentary by Don Curry in North Bay

Like a Northern Ontario lake in January, the cracks are starting to show in the Syrian refugee airlift strategy.

It was to be expected, given the federal government’s desire to act swiftly, but there are lessons to be learned.

Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto have run out of housing, temporarily, for Government Assisted Refugees (GARs) while sponsorship groups in cities across the nation have homes ready to go and no refugee families in sight. Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto immigrant serving agencies have asked the government to stop sending families until they can clear the housing backlog.

In a previous commentary I took Chris Friesen, Director of Settlement Services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.  to task for saying small cities can’t handle refugees.  His view is it should be left to the big boys—Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa. Well, as everyone knows, those cities are congested and housing is way too expensive.

So why is the federal government not redirecting refugee families to where homes are ready to go and sponsorship groups are eager to help?

The government should be quickly readjusting the numbers in the three refugee programs, GARs, private sponsorships and blended sponsorships.  The blended program has hit some snags. Our group in North Bay Ontario has been ready to go since November and the first family we were matched with through the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario, a mother and nine children, has yet to arrive.

We don’t know why and no one will say. The same is true for other sponsorship groups. We have signed on for a second family, but still no trace of the first one.

Former Toronto Mayor John Sewell was quoted in the Toronto media as saying the sponsorship group he chairs has been ready to go since mid-December but has not received an offer of a refugee family to sponsor. He said his group is one of 18 affiliated with Rosedale United Church and none are receiving referrals.

The problem is the federal government chooses its refugee families first and the remaining qualified families are put in to a pool of profiles that are shared with the 100 faith and community groups that have sponsorship agreements with Ottawa. The GARs are funded 100 per cent by the taxpayers for the first year while the taxpayers cover only about 40 per cent in the blended program. In the private sponsorship program they cover nothing.

So why not change the selection system to put the private and blended sponsorships at the front of the queue?

The Multicultural Meanderings blog
in a January 20 post quotes Brian Dyck, chair of the Sponsorship Agreement Holders’ Association, saying 300 Syrian refugee profiles have been posted since the beginning of January and they were quickly snapped up.

“The matching system was designed for small-scale sponsorship interest. To adapt it to the current public interest is a big challenge,” he said.

It doesn’t appear that big to me. The Syrian refugee families don’t care what category they are in. They just want to leave. How difficult can it be to redirect enough GARs to where there are willing sponsorship groups?

While the government is at it why doesn’t it re-examine its GAR system, which settles refugees in a few select cities across Canada, and open it up to many more cities? Spread the work, spread the housing challenges, and send refugees to communities seeking to grow their populations.

Many military bases are at less than full capacity and could be used to house GARs temporarily in communities until more suitable housing is found. We have one in North Bay and we have a city that has raised a lot of money and is receptive to newcomers. We are but one of many similar communities across Canada.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Minister John McCallum wants to bring in many more refugees. The government's new emphasis on refugees is evident in the word being placed in his title. If we’re in for significantly increased numbers of refugees for the long term it’s time to make some changes in the programs that were designed for much smaller numbers.

Let’s spread refugees across Canada to the many willing cities and towns. The big cities do not have a monopoly on settlement and integration expertise. If the federal government spent more resources on immigrant settlement agencies in the smaller centres, a settlement worker here and a settlement worker there, their capacity would increase and they could settle larger numbers of newcomers.

The hiccups in the present system present an opportunity for change.

Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting, a company providing immigration solutions for rural and northern Canada. He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and served in that capacity for eight years. He can be reached at don@curryconsulting.ca


January 15, 2016

Where oh where are they?


​We still have no arrival date for our first Syrian refugee family in North Bay.

Meanwhile, the constituent group is signing sponsorship papers for family number two.

The house is ready, the volunteers are ready, but no family.

We have been told their arrival is "imminent."


January 6, 2016

Nugget covers documentary team


The North Bay Nugget has a piece today on the White Space Pictures team conducting interviews for its Syrian refugee family documentary.

You can find it here.  www.nugget.ca/2


New Canadian Media Commentary

newcanadianmedia.ca

January 5, 2016

​Refugee "Freeloaders" Myth Needs a  Reality Check


​Commentary By Don Curry in North Bay

Look at any online newspaper or magazine story about Syrian refugees and then read the comment section—if you dare. The comments range from sarcastic to racist, with accuracy not a prerequisite for participation.

Many of the comments sound something like this:  the refugees will be living off the taxpayers and we’ll be paying for them for years to come.

It’s time for a reality check.

A Simon Fraser University study released in December calculated that Syrian refugees coming to B.C. will contribute approximately $563 million in local economic activity over the next 20 years.

Canadian Business published an article Sept. 14, 2015 with the headline ‘Why Canada should welcome more Syrian refugees—a lot more.”  That’s Canadian Business, not usually on the left of the political spectrum. Its argument is simple. It makes economic sense.


“Casting refugees as freeloaders may be politically expedient but it lacks a basis in fact. Between 1979 and 1981, Canada accepted 60,000 “boat people” from Southeast Asia. Within a decade, 86 per cent of those former refugees were working, healthy and spoke English with some proficiency, achieving the basic criteria for success set out by academic Morton Beiser in his landmark study of their integration into Canadian society. They were less likely to use social services and more likely to have jobs than the average Canadian. One in five was self-employed. They weren’t a drain on the taxpayer—they were taxpayers,” the article says.

 Carl Nicholson, executive director of the Catholic Centre for Immigrants in Ottawa, told me a few months ago that Vietnamese “boat people” in Ottawa are now stepping up to financially support Syrian refugees.

Other online comments lump all refugees as being in the government assisted class, and that too requires a reality check.

There are three refugee programs in Canada:  government assisted, private sponsorships, and blended sponsorships.

In the Government Assisted Refugee (GAR) program the federal government pays the cost. The refugee estimates for 2015-16, tabled before the change in federal government in October, was to bring in between 5,800 and 6,500 GARs. The Privately Sponsored Refugee (PSR) estimate was between 4,500 and 6,500 and the blended program estimate was between 700 and 1,000.

There is no government money in the PSR program and only approximately 40 per cent in the blended program. Private sponsors accessing the blended program go through a third party refugee sponsorship agreement holder, such as the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario.

The blended program has been around only since 2013 and the Mennonite Central Committee’s experience was working with Mennonite churches. With the Syrian refugees it is swamped, working with churches of all denominations and groups of citizens unaffiliated with any church. Clearly there is room to expand this program.

The Harper government was planning to reduce the GARs’ commitment by about nine per cent, while the new federal government is now talking about increasing the number of Syrian refugees in all three categories from 25,000 by February 29 to 50,000 by December 31, 2016.

The cost of supporting GARs is the equivalent of the provincial welfare rate for an individual or family. That could range from $27,000 to $30,000 for a family of four.

But here’s a little-known fact. Any government subsidy ceases immediately upon the refugee securing employment. And, in any event, it lasts for only 12 months.

Until the Syrian refugee crisis refugees had to repay the cost, with interest, of their airfare to Canada. That has been waived for Syrian refugees and refugee advocates are lobbying to make that standard practice for all refugees. The federal government says it will have new regulations in place by mid-2016.

More than 50 per cent of PSRs had earnings in their first year in Canada, compared to only 14 per cent in the GAR category.  In their second year the percentage increased to 70 and 42 respectively. The earnings of both groups didn’t even out until years nine and 10, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada data.

The numbers reflect the fact PSRs have a network as soon as they arrive, plus the services of government-supported immigrant settlement agencies, while GARs have settlement agency assistance alone to help them integrate into the community.

Refugee advocates are pushing the new federal government to capitalize on private sector interest, but not to depend on it. The premise of private sponsorship is to add more refugees to the mix, not to replace the government-sponsored Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP).

With communities that have never sponsored refugees now fund raising to sponsor Syrian refugees, there is potential to expand the RAP program to new communities. In North Bay Ontario we have a Canadian Forces Base with the capacity to house refugees temporarily until they are settled in the community. There is similar capacity at bases across Canada and if they were put to use refugees would be more evenly spread across the country, instead of just the existing few designated communities at present.

The federal government should capitalize on this new energy sweeping the nation and add capacity to the RAP program by bringing more willing communities in to the available pool.

Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting (www.curryconsulting.ca) a company providing immigration solutions for rural and northern Canada. He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and served in that capacity for eight years. He can be reached at don@curryconsulting.ca

January  3, 2016

Documentary team in town


​I enjoyed my interview today with Dani Saad of the Syrian refugee family documentary team.


I floated the idea of North Bay becoming a designated centre for Government Assisted Refugees. It's a little ahead of its time, but by months, not years.


The federal government keeps sending them to the same places. It's time to open it up to cities like North Bay.


The documentary should be a good one. Tomorrow they interview Mayor Al McDonald and committee volunteers. They will return sometime in the not too distant future to see how the family is doing. Here's hoping this story has a happy ending.


December 31, 2015

48 hours' notice


​An email from the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario last night said we can expect only 48 hours' notice of the arrival time for our first Syrian refugee family in North Bay.


That's fine with our volunteers because the house for a mother with nine children is furnished and ready to go, with January's rent paid.


Mayor Al McDonald is standing by to great them at the airport.


December 17, 2015

Northern Ontario Immigration Symposium


​I met with North Bay Mayor Al McDonald yesterday and we set the dates for a Northern Ontario Immigration Symposium as June 7-8 in North Bay.


The symposium is for mayors, reeves, CAOs, EDOs, MPs, MPPs, immigrant settlement agencies, Local Immigration Partnerships, Immigrant Employers' Councils, education and social service sectors, civil servants, business people and anyone else  who wants to have a say in the future of immigration in Northern Ontario.


December 13, 2015

Third family for North Bay?


I was invited to speak at St. Brice's Anglican Church this morning to outline the process to sponsor a Syrian refugee family.


It's early days for them, but we could see a third family coming to North Bay. We still have no word on when our first family through Mayor Al McDonald and the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre will arrive. We still believe it will be before the end of December.


December 11, 2015

Business urged to help refugees


Canadian businesses should step up and help fund the resettlement of Syrian refugees, says John McCallum, federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.


CN pledged $5 million toward affordable and stable housing for refugees.


December 10, 2015

Refugees bring economic benefit


A new study by Simon Fraser University, commissioned by Vancity Credit Union, quantifies the economic impact of refugees.


The study, by two PhD students, shows refugees will contribute $563 million to the  British Columbia economy over the next 20 years.



December 6, 2015

New Canadian Media Commentary

newcanadianmedia.ca


By Don Curry

The email arrived Friday evening. Our first Syrian refugee family will be here soon.

It was a mass email from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada through our sponsorship agreement holder, the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario, but it had details.

“Syrian PSRs (Privately Sponsored Refugees) currently in inventory will arrive in Canada through Toronto or Montreal, starting shortly. Sponsoring groups should therefore prepare themselves to start receiving the refugees they have sponsored, since these arrivals are about to start.”

For our North Bay group, that means our first family, a mother with nine children, will be on its way here soon. Fortunately we have secured a five-bedroom home large enough to accommodate them.

The email had further details. The usual 10 working days’ notice of arrival may not apply. Families will be issued winter clothing by the federal government. They will have Social Insurance Numbers given to them upon arrival in Toronto or Montreal. The cost for transportation to their destinations and medical exams before they leave will be covered by IRCC. Those requiring connecting flights or ground transportation from Toronto or Montreal will be transported to a hotel for overnight stay.

As the email recipient for our group, I had to let the donations committee know that arrival will be sooner rather than later. Their website was just about ready and now they will speed up the process, with a donations self-populating spreadsheet that will help them collect all the items in need, from furniture to pots and pans to toys.

The committee secured a large furniture donation from one location and was set to move it into storage on Monday. I contacted the homeowner Saturday and he said it was okay to move the furniture straight into the empty home. That saves moving the furniture twice and a lot of volunteer labour.

Monday we will let the other committees know—health, education, finances, housing. We have a huge team of more than 70 volunteers and we will be expecting a second large family soon after the first one arrives. All of a sudden we are not working in the abstract, but in real time. The first family will likely be here before the end of December.

The weather in North Bay has been unusually warm for this time of year. Volunteers are hoping it continues so the family is greeted with fall-like conditions with no snow on the ground.

There is a buzz throughout Northeastern Ontario and it’s not about the lack of snow. In the past two weeks I attended Immigrant Employers’ Council meetings in Sundridge, south of North Bay, and Temiskaming Shores and Cochrane, both north of North Bay. Everyone is talking about Syrian refugees, not only as the humanitarian thing to do, but as an economic development initiative for Northeastern Ontario.

The children will help fill our classrooms and parents, eventually, will be in the workforce making a contribution. We have the capacity to take more and perhaps more families will come in the months and years to come.

In the catchment area for the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre we have groups raising money to sponsor families in Sundridge, North Bay, West Nipissing, Temiskaming Shores, Englehart and Timmins. All these families will become our clients, taxing the capacity of our tiny settlement worker staff.

Now is the time for IRCC to reinstate the settlement worker position it cut a couple of years ago. Settlement agencies were stretched pretty thin under the Harper government and we are hopeful that many of those cuts will be addressed. We have the best staff in the world but they can’t work seven days a week to meet the new demands.

We anticipate more groups will pop up to sponsor Syrian families and that will create even more demand on our services. Of course our agency is not alone. The cuts were Ontario-wide and in other provinces as well.

Meanwhile funds in support of the families keep coming in. Every time our local work is featured in the media we get a bump in donations. People give Mayor Al McDonald cheques or they drop into our downtown office. We are seeing the most foot traffic we have ever had.

We passed the $50,000 mark last week and we are well on our way to $60,000. With the blended sponsorship program through the Mennonite Central Committee, (the federal government covers 40 per cent of the cost) we are confident we have the capacity to sponsor two large families in North Bay.

Everyone wants to help. For those of us in the immigrant settlement sector, it is gratifying to see immigration in the public dialogue. It was a long time coming.

 ​December 4, 2015

SWOT time in Cochrane


Members of the Cochrane Immigrant Employers' Council were very engaged in a SWOT Analysis exercise today.

It was a first step leading to an immigration strategy for the municipality.


December 2, 2015

SWOT time in Temiskaming Shores


​Members of the Temiskaming Shores Immigrant Employers' Council were very engaged in a SWOT Analysis exercise yesterday.


It was a first step leading to an immigration strategy for the municipality.


November 30, 2015

We're getting calls!


​The good people of North Bay and area continue to call to see how they can help settle the Syrian refugee families coming to the city.


It is heart-warming to see so many people reaching out.


We are hoping the first family, a mom with nine children, arrives before year-end.


November 28, 2015

Sponsorship agreement signed


North Bay Mayor Al McDonald signed the sponsorship agreement papers yesterday, (with me looking on for a front page photo in today's North Bay Nugget) for our first Syrian refugee family.


We will be receiving a family of 10 with only one parent, a 35-year-old mother. Now our committees will be scrambling to find a large home, furniture, clothing and household items.


We now have names and birth dates for all family members, so this is getting very real.


November 26, 2015

New Canadian Media Commentary

newcanadianmedia.ca


By Don Curry

National media coverage of Canadian responses to the Syrian refugee crisis has been comprehensive, but there has been a major gap.

The national media, as it always does, concentrates on the big cities, especially Toronto, where much of the media is located. If you got all your news by watching our national TV networks and listening to CBC Radio you would think that all the refugees are arriving in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. That is not the case.

What the national media is largely missing is the fact that Syrian refugees will also be heading to small and mid-sized centres across Canada.

A few thousand refugees arriving in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver will hardly be noticed, but a family or two arriving in a small centre has the potential to transform that municipality in an extremely positive fashion.

In North Bay Ontario, where I live, Mayor Al McDonald’s leadership has created a groundswell of support for Syrian refugees. With coordination provided by the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, almost $50,000 has been raised and volunteer committees have been formed to ease the transition for two large Syrian refugee families coming to our city. There is a possibility of two more families being sponsored by church groups.

In nearby West Nipissing another group is fundraising to sponsor a family. Up the highway in Temiskaming Shores there is another group. Further up in Englehart there is yet another, and continue north to Timmins and there’s one more.  The populations of these centres are 54,000, 14,000, 10,500, 1,500 and 43,000, respectively.

Add large Syrian families in to the mix, (we’re talking six to 10 children) and they will be noticed. From the incredible community support I have witnessed in North Bay, despite the naysayers, these families will be welcomed, supported, mentored and nurtured. While North Bay and Timmins have mosques, these families could well be the first Muslims in the smaller communities.

That can be transformational for the communities.

Northern Ontario has a challenge with baby boomer retirements, low birth rate, and many young people choosing to move south for postsecondary education and never returning. Without sustained immigration jobs will go unfilled and communities will slowly decline.

I had lunch with a prominent immigrant entrepreneur recently and he said we should be bringing 2,000 families to North Bay, not two, or four. I told him we don’t have the capacity to successfully integrate 2,000 at once, but I got his point. Northern Ontario needs people and Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have too many.

Federal and provincial governments have to get their heads around a strategy to settle refugees, and immigrants, in the smaller centres across Canada. Traffic gridlock in MTV is already horrendous and to keep settling newcomers there, when the jobs are elsewhere, makes no sense.

Mayors and reeves in smaller centres have to embrace immigration and lobby for more resources to support successful integration. I see them doing that in New Brunswick, which demographically bears a lot of similarities to Northern Ontario. Manitoba smaller centres have had successful immigration strategies for years but the remainder of the country needs to wake up.

The Syrian refugees coming to Northern Ontario are through the blended sponsorship program supported by the Mennonite Central Committee based in St. Catharines. Private sponsors pay 60 per cent of the cost for the family’s first year in Canada and the federal government pays 40 per cent.

The most vulnerable are at the top of the list, so we are not expecting professionals and skilled trades’ people who can walk right in to an available job. However, the children can learn English quickly, catch up in school and contribute to society in reasonably short order. Success breeds success, and more families could follow.

Chris Friesen, director of settlement services for the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia, has been on the national news regularly as the Syrian refugee situation unfolds. Normally he says all the right things but one evening he was commenting about B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s wishes to have Syrian refugees settled across B.C., not just in Vancouver and its suburbs.

Friesen said that won’t work, because all the necessary services such as language classes, specialized medical care, and trauma counselling are not available. In my view, he is just plain wrong.

Those services do exist in smaller centres and where they don’t they can be accessed remotely. I saw one piece about a refugee waiting seven months to get in to a language class. In North Bay we can get them in class in a day. In smaller centres volunteers will arrange one-on-one intensive language tutoring and enrol refugees in online Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) training supported by the federal government.

In North Bay we now have 50 volunteers ready to help settle Syrian refugee families, including a trauma counsellor and retired teachers eager to launch tutoring programs. We have a farming couple that donated $1,000 cash plus free meat for a year and vegetables when in season. We have a hair stylist who will cut everyone’s hair for free for a year. We have Arabic speakers volunteering as interpreters. We have a nurse practitioner clinic that will take the families on as patients immediately. We have a district hospital, a college and a university. 

For Friesen to say smaller communities can’t do it is wrong, and good for Premier Clark for telling him so. It’s time for other premiers, mayors and reeves to speak out and create support in all provinces for spreading the load of refugee settlement and integration across their entire provinces.

November 25, 2015

Lively SWOT in Almaguin


We had a lively immigration SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) in Sundridge yesterday.


Members of the Central Almaguin Immigrant Employers' Council were fully engaged as we began the work of creating an immigration strategy for the region.


Those who couldn't make the session have an opportunity to add their thoughts by email.


Sundridge is a 40-minute drive south of North Bay, Ontario.


November 24, 2015

Refugee plan announced


The federal government announced today that it will miss its year-end target by a couple of months to get 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.


I think Canadians will cut the government some slack on this, as many thought it would be tough to achieve the objective by Dec. 31.


We wait for further word on when families will arrive in North Bay. Fundraising continues in our neighbour communities of West Nipissing, Temiskaming Shores and Timmins. " Neighbour" is a relative term in Northern Ontario. Timmins and North Bay are four hours apart.


November 23, 2015

Community coming together


​It is amazing what people of good will can accomplish when they come together.


We had our first meeting of volunteers to assist Syrian refugee families coming to North Bay and already we have:  a five-bedroom home identified; a nurse practitioner clinic stepping up to be the primary care provider; a free storage location for beds and other household items; free meat for a year from a local farming couple; free haircuts from a hair stylist--and the meeting was less than a week ago.


Committees are organizing and their meetings begin this week.


November 22, 2015

More good reading


Today's Toronto Star has good articles and an editorial supporting the federal government's push to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.


I hope responsible voices continue to speak up so we can drown out those afraid of their own shadows--for all the wrong reasons.


November 21, 2015

Compulsory reading


There is a series of excellent articles in today's Globe and Mail about immigration, refugees and the challenges of integration.


It should be compulsory reading for the internet trolls who are so afraid of terrorists being mixed in with Syrian refugees coming to Canada.


They are using the tragic events in Paris of Nov. 13 as an excuse to unleash the racist thoughts they have been politely hiding. I guess I am expecting too much for them to inform themselves of the facts before they get on the internet and press the send button.


November 20, 2015

Syrian push continues


​Despite the misplaced backlash toward Syrian refugees following the Nov. 13 horrific events in Paris, Northeastern Ontario communities continue the push to welcome families.


The North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and Timmins & District Multicultural Centre  are connected with active groups in North Bay, Temiskaming Shores, Timmins and West Nipissing. The latest word today is that a group may spring up in Englehart.


November 19, 2015

​Syrian families' volunteers meet


​It was wonderful to see the Mayor's board room at North Bay City Hall full with volunteers yesterday for an organizational meeting.


Despite the online backlash caused by the tragic events in Paris, people remain committed to help Syrian refugee families settle in North Bay.


We are working with the great people at the Mennonite Central Committee in St. Catharines and should soon have news to share with the community regarding who is coming and when.


November 17, 2015

New Canadian Media article

newcanadianmedia.ca and

baytoday.ca


​By Don Curry


The online reaction to the horrific events in Paris of November 13 has been a wakeup call for those of us who work in the immigration, race relations and multiculturalism sector.

We thought our work was creating citizens who respect those of different cultures and religions. I believe it has, but lying just under the surface is a minority of people looking for opportunities to vent.

The reporting from Paris has given licence to bigots to take to their computers and demonstrate to the world how ill-informed they are. Even those who should know better, such as the Conservative Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, have joined the fray. In the U.S. Republican governors plan to suspend the acceptance of new Syrian refugees.

Their rant is essentially this:  put a halt to the Syrian refugees coming to North America because there may be terrorists among them. And, by the way, all Muslims are terrorists.

Seriously, people?

The refugees are trying to escape the violence, not create it. Their country is torn by a civil war, made even more complicated by the presence of ISIS, which consists of gangs of thugs who think, in their twisted minds, that what they are doing is in the name of Islam.

In Peterborough Ontario the Paris tragedy gave licence to someone to firebomb a mosque. The community, to its credit, has demonstrated its solidarity with its Muslim citizens.

In my city of North Bay Ontario, an innocuous news article on BayToday.ca November 16 about the status of Syrian refugee families coming to our city brought out the haters with online comments.

Here’s the best one:  “Cannot even believe this. Once these people come over you can be sure I'll be pulling my kids out of school that's for sure. Nowhere in North Bay let alone Canada will be safe anymore.”

Indeed. Beware of a six-year-old struggling to fit in and learn English.

The paranoia spread by our previous federal government obviously resonated with some all too willing to believe there is a terrorist hiding behind every tree.

Even some of the educated people I know are questioning why Canada should be accepting Syrian refugees, as though the Paris tragedy and the Syrian refugee crisis are related events. They are not.

Yes, a Syrian passport was found near the remains of one of the terrorists. It may have been his, it may have been someone else’s, or it may have been a forgery. In any case, the refugees coming to Canada are not those who risked their lives on leaky boats to get to Greece, and then trekked on through country after country to get to Germany. The ones coming to North Bay have been living in Lebanon and have been vetted by the United Nations Refugee Agency and by Canadian immigration officials on the ground.

We are looking at very large families—not single men in their 20s.

The dozens of people in North Bay and area who have donated $45,000 to date to sponsor refugee families remain committed, despite the backlash. A farming couple from outside the city brought in $1,000 cash and an offer to provide free fresh meat to the families every week.  A hair stylist has offered free haircuts for a year.

There are many good people in our community who don’t bother responding to racist online commentary. They feel it is better to ignore it, rather than fan the flames. In my view, however, there comes a point when you have to call them on it, and we reached that point.

For all you haters, this is directed to you. Stop watching the screaming talking heads on Fox News and CNN and get your news from our good Canadian TV networks. Better yet, pick up a reliable newspaper like the Globe and Mail. Informing yourself takes a little more effort than reading your Facebook or Twitter feeds. Do some serious reading before you get on your computer and click the Send button.

We need refugees and immigrants in Canada. In Northern Ontario many cities and towns are looking at declining populations. Immigrants and refugees create jobs and their sons and daughters may be our business, cultural and political leaders of tomorrow. Canada is a nation of immigrants.

And, for those in Peterborough who firebombed the mosque. You should sit down and have a cup of tea with your new Member of Parliament. She was named to the Trudeau cabinet as Minister of Democratic Institutions. Her name is Maryam Monsef. She came to Canada as a refugee from Afghanistan. She is Muslim.


November 16, 2015

Immigration Minister's Mandate


Following is the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Mandate Letter issued by Prime Minister Trudeau.


Lead government-wide efforts to resettle 25,000 refugees from Syria in the coming months.

As part of the Annual Immigration Levels Plan for 2016, bring forward a proposal to double the number of entry applications for parents and grandparents of immigrants to 10,000 a year. 

Give additional points under the Express Entry system to provide more opportunities for applicants who have Canadian siblings.

Increase the maximum age for dependents to 22, from 19, to allow more Canadians to bring their children to Canada.

Bring forward a proposal regarding permanent residency for new spouses entering Canada.

Develop a plan to reduce application processing times for sponsorship, citizenship and other visas.

Fully restore the Interim Federal Health Program that provides limited and temporary health benefits to refugees and refugee claimants.

Establish an expert human rights panel to help you determine designated countries of origin, and provide a right to appeal refugee decisions for citizens from these countries.

Modify the temporary foreign workers program to eliminate the $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment fee to hire caregivers and work with provinces and territories to develop a system of regulated companies to hire caregivers on behalf of families.

Lead efforts to facilitate the temporary entry of low risk travelers, including business visitors, and lift the visa requirement for Mexico.

Work with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to repeal provisions in the Citizenship Act that give the government the right to strip citizenship from dual nationals. 

Eliminate regulations that remove the credit given to international students for half of the time that they spend in Canada and regulations that require new citizens to sign a declaration that they intend to reside in Canada.


November 13, 2015

Refugees add economic benefit


​While the humanitarian support for Syrian refugees is strong in Canada, the economic aspect has been lost in the conversation.


Prime Minister Trudeau is going to make the point at the G20 meetings that refugees help grow the economy, as reported by my son Bill in today's Globe and Mail.


He will be on the Prime Minister's plane as they leave today for G20 meetings in Turkey and then fly to the Philippines for the APEC meetings.


November 12, 2015

​Canadian Forces' bases may be used


Plans to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada are being formulated and will soon be announced by the federal government.


One contingency is to temporarily house up to 13,000 refugees at Canadian Forces' bases across Canada. We have a base in North Bay and it has some capacity, due to downsizing over the years, so it will be interesting to see if North Bay becomes a player.


Our understanding is that the 25,000 refugees the government is talking about are over and above those being sponsored privately, such as by groups in North Bay, Timmins, Temiskaming Shores and West Nipissing in our area.


November 10, 2015

Paperwork getting started


​Working through the Mennonite Central Committee in St. Catharines, we are starting the paperwork to get a Syrian refugee family of 13 to North Bay.


Mayor Al McDonald will be the signatory and we are backing him up with our services at the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre.


November 9, 2015

More Syrian families to come north


​It is great to see the communities of Timmins, Temiskaming Shores and West Nipissing launching fundraising drives to bring Syrian refugee families to their communities.


We are helping Timmins and Temiskaming Shores with their efforts and have offered our assistance to West Nipissing.


November 8, 2015

Large Syrian refugee family coming


​After weekend email exchanges with Moses Moini of the Central Mennonite Committee it looks like North Bay will be welcoming a very large Syrian refugee family.


Mom and dad have 11 children, from a newborn to a 16-year-old. The paperwork should begin this week and we will have a time line for arrival after that.


As of last Friday Mayor Al McDonald's campaign has raised $43,500. Our goal is $50,000 and donations can be dropped off at the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre. Charitable receipts will be provided.



November 7, 2015

New immigration minister


​I listened to the new federal immigration minister, John McCallum, on CBC Radio this morning to hear what recent Harper government immigration changes he will rescind.


The answer--just about all of them. He sounded like a real breath of fresh air.


There is also a change to the department's name, from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. This reflects the new Liberal government's priority for refugees.


November 6, 2015

Retiring workforce


47.7% of the Northern Ontario workforce will retire in the next 10 to 15 years, according to statistics from Julie Joncas, executive director of the Far Northeast Training Board, based in Hearst.


The need for increased immigration to Northern Ontario is going to grow rapidly over the next few years.


​November 5, 2015

Long-form census returns


The new Liberal federal government, sworn in only yesterday, has confirmed that the long-form census will return.


This rectifies a boneheaded move by the previous Harper government, which chose to replace the mandatory census with a voluntary one, thus destroying the quality of data we rely on to show immigration trends in Northern Ontario.


A lot of damage has been done and it will take time to get more reliable data, but congratulations to our new government for moving quickly on this file.


NEWS RELEASE

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Two Syrian families coming to North Bay


Two Syrian families could arrive in North Bay from a refugee camp in Lebanon before Christmas.

Mayor Al McDonald and his partner Wendy Abdallah are spearheading a community fundraising drive, working in partnership with the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre.


At a news conference today Mayor McDonald said the fundraising total is now $36,203, which is enough to sponsor two families with a 40 per cent contribution from the federal government. The expectation is that the families will be self-sufficient after 12 months.

“Initially we were hoping to raise enough to support one family but the fundraising has gone so well that we can now support two families,” Mayor McDonald said. “We have a series of family profiles and do not know yet which ones will be coming to North Bay, but all the families are large,” he said.

He said donations ranged from $20 to $10,000, with a number at $2,000 and $1,000. “We have a very caring community and I fully expect our community will welcome its new arrivals,” he said.

Deborah Robertson, executive director-designate of the multicultural centre, said the federal government will cover 40 per cent of the cost of each family’s first year in Canada, through a sponsorship agreement held by the Mennonite Central Committee Ontario.


The multicultural centre has been working with that organization on the details of sponsorship. She said the timeline for arrival is one to four months, “but in a telephone conversation we were told it could be before Christmas.”

“Our fundraising is not over,” Mayor McDonald said. “We would like to have a contingency fund in place to make sure the families’ first year in North Bay goes well.” He said donations can continue to be dropped off at the multicultural centre at 100 Main St. E. and a charitable tax receipt will be provided. Donations can also be made online at www.nbdmc.ca

Mrs. Robertson said a settlement committee will be formed soon to work with the families and there are Arabic-speaking volunteers from the Muslim Society of North Bay who can serve as interpreters while family members learn to speak English.


She said language testing for the adults will be conducted at the multicultural centre and they will be enrolled in the English as a Second Language program at Chippewa Secondary School. The school-age children will be placed in local schools.

She said settlement workers at the multicultural centre will work with the families, but volunteers will be needed as well. Volunteer English-language tutors may be required to speed up their learning process.

Mayor McDonald said further details will be available soon and there will be a request to the community for household items, furniture and clothing.

New Canadian Media article--September 2015

​newcanadianmedia.ca


By Don Curry

Canada’s big city mayors have been vocal in their support for doing more to expedite the process of bringing Syrian refugees to Canada—as they should be.

Large cities have large capacities to do more—to raise more money and sponsor and settle more refugees. What I have not seen reported so far in the national media is the growing support in smaller communities to do more as well.

In our part of Northeastern Ontario we have two small cities, North Bay and Timmins, eager to sponsor refugees but unfamiliar with the process. North Bay Mayor Al McDonald started a Facebook campaign to raise the approximately $30,000 necessary to sponsor a family for a year and in its first couple of days he had $10,000 in commitments. 

In Timmins, City Councillor Pat Bamford plans to raise the issue at the September 14 city council meeting and propose that the city itself allocate funds toward sponsorship.

Our settlement agency, the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre, will provide guidance and support for both initiatives.

This recent municipal engagement is of course a result of the powerful photo of three-year-old Allan Kurdi, who drowned off the coast of Turkey. The Syrian crisis has been going on for years and has been well documented, but this photograph hit a nerve around the world and changed everything.

Some may question the capacity of immigrant and refugee settlement agencies across Canada to settle and help integrate large numbers of refugees. What they may not know is that many front-line settlement workers are immigrants or refugees themselves, and have the compassion, knowledge and resources to get the job done.

When I look at the names behind the Toronto group, Lifeline Syria, the ones I know—Ratna Omidvar, Naomi Alboim, Jehad Aliweiwi, Mario Calla, Carolyn Davis—have vast settlement sector knowledge and I am sure have no doubts about the capacity of the sector to out-perform. Lifeline Syria is in capable hands.

Smaller cities don’t have the wealth of expertise that Lifeline Syria has, but they have knowledgeable leaders in the settlement sector and I hope they are being put to good use across the country.

This is a new issue for many smaller city municipal leaders and that’s good for the settlement sector in those cities. Some settlement agencies in smaller cities have extensive experience settling refugees, while others have little or none. However, they have experience settling newcomers and this is an opportunity for them to provide leadership.

Settling Syrian families in communities where there are no other Syrians will be a challenge. In North Bay we have none on our client list and in Timmins only one family. However, North Bay has a mosque and Timmins has a group of Muslims actively trying to create one, so at least there is some religious commonality.

An Anglican minister dropped in to my office to see what she and her church could do to help. The United Church has been approached by North Bay’s mayor. Ordinary citizens are emailing their moral and financial support, so it is gratifying to see communities come together.

However, online comments about Mayor McDonald’s request for funds to support a family were not all positive. The online world attracts the ill-informed with strident opinions, and they were out in full force. Comments ranged from religion to foreigners coming in and taking “our” jobs and they were neither literate nor enlightened.

It will always be a work in progress to educate people about how immigrants and refugees make Canada a stronger nation. This work has been led by immigrant settlement agencies and local immigration partnerships and now there is an opportunity for others to get involved in the discussion.

Leaders have to lead, whether they are municipal politicians, church leaders, or settlement agencies. It is gratifying to see that in our corner of Canada, and in the big cities, they are doing just that.

 New Canadian Media article--August 2015

newcanadianmedia.ca


​By Don Curry

A new book on multiculturalism provides an in-depth snapshot of where we are now as a country while also looking in the rear-view mirror to trace the path we have travelled.

Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote by Andrew Griffith is up to date as of July this year, and, as the book’s title implies, it provides statistical evidence to back up the author’s observations. Some of his conclusions verify what we have observed anecdotally, and others are facts that many may have not realized now reflect the Canadian reality.

For example: forget MTV. The top three cities attracting immigrants are no longer Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, but TVC--Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

British Columbia? How about Asian Columbia?

Multiculturalism is dead? Not so fast—it is alive and well in Canada and Griffith tells you why, in very clear and understandable language, backed up by considerable statistical evidence.

Is Canadian multiculturalism still the envy of the world? You bet—with caveats about some regressive legislation from the current federal government.

The book has more than 200 charts and tables that illustrate the changing nature of Canadian diversity, right down to the provincial and municipal levels. The only complaint I have about the depth of research is that it left out my corner of Canada, Northern Ontario, and lumped it in with southern Ontario. I know why, because, as Griffith notes, the National Household Survey of 2011 left a lot of gaps when it attempted to drill down to smaller census areas. He strengthens the argument for the return of the long-form census.

The evidence he used to draw conclusions is irrefutable. It combines data from Statistics Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada operational statistics, employment equity and other sources.

Here are some observations that I found interesting.

Griffith points out the uniqueness of Canadian multiculturalism, noting “There are limits to what we can learn from the experience of countries — particularly European ones — with different histories, political dynamics and policies.” For example, he notes there is no Canadian political party opposed to immigration. Europe has a few.

Multiculturalism remains iconic, regularly being identified by Canadians as one of the top ten on a list of accomplishments that makes one proud to be Canadian.


“Moreover, Canadians overwhelmingly view themselves as welcoming of minority groups and believe that Canada’s diversity is a strength. But Canadians clearly view multiculturalism in an integrative sense, with an expectation that new arrivals will adopt Canadian values and attitudes.”

Griffith shows that immigration rates in Quebec and the Maritimes are in relative decline and growth will be in Ontario and the western provinces.


Canada has a work force of close to 15 million and close to three million are visible minorities.

The road to citizenship is in decline and legislation and under-funding by the current federal government is not helping.

“Educational outcomes at the post-secondary level for most visible minority groups are significantly stronger than they are for those who are not visible minorities. In most groups, the difference in education level between men and women is minor. Canada continues to do a good job of integrating new Canadians in primary and secondary education.”


Perceived discrimination remains an issue, as does reported hate crimes. He has the statistics to back that up.

Griffith’s chapter titles reflect his observations, backed up by comprehensive data. For example, British Columbia: Or Should it be Asian Columbia? Alberta: The New Face of Diversity; Saskatchewan: Steady Growth; Manitoba: Quiet Success; Ontario: Multiculturalism at Work: Quebec: Impact of a Complex Identity; Atlantic Canada: Immigrants Wanted, but Will They Come and Stay? The North: Aboriginal Nations and New Canadians.

 Griffith has the credentials for writing a comprehensive book of this nature. The author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism, he is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

 His intended audience includes the media, academics, policy makers at all government levels, organizations active in integration and related issues, as well as ethnic and religious communities. As someone leading an organization that is active in integration issues I encourage anyone involved in citizenship, multiculturalism, immigration and integration issues to read this book.

Griffith’s data is the best currently available and he uses it effectively to back up his observations—only a few of which I have the space to include. For the full picture, everyone should scrape a couple of loonies together and go to www.lulu.com to download the e-book for only $3.99. It’s priced to reach a wide audience, and this book deserves one.

 New Canadian Media article--May 2015

newcanadianmedia.ca


By Don Curry
May 11 North Bay City Council voted 8-2 in support of the right of permanent residents to vote in municipal and school board elections.

Letters will be sent to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, the appropriate ministries and Leader of the Opposition to request a change in provincial legislation. The move follows a similar motion by the City of Toronto and other southern Ontario municipalities are examining the issue as well.

The vote was not an overnight sensation. It was the result of two years of work that culminated with a council presentation and six-minute video presentation that you can see here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il3hZVr53uw

The video and council presentation was broadcast live to the community on Cogeco TV. Produced by Canadore College student Chris Robinson for course credit, the video features well-known North Bay residents speaking passionately about the issue.

It was a rewarding evening. Mayor Al McDonald and Councillor Mike Anthony, who moved the motion, had very favourable comments about the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and its partnership with the city.

It was the end of a journey that began with a discussion led by Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) Executive Director Debbie Douglas at one of our OCASI board meetings two years ago. She spoke about the recent vote in favour by Toronto City Council and mentioned the work of Desmond Cole, who led the charge.

On my drive back to North Bay after the Toronto meeting I thought “Why not North Bay?” We have a supportive mayor and I thought there would be enough council members that could be persuaded to support the initiative. Debbie got me in touch with Desmond and he offered support and guidance the rest of the way.

While I am thrilled with the vote by North Bay City Council I realize it doesn’t end there. The provincial government has to change the legislation to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal and school board elections. Municipalities do not have that power, as they are creatures of the province.

While North Bay is the first Northern Ontario municipality to support the initiative, there is support in a number of southern Ontario cities. Outside of Ontario, the City of Halifax passed a similar motion.

The movement is growing and is landing in the laps of provincial governments. The need for change is, in part, being fuelled by recent federal government changes that create barriers to Canadian citizenship. Increasing application fees from $400 to $630, increasing the residence requirements from three of the last four years to four of the last six and the processing backlog all add years to the process.

Changes to the citizenship test have made it harder to pass, with pass rates dropping from 83 per cent in 2011 to 73 per cent in 2012. Two of our staff members gave the test to a North Bay service club and half the members failed.

Opponents say that Canada offers dual citizenship, and so it does. But more than 50 countries do not, including two top source countries, China and India. That is a barrier for someone who, for example, who needs to return to her source country to take care of a dying or sick relative for an extended period.

Opponents also say that it dilutes the value of Canadian citizenship. Our video points out that it strengthens the value, by providing a first step toward inclusion at the local level. Permanent residents pay taxes, own homes, own businesses and employ people, have their children in school, but have no say on how their local taxes are spent. Enabling permanent residents to vote municipally, as a first step toward Canadian citizenship and full voting rights, is the smart thing to do to help newcomers integrate in to the community.

Preventing them from voting, as retired Nipissing University professor Bill Plumstead says in the video, is not moral, is not ethical, and is not right.

For more information go to http://cityvote.ca and get your municipality on board with this growing movement.



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