August 8, 2019
Good morning folks, and thank you, Sean, for that warm islander welcome.
I can tell you that, without exaggeration, today would simply not have been possible without the strong and persistent advocacy of Sean Casey. And I really want us to give him a round of applause. Thank you, Sean.
And all the PEI members of Parliament, my colleagues. The Honourable Wayne Easter is here. They were very persistent in the importance of having IRCC back in Charlottetown, but it was Sean who kept reminding me of the importance that this office would have for the people here. And you know, it is important to be back here to see for myself the enthusiasm that accompanies this reopening.
I’d like to, of course, acknowledge that this ceremony is taking place on the traditional and unceded territory of the Abegweit Mi’kmaq First Nations.
Since I became Minister, one of the key priorities that I’ve had is to make sure that we attract and retain more immigrants to Atlantic Canada and to have better client service at IRCC in PEI. And as a result of our work with all the Atlantic Canadian governments, but specifically with the PEI government through the Atlantic Growth Strategy and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program, the Island is attracting more immigrants than ever before.
We’re also seeing more new Canadians moving to Prince Edward Island. In fact, over the last three years, the province has seen the number of new immigrants nearly double and close to 400 PEI residents have become new Canadian citizens over the last two years. Actually, we’re adding 30 more at a special citizenship ceremony later today.
So, this is really good news for PEI, but it’s also good news for the rest of the country.
So, we know that the hospitality, the food, the warmth of the people and the stunning landscapes are very important to enable newcomers to feel welcome but that’s not enough for them to continue to stay in PEI. We need to have the proper supports and services in place so that newcomers can be retained here. And it is in that spirit, and as a result of the advocacy of Sean Casey, that today I’m very proud to join you to officially mark the opening of the Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s office right here in Charlottetown.
Ladies and gentlemen, through this office, PEI residents will be able to have direct access to immigration and citizenship interviews. They’ll be able to take tests and ceremonies and they will also be able to obtain their permanent residency cards and renewals. I’m also pleased to announce that this office will now offer enhanced citizenship ceremonies outside of Charlottetown upon request for clients who live in more rural and remote locations in Prince Edward Island.
And it is because of the realities of PEI as a reflection of what is happening in the rest of the country that we need newcomers to fill jobs. We need newcomers to replace aging workers. We need newcomers to fuel our economic growth, now and into the future. Not only do newcomers and immigrants bring tremendous economic benefits, but they also impact our communities in other profoundly positive ways.
And I can’t think of a better example than the video that we used in our Immigration Matters campaign where we showcased the story of the ice skating club in Charlottetown. This club had been operating for over 60 years and was on the threat of closure because of low registration. But when the owner of Charlottetown’s Asian market, Richard Yu, held a registration for the skating club at his store, people lined up to register and now the club is back on its feet.
So we are now showcasing Richard’s example and dedication to this community right across Canada and it’s a truly moving example of newcomers in PEI giving back to their new community. We know that here on this Island, as in the rest of Atlantic Canada, it is a challenge to ensure that newcomers stay for the long term. But I can tell you that the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program is making a big difference in that regard.
Prior to the introduction of the AIPP, retention rates in Atlantic Canada were much lower than the rest of the country. Now, they have not only caught up, but in some cases surpassed retention rates in the rest of the country and the population increase is a reflection of that.
Reopening our Charlottetown office means that we are now able to better serve the increasing number of newcomers on the Island and also those who seek to become Canadian citizens. So when you look at the number of businesses that are aware of the services and the advantages of using the Atlantic Immigration Program, when you look at the number of skilled workers who want to come to PEI by using the AIPP, there’s absolutely way more awareness and usage of the program, which is music to my ears.
It tells me that immigration is not the only tool, but one of the main tools available to Prince Edward Island and the rest of Atlantic Canada to ensure that we sustain the economic growth that we’ve seen over the last number of years and that we address the needs of employers to fill those unfilled jobs.
When small businesses cannot find the workers that they need, it affects their ability to grow and create more jobs for Canadians. It also sometimes leads them to make decisions about whether they should not expand at all or whether they should just pack up and leave, and go to locations in which they can find labour.
So, we have to make sure that our immigration system helps skilled labour come to Prince Edward Island to not just fill unfilled jobs, but to also bring much needed skills to this economy so that they can create jobs for Canadians.
I hope that our combined efforts with the province, with the Mayor and with the community organizations will help even more newcomers come to PEI to make this Island their home by creating meaningful lives here and contributing so much to this already wonderful community.