Northern Ontario needs to jump on board with immigration: panellist

·3 min read

The future of Canada's labour market is immigration, according to speakers at a panel discussion held by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday's virtual event was held in partnership with Collège Boréal's Programs and Services for Newcomers division.

The panel speakers included Madison Mizzau of the Timmins Economic Development Corporation (TEDC), IVEY Group’s president Anthony Lawley, associate lawyer Erica Marcassa of Ellery, Ellery and Prabucki, and Michelle Boileau, the employment and settlement services manager at Collège Boréal.

The speakers talked about the services and programs their organization or business provides, what the process of recruiting a newcomer or an immigrant might look like and how immigration can be used to grow a labour force.

According to the panellists, some of the positions that need to be filled are in the mining, forestry, early childhood education, construction and healthcare fields.

“Working with community partners … it’s clear there are two things happening right now, which is a skills gap and a labour shortage,” Lawley said. “Labour shortage is we don’t have enough people and the skills gap we have people ... but they don’t have the skill set necessary to do the work that the employers need to have done.”

Taking an empathetic approach and being more patient will lead to higher levels of retention and people feeling welcome, Lawley said. Canada’s population is aging and the birth rates are declining, he said, and if qualified foreign nationals want to come to Canada, there are ways for an employer to bring them in.

Mizzau, who works as a community development consultant for TEDC, echoed Lawley’s comments.

“In Northern Ontario, we’re losing people to down south. We know the population is aging, people are retiring, so immigration is something that we need to jump 100 per cent on board with,” she said.

Boileau also noted there should be a focus on francophone immigration to maintain the same level of francophone population in Timmins and other northern communities.

“Especially in Timmins being such an important community when it comes to our government services,” she said. “We’re a regional hub for many government services, we want to make sure we have a qualified, bilingual workforce and that might be the approach we might want to take as a community.”

Marcassa advised employers to treat foreign workers the exact same way they would Canadian employees.

The pandemic-related challenges the speakers mentioned included impacted processing times, amended immigration program requirements, inability to meet with clients face-to-face, travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

Panellists encouraged employers to reach out and explore settlement and support services available in the community as they consider hiring international workers.

The Bucket Shop's market development manager Jamieson Pouw talked about the process of hiring international workers with the help of the TEDC and IVEY Group as the business was in a “desperate need” of welders.

The company went through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and vetting processes and found six people to come to Canada. To date, two of them arrived in Timmins from Ukraine and are completing their quarantine. Two more employees are expected to come from Mexico in about six weeks. The company will also be interviewing the other two candidates.

“It’s worth getting into because the long-term approach for the country of Canada: we want our population to rise to 100 million by the end of the century,” Pouw said during the virtual panel. “That’s a big number and that can only be done with immigration.”

Mizzau suggested considering applicants who have required qualifications even if they’re not currently n Canada.

“If an employer has somebody’s resume on their hand and they’re debating it because they’re not in the country, I would definitely suggest reaching out and exploring it because there are ways to bring them in,” she said.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,