Halifax remains less diverse than many Canadian urban centres, figures released yesterday indicate.
According to Statistics Canada’s latest release of information from the 2006 census, only 7.5 per cent of Haligonians are visible minorities, which is about half the national average. Across Canada, 16.2 per cent of the population identified themselves as visible minorities.
Nova Scotia’s indigenous black community accounts for almost half of the visible minorities in Halifax, which means the other half are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Leonard Preyra, a New Democrat MLA, says Halifax has a problem retaining immigrants and there are three reasons why: Newcomers’ credentials aren’t properly recognized; there aren’t adequate or enough settlement programs for immigrants in the city; and many ethnic groups don’t have a cultural base in Halifax to help newcomers feel at home.
“It turns into a chicken and egg story,” he said. “They don’t stay because the community isn’t here for them, and the community isn’t here for them because they don’t stay.”
Mary Anna Jollymore, spokeswoman for the Immigration Department, said it will take time for Halifax to become more attractive to newcomers, including visible minorities. The province just created its immigration strategy in 2005.
Jollymore said the entrepreneur stream of the provincial nominee program, which will replace the controversial economic stream sometime this spring, will bring more immigrants and visible minorities to the province.
Madine VanderPlaat, a sociology professor at Saint Mary’s University, said the biggest problem in attracting immigrants to the city is the lack of jobs.
“There has to be a good match between the kind of immigrants that come to Atlantic Canada and the kind of skills and jobs that are available,” she said.
The 2006 census states that in the Halifax area, visible minorities had an employment rate of 57.4 per cent while non-visible minorites had an employment rate of 65 per cent.