More immigrants choosing to live here, census says

More newcomers to Canada are seeing Ottawa-Gatineau as a good alternative to settling in the country's three largest cities, 2006 immigration and citizenship data released yesterday shows.


Ottawa-Gatineau attracted 3.2 per cent of immigrants to Canada between 2001-’06, ranking the nation’s capital as the fifth-most popular place for immigrants to settle after Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver (68.9 per cent, combined) and Calgary (5.2 per cent).


Although newcomers have traditionally settled in metropolises, they’re increasingly choosing to live in smaller cities like Ottawa — a trend that Suzanne Gagnon, a labour market integration manager for the City of Ottawa, has noticed.


Most of Ottawa’s newcomers hail from China, India, Lebanon, Vietnam and Somalia, said Gagnon — reflecting overall census numbers that show the largest influx of immigrants come from Asia, including the Middle East.

One drawing card may be the capital’s high-paying jobs, said Gagnon, who also said the number of community supports here to help immigrants find work are attractive.

The Lebanese population in Ottawa has increased noticeably over the past five years, said Hiam Laham. The community numbers, of which Laham is a member, seem to be growing, she said.

In light of growing immigration, Ottawa needs to enhance its language education opportunities for newcomers, so that language is not a barrier, said Brian Given, an associate professor of anthropology at Carleton University.

Given can see why immigrants would choose to settle in Ottawa. “The job situation is not bad, although it’s not as good as Calgary,” he said. “But on the other hand, real estate is relatively cheap and newcomers have a better chance of buying a house here.”

Attracting immigrants is in Ottawa’s best interest, said Gagnon.

“Jobs are being created and we want people taking on these jobs,” she said. “There’s a demand and not enough supply. The population is getting older, we’ve got fewer children and the population of youth has declined.”

Helping hand

  • Susan Gagnon cites the city’s Hire Immigrants program, which includes 29 employers who have committed to the hiring of immigrants in the skilled workplace, as a way Ottawa is attracting immigrants.