Immigration Forum. Come Together.

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An opportunity for Sault Ste. Marie and area residents to engage in learning about immigration in our region and beyond our borders took place on Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 at Grand Gardens North. The 6th Annual Immigration Forum was organized by LIP, the Sault Ste. Marie & Area Local Immigration Partnership.

The Centre for Social Justice and Good Works, Christina Coutu was Master of Ceremonies for the ‘My Sault Ste. Marie includes Everyone’ Immigration Forum.

A lovely First Nation ‘Strawberry Prayer’ was offered through storytelling, by Bea Shawanda and her grandson to open the days’ events.

“I’m filling in for Mayor Provenzano this morning” shared Rick Niro, Sault Ste. Marie Municipal Councillor, who welcomed the attendees on behalf of the City. “Of course, as you may have already heard, Mayor Provenzano is on day 5 or so, of being a first time father.”

“The history of Sault Ste. Marie demonstrates that people from many different backgrounds have travelled to, or met at this place. This area has been a gathering place for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Where diverse peoples have lived and worked side by side,” he said.

Sean Halliday (LIP Researcher) and Dan Krmpotich (LIP Coordinator) spoke about: “the 55 agencies and organizations that fall under the LIP umbrella with four main working committees, including Racial Harmony, Forum, Special Projects, and Awareness.”

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“We have welcomed 139 new Canadians in the last few years,” adding “On March 23rd at City Hall, there will be a citizenship ceremony where approximately 30 people will be sworn in as Canadian citizens,” said Dan Krmpotich.

“We need to be looking at more immigration as we are not sustaining ourselves with current population statistics such as they are. We need to be working hard to get people coming here, and staying here,” said Sean Halliday.

Sean introduced a new ‘Sault Connect Referral App’. The Sault Connect App has been developed to offer potential or recent immigrants to SSM a simplified opportunity to connect with local service providers.

20160316_112037With 120 registered to attend the forum, a full day of speakers and presentations took place. Grand Gardens North played host for the venue, where two incredible meals were served, breakfast and lunch.

Attendees heard presentations from Dr. Michael Haan, ‘Trends in Immigrant Retention and Recruitment in Northern Ontario; Jonathan Coulman (Executive Director, Algoma Workforce Investment Corp), ‘Algoma’s Aging Population and Aging Workforce’; Allison Corbett, ‘Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’; Pramod Shukla, ‘A Newcomer’s Journey to Citizenship’; as well as a Newcomer Panel.

“Issues we have in the north include an aging population, youth out-migration and low immigration rates. We will have more people exiting the workforce than we have people coming in,” shared Jonathan Coulman. “It’s a situation not unique to Sault Ste. Marie, or even Canada. Every G7 country is facing these same challenges.”

Cultural performances were shared by The East Indian Community children dancers, ‘Fahbulous Dancers’, and Upma Paul who led ‘Yoga in your Chair.’

Jenn Ayton, LIP’s Outreach Worker was acknowledged by Christina Coutu for “all she did to organize today’s events and for doing everything she can to increase the population of the Sault.” Jenn Ayton will soon be expecting a baby.

The Immigration Forum attendees included members of the business community, social services, education, and faith communities.

There are many moving parts in the issues around immigration, demonstrating that the private and public sector need to come together to invite people to call Sault Ste. Marie & Area home.

For information about Refugee Sponsorship & LIP visit: http://www.discoverthesault.ca