Symposium explores ways to make small urban and rural communities more welcoming for immigrants

A major policy-research symposium at UBC Okanagan on May 15 will examine ways to make Canada’s small urban centres and rural communities more welcoming for new immigrants.

“Immigration to Canada has been recognized as an essential element in demographic development and economic growth,” says symposium co-chair Daniel Hiebert, Professor of Geography at UBC, and co-director of Metropolis British Columbia.

“While all levels of government—in conjunction with community organizations, NGOs, Chambers of Commerce and the private sector more generally—have introduced policies and programs to support the regional distribution of new immigrants across the country, results show that small urban centres and rural communities continue to face attraction and retention challenges for newcomers,” says Hiebert.

The Regionalization of Immigrant Settlement in Canada: the Attraction-Retention of New Immigrants is presented by Metropolis British Columbia and the Ministry of Attorney General, and will draw upon the participation of academics, government policy makers from different levels, NGOs, and other interested parties.

“This will be both a forum to present innovative work in this field as well as an opportunity for open and critical engagement on the subject of welcoming communities,” says symposium co-chair Carlos Teixeira, UBC Okanagan Associate Professor of Geography and a domain leader with Metropolis.

The research symposium will be divided into morning workshops and panel sessions focusing on the regionalization of immigrant settlement in Canada generally, and afternoon workshops and panels focused on small urban centres and rural areas of British Columbia, including the Okanagan Valley, and the challenges these regions face in attracting and retaining new immigrants.

A panel discussion at 9 a.m. will address to topic, Visions of immigrant settlement in non-metropolitan Canada. A second panel at 11 a.m. will look at Canada’s regionalization policies and outcomes.

At 1:45 p.m., a special presentation about 2006 statistics on the regional settlement of newcomers in British Columbia will be provided by Eerik Ilves, Research Officer with the Ministry of Attorney General’s Multiculturalism and Immigration Branch.

Immigrant settlement in the Okanagan Valley will be explored in a panel discussion starting at 3 p.m. Speakers include Bill Downie, Executive Director of the Kelowna Community Resource Society, Robert Fine, Executive Director of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, Lucy Swib, Associate Director of the Ministry of Attorney General’s Multiculturalism and Immigration Branch, and Yaying Zhang, Assistant Professor of English and Modern Languages at Thompson Rivers University.

All sessions are in UBC Okanagan’s Arts Building, ART 366. Sessions are open to the public, however, those interested in attending are asked to pre-register by contacting Vicky Baker at UBC’s Department of Geography, vbaker@geog.ubc.ca or call 604-822-3188.

Information about the May 15 symposium is available at http://mbc.metropolis.net/new.

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