Questions to be answered

The Northern Policy Institute recently released a paper entitled “Exploring the Need for a Northern Newcomer Strategy.”
It may have come to many as a shock but having watched census databases over the past two decades of the numbers and the reduction of population in the Rainy River District, it was not surprising.
Yes, Rainy River District has seen its population decline by 13.2 percent over the last two decades. Yes, the population of Rainy River District has become much older than the provincial average.
And yes, Rainy River District has seen a decline in the birth rate that no longer is able to cover the replacement need of citizens.
Our district is not unique in Northern Ontario. Every district has seen a decline in population and the Northern Policy Institute feels Northern Ontario needs to attract 50,000 residents to fill the vacancies.
The paper noted the decline is expected to continue in the next two decades.
Northeastern and Northwestern Ontario are divided on interprovincial migration, with a great number of immigrants arriving to Northeastern Ontario from Quebec. Yet both regions see a clear migration from their areas to other areas.
Is it a question of migrating to larger centres for education or job opportunities?
The study had no information on that question. It did note, however, that foreign immigrants did migrate to Northern Ontario areas for employment opportunities.
The questions now become how can Rainy River District use this information to build communities of immigrants? How should we be marketing our region to foreign immigrants? What types of economic and social supports should Rainy River District communities be building to entice immigration to the district?
And how can we, as a district, build a sense of community for immigrants?
This is not a new question. The Rainy River Future Development Corp. has spent time and energy to promote the district to immigrants. Each week, we note employment opportunities at Riverside Health Care, New Gold, and other organizations.
Is there a way to fast-track skilled immigrants to gain the qualifications to work in the region? Is there a way for immigrant nurses to receive their upgrading courses through Confederation College or Lakehead University?
Similarly, is it possible for engineers and technicians to upgrade their qualifications within the region to take advantage of the employment opportunities in Northwestern Ontario.
As well, are there opportunities to expand farming in the district to attract farmers from other countries?
I ask the questions. The answers are not easy to come by but if, as a region, we wish to grow and sustain our aging population with services from younger generations, these are the questions we will have to find answers for.
This is an issue that councils will have to address singly and through the Rainy River District Municipal Association and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association.

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