Where have they gone?

Alarm bells should be ringing in municipal offices across the Rainy River district since the release of the 2001 census results on Tuesday.
The overall population of the district has declined by 4.4 percent. Statistics Canada numbers show a Fort Frances drop of 5.4 percent to a population of 8,315.
True, it’s not the worst drop across Northern Ontario. Greenstone experienced at 13.3 percent drop while Kirkland Lake droped 13 percent, Atikokan 10 percent, Sudbury 6 percent, and Thunder Bay, 3.7 percent.
In the past, Northern Ontario traditionally attracted growth through mining and forestry. Immigrants came to the north lured by jobs in the mines and forests. Immigrations built the mills, the mines, and harvested the wood and minerals.
From data in the 2001 census, Ontario’s overall growth has come through immigration, but they’re not coming here any more.
Immigrants are attracted to communities where family and friends already reside. They’re attracted to communities with a variety of job opportunities. Northern Ontario and the Rainy River district are losing out to the more urban centres of the country.
Similarly, the youth of the district are following the migration patterns found throughout the country. They’re moving to the “golden horseshoe” of Ontario, the urban Montreal region, the Calgary-Edmonton corridor and the lower BC mainland. They’re following the jobs and the job opportunities. They’re following friends and family.
The Rainy River district, as well as the rest of Northern Ontario, will have to diversity its economy to again attract Immigrants to our area.
As the population declines, the service and retail businesses found in the north will disappear. It is a vicious circle.
Rural and Northern Canada all face the same crisis. The senior levels of government must put in place the means and the infrastructure for business to grow and develop outside of the four islands of growth in Canada.