But it’s not just about economics. As a community becomes more capable of understanding and caring about others, and as it becomes more diverse, it becomes more resilient, strong, warm, and hospitable for all residents. The whole community benefits.
Canada’s face is changing as a result of immigration. While Guelph Wellington represents a “second-tier”, smaller community in which newcomers are settling (immigrants have generally settled in larger cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal until recently), our area will increasingly rely on immigration to sustain it. Overall, the number of immigrants settling in Wellington County is significantly smaller than in Guelph, although the County is also putting more focus on how to attract and retain immigrants. ALL communities need to be prepared to provide a smooth settlement experience for immigrants.
Immigration rates to Guelph Wellington have been steadily increasing since the 1970s. According to the 2011 Statistics Canada census, immigrants now make up 21% of Guelph’s population and 11% of Wellington’s population. Of those immigrants, about one-fifth are recent immigrants (here for five years or less). Asian countries are currently the main source of immigrants to Guelph, while Wellington County has drawn mainly European immigrants.
Newcomers generally bring a high level of education with them. In Guelph, 66% of newcomers have a post-secondary degree. Yet the median income of recent immigrants in Guelph is 36% lower than that of the general population. The mismatch between immigrants’ level of educational and economic attainment has been identified as a significant gap in the economic integration of newcomers, and a missed opportunity for local communities.
The vision of being a caring, equitable community guided the development of the Guelph Wellington Settlement Strategy. At the core of this vision was the belief that we will attract and retain immigrants when we offer diverse economic opportunities, appropriate social supports, and a welcoming community to newcomers. Only ongoing community engagement will achieve that goal.
The Guelph-Wellington Local Immigration Partnership is working to make Guelph Wellington a good place for everyone to be.