MONCTON – More than half of the employees of Atlantic Ballet of Canada are immigrants. It receives around 400 applications every year from 25 countries but bringing talent here remains difficult, says CEO Susan Chalmers-Gauvin.
“The federal system has over the years, become increasingly difficult. Now we have the new Atlantic Immigration Pilot, which is supposed to ease those transitions, but we’re yet to see whether or not that will be successful,” said Chalmers-Gauvin Tuesday at an event in Moncton to announce details around the first of four Atlantic Immigration Summits across the region this year.
Atlantic Ballet, which has a great interest in the issue because of its reliance on immigration to staff its operations, is a lead organizer.
Chalmers-Gauvin, the co-founder of Atlantic Ballet, said the two-day event will include a day of speakers and discussion sessions to come up with solutions to improve newcomer integration and the immigration system in Atlantic Canada. It will also look at solutions to workforce shortages and opportunities to boost the economy.
Atlantic Ballet partners with Opportunities New Brunswick, New Brunswick Multicultural Council and 3Plus on the initiative. Canadian Heritage and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency are providing $261,000 in funding for the summits.
Mike Robart, Managing Partner of Grant Thornton, one of the business partners working on the Atlantic Immigration Summit, said immigration is critical to economic growth in the region.
“We see the challenges,” said Robart. “A number of businesses that we work with are impacted directly and are facing labour market shortages. We are working with the Provincial Nominee program to help them fill that skills gap.
“We are also providing free business counselling to newcomers trying to start a new business. It is challenging for newcomers to navigate the various programs and investment opportunities.”
Robart said inclusiveness is good for the businesses themselves, not just the immigrants who benefit from a welcoming environment.
“As a firm, we promote and practice inclusive hiring and we have found that diversity is good for business and it brings new perspectives and practices to the workplace,” he said.
Yibo Lee, an account manager at TD Commercial Banking and an immigrant from China spoke to Huddle after the announcement. In his 20th year in Canada, he said a lot more needs to be done to integrate newcomers more fully into our companies and communities.
“I think [the summit] would be a good opportunity for businesses to learn and maybe after they can create their own programs about diversity or encourage inclusion,” he said.
At TD, he’s thankful that diversity and inclusion is encouraged from the top. In his department, out of 15 people, almost half are newcomers.
“As a service company, if we have talent from different cultures and backgrounds that shows that we can help the public within our own community.”
A Deloitte report published in November found highly inclusive firms are more likely to report revenue growth and create jobs.
Steve Lund, a partner at Deloitte Moncton, said in an interview with Huddle that companies should not hire based on “tokenism,” but ensure inclusiveness instead.
“For a long time Canada’s been a hotbed for diversity and we’ve been pretty good at counting diversity. We’re saying Canada needs to do better to get to the next level [and promote inclusion],” he said.
The first summit in Moncton will include a performance created by Igor Dobrovolskiy, Atlantic Ballet’s creative director and co-founder, and an immigrant himself.
Subsequent summits will take place in St. John’s in September, Charlottetown in October, and Halifax in November.