Changing attitudes towards Halifax’s immigrants

Ruhul Amin, owner of Unique Asian Catering at the Halifax Seaport Market, chats with fellow market vendor Dave Belt. Photo: Steve Smith/VisionFire

As the director of operations for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), Gerry Mills knows a lot about the value immigrants and refugees bring to life in Nova Scotia. They add to the tax base and labour pool, start businesses and create jobs, and create trade ties with their home countries. In Halifax, the Greek and Lebanese communities exemplify that.
However, up until recently, Mills had a hard time getting that message across. “Now, what we’re seeing is, ‘How can I help? What’s my role? What can I do?’ There’s a very different conversation that’s happening,” she said.
There is no doubt the Syrian refugee crisis has helped with this, but what is truly remarkable is the speed at which this attitude change has taken place. Consider that the Ivany Report (published in February 2014) noted “Nova Scotians appear to be very positive about newcomers from other parts of Canada but somewhat less welcoming to immigrants. There is a segment of the population that believes that immigrants take away jobs from other Nova Scotians. Rural residents appear to be more concerned than their urban counterparts on this issue.”
The Ivany Report also pointed out an important history lesson. “The periods in Nova Scotia’s history when the economy grew most significantly correspond to waves of new immigrants; most notably in the early to mid-19th century and the post-WWII period.”
Another wave is needed today to help prevent Nova Scotia’s population from decreasing. Our future prosperity depends on it.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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