North Bay, Ontario - An Award Winning Tradition of Welcoming Newcomers

People in southern Ontario are often confused about North Bay and Thunder Bay. They think they are close together and far away from Toronto.

In fact, North Bay is just a three-hour drive north of Toronto, on a four-lane highway all the way. Thunder Bay is about a 12-hour drive from North Bay, going straight west.

North Bay is a vibrant city of 54,000 people situated between two lakes, Trout Lake and Lake Nipissing. It has a university, a college, a brand new regional hospital and award-winning services for newcomers to Canada.

North Bay is home to numerous international mining company head offices, but unlike Timmins or Sudbury, there isn’t a mine in sight. Mining professionals, skilled tradespeople, IT specialists and health care professionals are currently in demand.

Real estate prices are much lower than in southern Ontario, there are excellent schools operating in both English and French, and there is opportunity for many outdoor activities.

The North Bay & District Multicultural Centre is the first stop for newcomers. Funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, its friendly staff of both newcomers and native Canadians offers free bilingual service. They can help you settle your family, find housing and employment, get your children registered in school, and register you in language classes if necessary. In addition, through its Local Immigration Partnership project, the North Bay Newcomer Network, you can get connected with people in your field of work very quickly.

The North Bay Newcomer Network has been active since 2005 and opening an immigrant settlement agency was its first priority. The doors of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre opened in January of 2008 and in June of 2011 it opened the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre, a four-hour drive north of North Bay. Timmins is booming with the current price of gold and multicultural centre staff in Timmins can help families find accommodation, schooling and employment.

The North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and the North Bay Newcomer Network have won four provincial, Northern Ontario and city awards and were featured as innovators in the June 2012 series on immigration in the Globe and Mail.

"Our success has been directly attributable to the professionalism of our staff,” said Don Curry, executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and co-chair of the North Bay Newcomer Network. “We have people on staff that have been through the immigration process fairly recently, and we have people raised in North Bay, who know the city well.”

Curry said the success of the North Bay Newcomer Network has been due to the excellent partnerships created in the community. Initiated by the City of North Bay in 2005, it is co-led by the city and the multicultural centre. It has more than 50 businesses and organizations as members, including Nipissing University, Canadore College, Collège Boréal, school boards, North Bay Regional Health Centre, major mining companies such as J.S. Redpath and Atlas Copco, the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce, which has 900 members, YES! (Youth Employment Services), plus other companies, service organizations and government ministries. The North Bay Newcomer Network has launched a connector program to link newcomers to people in their fields of work, and is now working on the launch of both a mentorship program and HR North, an employment service for small and medium-sized enterprises from Parry Sound in the south to Timmins and Cochrane in the north.

Between its North Bay and Timmins offices the multicultural centre covers a large portion of Ontario and the staff members know it well.

“People come to North Bay for employment because of the beautiful outdoors, because buying a home is affordable, because of the excellent education and health care facilities, or, in some cases, because it is a very safe city,” Curry said.

“One of our staff members came here from Trinidad & Tobago and she said the fact that she and her family would feel safe in North Bay was a major factor in choosing where to settle in Canada,” Curry said.

“Personally, I moved to North Bay in 1978 to take a teaching position at Canadore College and I have never had any desire to leave,” Curry said. “It takes me five minutes to drive to work and after work it takes me five minutes to get to the golf course. If I wanted to go to one of the lakes, that’s five minutes away as well.”

North Bay has become more culturally diverse in the last few years, due to the efforts of the city’s immigrant attraction program, an increase in international students at both the college and university, and the attraction of foreign-trained professionals in the mining and health care sectors.

“The family member with a job generally settles in quickly,” Curry said. “But the family should stop in at the multicultural centre’s offices at 374 Fraser Street downtown the first day they are in town. We can help the spouse develop a network fairly quickly and we can introduce the whole family to the city. If they decide on Timmins instead of North Bay, we can help them there too.” On the web: www.northbayimmigration.ca, www.nbdmc.ca, www.timminsmulticultural.ca and www.immigrationtimmins.ca.