Five Communities – One LIP

Local Immigration Partnerships are a great idea, but when the urban centre of your region or county is small, or the population is too spread out, you may think that you don’t have the infrastructure to support a LIP bid and may be tempted to give up before you start. Our word to the wise on this…don’t give up – just start thinking creatively.

That advice is based on a great example in Ontario that we’ll refer to as the 5EO (Eastern Ontario) LIP initiative. The counties of Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry, Prescott and Russell are situated along the Ontario-Quebec border. North Glengarry, Prescott, Russell is one electoral district and Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry are another. So there were already shared infrastructures before the Eastern Ontario Training Board put forward the bid.

Nevertheless, the strategy of several counties working together toward a common goal is an inspiring example for other parts of Canada that need to be bold and imaginative to take advantage of this excellent government immigration initiative. Project co-leads Sarah Maynard and Diane Coombs talked to us about genesis of the project with the idea of the 5 counties working together.

“As the Eastern Ontario Training Board (EOTB) and the T.R. Leger School of Adult, Alternative and Continuing Education (Upper Canada District School Board) both serve these 5 counties and share a history of successful partnerships, a 5 County LIP really seemed do-able,” said Coombs. “Since the school provides direct settlement services to newcomers and the Training Board frequently assists with the launching of projects, we felt that, given the chance, together we could make this happen.

Maynard added, “The five counties were selected because they represent a common labour market. In this case, we used the definition of ‘labourmarket’ as the distance a person could reasonably be expected to commute to work each day.”

With growing economies and an aging population, there is a need to attract and retain immigrants.

The proposal was written in September 2010. Maynard admitted that if the two co-lead organizations (TRL Immigrant Services and EOTB) had not been covering this region so well already, the process of the counties working together would likely have been more difficult. “Despite the lengthy process to formalize the strategy and accompanying workplan,” said Maynard, “the actual development was quite a simple project. The council represents a broad range of knowledgeable community partners and they work very diligently and collaboratively together. We are very fortunate to have some dynamic and committed people involved.

“We did have multiple Council meetings, however the entire council was always willing to travel to whichever county the meeting was being held in. We also had multiple community consultations and distributed surveys across the Counties. A strength was that we were able to have the Conference Board of Canada provide a ‘Workforce of the Future’ presentation in Cornwall in November of 2011. This was a big draw and put a spotlight on newcomers and the ‘immigration advantage’.”

Over the next year, the 5EO LIP partners intend to fulfill all deliverables as identified in their workplan. They have left some leeway for adapting to new opportunities and ideas for increasing the region’s ability to attract, retain and integrate newcomers.

“In the short term,” says Coombs, “I think it’s clear that our LIP group is filling a gap in the area of agencies and employers. In the longer term, we hope for increased inter-cultural knowledge and awareness and the goal of being perceived as a very welcoming community.”

Among their recommendations to other communities interested in starting a LIP program:

  1. Speak to the immigrants in your region at length and in depth. They are the true experts on the immigration experience and its benefits and challenges. This will enable you to make sure you put your efforts where they are most needed.
  2. Recruit and select your council wisely. The council should have a broad range of expertise and also a strong commitment to improving the lives of new Canadians. The people on the council are your true champions.
  3. It is good to remain flexible and to remember that all questions are good questions.

“The sharing of knowledge and experiences at the LIP meetings has been supercharged with both surprise and enjoyment,” says Coombs. “All culture is learned behaviour and understanding this concept is a fun basis for moving our LIP work forward in the 5 Eastern Counties.”

Maynard concludes, “We know that becoming Canadian is a process not without faults, however this is improving, and there are many, many Canadians who are working with dedication and integrity to improve the experience for immigrants.”

This story is from the "Local Immigration Partnerships" InfoBlock. To read more stories on this topic, click here.