MANSO is happy to share this article on Assessippi Parkland Settlement Services Inc. as featured in the summer 2017 Magazine of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.
This article was submitted by Lorraine Brown.
As many rural communities in Manitoba grapple with the challenges of shrinking population and the erosion of businesses and services, the Municipality of Russell Binscarth has enjoyed the benefits that come from welcoming immigrant newcomers to our communities.
In fact, over the last 10 years over 350 newcomers have chosen to start their new lives in the area, bringing with them a strong work ethic and enriching the cultural diversity of the region.
The largest source country in the Russell area is the Philippines. People began to arrive in 2011 as Temporary Foreign Workers to work for a large hotel that also owns a Tim Horton’s/Subway/Esso gas bar and was struggling to find workers locally to fill entry level jobs. Currently, there are approximately 200 Filipinos, many of whom are already Permanent Residents.
Choosing to settle in a rural area can pose some challenges for newcomers; affordable housing, lack of public transportation, access to settlement services. However, like those who came to Canada in the first wave of immigration 100 years ago, these newcomers are resilient and resourceful. They are appreciative of the opportunity afforded them and work hard to create a better life for themselves and their children.
The description posted on the local Filipinos’ Facebook page – Samahan ng mga Pinoy Immigrant sa Russell Manitoba – certainly reflects this mindset: “An association of fun loving, environment friendly and hardworking Filipinos based in Russell Manitoba. Experience the community and let them know we are one in mission. To build a strong foundation and future for our love ones.” The group boasts 181 members.
Other ethnic groups settling in the area include Jamaican, East Indian, Austrian, Scottish, Dutch, Mauritian, German, Belgian, and Ukrainian.
There is a misconception that most immigrants to Canada eventually do a secondary migration to urban centres. This is not the case in our community, where we have retained 75% of our newcomers who cite quality of life, safety and affordability as key factors to making this their chosen home.
Retaining newcomers requires the cooperation of the whole community including employers and all levels of government. It is essential to address the unique challenges immigrants face in adapting to a new country; culture, language, workplace, parenting, weather etc.
Along with the decline in Canada’s population comes the challenge to fill chronic job vacancy. This can impede the growth of businesses, especially in rural areas, adding further to economic decline. Immigrants bring to our communities skills and experience; including the entrepreneurial spirit of our forefathers to start their own businesses. They bring fresh ideas and the enthusiasm needed to rejuvenate small town Manitoba, but communities and municipalities should offer guidance and mentorship in an effort to ensure their success.
We constantly strive to attract new people to live, work and retire in our communities, enjoying all of the great things that rural living has to offer. Immigrants represent only one of those opportunities but for this small part of the world, it has been a success.
Lorraine Brown is the Settlement Services Coordinator with Assessippi Parkland Settlement Services Inc. (APSSI), providing settlement and EAL services to eligible clients in the communities of Russell, Binscarth, Inglis, Angusville, and Birtle.