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Newcomers favour Ontario but choose large, diverse cities to live: study

Professor John Shields and researcher Magdy ElDakiky

Smaller towns are slowly "dying" as newcomers flock to larger, more diverse metropolises like Toronto, finds a new CERIS study by Professor John Shields (left) and his co-author Magdy ElDakiky (right).

Despite Ontario being the most popular destination for newcomers to Canada, rural communities and small towns are slowing "dying" as immigrants are choosing larger diverse cities to settle, finds a report released today by Ryerson University immigration policy experts.

This immigration trend poses serious challenges for smaller communities in Ontario, according to Professor John Shields of Ryerson's Department of Politics and Public Administration. He and co-author Magdy ElDakiky wrote the report, Immigration and the Demographic Challenge: A Statistical Survey of the Ontario Region, which was published in the current issue of Policy Matters, a publication by the Ontario Metropolis Centre (CERIS).

"Smaller towns and cities, which already have an aging population, are on the verge of decline. When you factor in young workers leaving home for better job opportunities elsewhere, this creates enormous problems in spurring growth in the local economy. Newcomers are also not attracted to these places because they tend to reflect the Canada of the 1950s and not the new millennium."

Drawing on Census data from 1996 and 2006, Shields and ElDakiky, who just finished his master's degree in public policy and administration at Ryerson University, examined the settlement patterns of newcomers in Canada, with a specific focus on Ontario.

Immigrants make up about two-thirds of Canada's population growth, with over 80 per cent choosing to settle in large urban centres in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. The researchers found that slightly over half of these highly skilled newcomers are residing in Ontario, making the province the top choice for immigrants coming to Canada. The majority is drawn to the Greater Toronto Area to settle, largely because of the city's settlement services, job opportunities and multicultural makeup of its residents. Cities such as Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener, London and Windsor are also places favoured by newcomers to live.

The researchers also discovered that an overwhelming majority of immigrants called central Ontario home (831,975 people) compared to 4,850 newcomers settling in northern Ontario. Within central Ontario, nearly 55 per cent of this immigrant population settled in the Greater Toronto Area. However the city's outlying areas -- Peel, York and Halton - saw a huge influx of newcomers who were attracted to more affordable housing, making these locales the fastest growing in the province.

"The steady stream of newcomers to large urban centres creates different challenges for them," says Shields. "They are experiencing integration problems and, even though there are many job opportunities, their skills are not being recognized as broadly as they should be."

"Attracting newcomers is not as difficult as encouraging them to live in smaller municipalities," says ElDakiky. He is currently working with local members from rural communities to help attract and retain newcomers to their towns.

"Attraction can be achieved by using effective marketing and advertising campaigns. But retention and integrating newcomers into these local communities requires more persistent efforts," says the Eyptian-born researcher, who also chaired a graduate program in sustainable rural development at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem before immigrating to Canada in 2006.

ElDakiky suggests that the solution to retention in smaller towns is twofold: addressing diversity in schools, workplaces and churches to encourage local citizens to learn more about the cultural backgrounds of their newest members of the community; and mobilizing businesses, schools and social organizations to work together to attract new Canadians and help them start a new life in their adopted homeland.

CERIS is one of five Canadian research centres studying the effects of immigration and settlement on cities, and is collaboration among Ryerson University, York University and the University of Toronto as well as other social agencies in Toronto.

Ryerson University is Canada's leader in innovative career-focused education, offering close to 90 PhD, master's, and undergraduate programs in the Faculty of Arts; the Faculty of Communication & Design; the Faculty of Community Services; the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science; and the Ted Rogers School of Management.  Ryerson University has graduate and undergraduate enrolment of 26,500 students. With more than 64,000 registrations annually, The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading provider of university-based adult education.

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Suelan Toye  
Public Affairs     
Ryerson University   
Office: 416-979-5000 x 7161   

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