The economic development officer for SEED recently had the ear of federal immigration, refugees and citizenship minister, Sean Fraser.
Stephanie Harris took part in a virtual discussion on supporting future immigration to rural communities in Canada, and she took the opportunity to highlight the importance of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP), a program the Town of Altona and Municipality of Rhineland have been a part of since 2019.
"It was fantastic to be able to have access to the Minister's ears. He's ultimately going to be the one who decides if this program is going to become permanent," she explained. This is something SEED has been advocating for for some time. "It was a great opportunity to express how the program has been working for our community, the importance of it and how we really need to continue to have it order for our community to continue to grow and strive."
SEED, along with several local RNIP stakeholders, also advocated for the permanent implementation of the program during a recent visit from a Immigration and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) official. Last week's visit was part of the representative's regular quarterly trips to the community to evaluate RNIP at the ground level. The official met with the SEED Board of Directors, the local RNIP vetting committee, settlement services and a few program candidates who have made the Altona/Rhineland area their new home over the years.
"We also held a roundtable discussion with some of the businesses that are participating in the program," added Harris. "Some have been participating for some time, and some that are really new. So, we had some great conversations and discussions around the program."
In August, the federal government announced it was extending the RNIP program for another two years. It is now set to expire in February 2024.
"We're a short seven months away from that timeline, so this is the opportunity to really advocate how important this program is to our community and how much we need to keep it in order to continue to grow, in order to continue to fill those labour market shortages," explained Harris.
To further this advocacy effort, Harris will compile a package of testimonials from local program stakeholders and submit it to the federal government. She'll also be working with the 10 other participating communities in Canada to form a collaborative campaign.