Immigration key to  filling the gap

Immigration key to filling the gap

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Igor Dobrovolskiy and his wife came to Canada in 2000 to escape the economic collapse in Ukraine. He didn’t speak the language, but today the very ballet he has created is part of the opening night of the Atlantic Immigration Summit.

Today, he’s the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of the Atlantic Ballet Atlantique — a professional company of international dancers. He has a very successful immigration story that’s made a big impact on the community.

So what do ballet and the banking business have in common? Both industries face labour shortages and rely on immigrants to fill the gap.

Scott Belton, TD Vice President Atlantic and Susan Chalmers-Gauvin, Co-Founder and CEO of Atlantic Ballet Atlantique, have joined forces — along with a committee of business and community leaders in Nova Scotia — to co-host the provincial Atlantic Immigration Summit May 7-8 in Halifax.

The Atlantic Immigration Summit is a region-wide event series designed to engage people across all sectors on the topic of immigration.

The summit, held in all four Atlantic provinces, will feature dance, expert panel discussions and roundtable discussions led by both newcomers and business/community leaders. They will share best practices and develop actionable outcomes focused on the following four questions:

  1. How can we strengthen partnerships to enhance the immigration process?
  2. How can we address labour force shortages through immigration?
  3. How can we increase understanding of immigration and identify critical issues to workplace and community integration?
  4. How can we share and evolve best practices that can contribute to policy and business priorities?

This summit follows on the heels of the inaugural summit last year — held in Moncton in May of 2018 — with more than 400 attendees from 23 communities and 30 industry sectors. Thirty working groups and five projects were launched as a result.

Why a create ballet on immigration? Chalmers-Gauvin says it felt like the right fit.

“Each year, we receive over 400 applications seeking work with our company — but only one or two from Canada,” Susan Chalmers-Gauvin. “More than 50 per cent of our employees are newcomers to Canada. Our viability as a business depends on foreign workers and we have to pay very close attention to our people to ensure they are happy and integrating into both our business and our community.”

The ballet has captured — in a very poignant way — the experiences many newcomers face and the business community is taking note.

“As a business community, we also need to recognize the economic imperative and add our voice to the discussion. Labour shortages and population declines are on the horizon in the near future in Atlantic Canada. Business has to step up and be part of the solution,” says Belton. “We need to invest, we need to share best practices and we need to advocate for more effective immigration policy.”

Reports by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, The Conference Board of Canada and The Report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy have all warned of imminent and significant labour shortages. Statistics Canada reports that the region had more than 20,000 jobs to be filled.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) is the lead sponsor of the Atlantic Immigration Summits. According to President Francis McGuire, the labour shortage is masked by unemployment rates higher than the national average. McGuire notes that many local residents either don’t have the skills or can’t move to where their skills are needed.

Belton says the impact affects large and small businesses and reaches across all sectors and rural and urban communities.

“There is a need to bring our leaders, municipalities, sector representatives together to work together on solutions and to share our knowledge and ideas,” says Belton.

Meanwhile at Atlantic Ballet Atlantique, Chalmers-Gauvin says there are many companies “doing good work” on immigration.

“At the ballet, we have successful practices that we know other employers can benefit from. We’ve been bringing immigrants to Atlantic Canada for 18 years,” says Chalmers-Gauvin.

Belton agrees, adding that TD’s interest in this “is not only economic in nature.”

“We believe strongly that immigration will achieve better economic outcomes for the region,” says Belton. “We are also are committed to being a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

For more information on the Atlantic Immigration Summit or to register, please visit

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