Ottawa — There’s been a remarkable change in Ottawa over the last century. One in five Ottawans is now foreign-born. All of the growth in this city’s labour market comes from immigration.
And yet, the city has not quite figured out how to integrate this fact into its cultural identity and capitalize on it. Toronto prides itself on its diversity. Ottawa might, too, but it’s not the first fact about this city that’s likely to come to the minds of its residents or visitors. It is in danger of becoming a city of many solitudes. And it is in danger of squandering one of its biggest assets.
None of that is news to anyone who’s familiar with immigrant services and the immigrant experience in this city. But while there’s long been a consensus that things need to improve, there hasn’t been a comprehensive citywide plan for how to make that happen.
So it’s heartening to see that the new Ottawa Immigration Strategy, a collaboration by local groups and individuals, includes goals and milestones and suggestions for how to make the city’s services work better together. There is plenty of expertise to draw on, both within Ottawa and without. Manitoba, for example, has been very successful in treating immigration as an asset rather than a liability, in attracting immigrants with skills the labour market needs and in helping them get set up quickly.