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Latest data on P.E.I. immigrant retention rate not a fair reflection, province says

According to Stats Can, P.E.I. retained immigrants at a rate of 28.1 per cent from 2014-2019

Un phare près du pont de la Confédération.

L’industrie touristique de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard a subi un coup dur en 2020 à cause de la pandémie de COVID-19. Des entrepreneurs ont demandé au gouvernement en juin 2021 d’adoucir certaines règles sanitaires dans l’espoir d’améliorer les résultats de la saison 2021.

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Despite P.E.I. having the country's lowest immigrant-retention rate in a five-year study, the province says the data is a poor reflection of the number of immigrants coming and staying over the past two years. 

According to Statistics Canada, 28 per cent of immigrants are still on the Island five years after coming to Canada. Ontario and Alberta are around 90 per cent.

The StatCan data is based on immigrant admission from 2014, and its database was compiled in 2020. It was last updated December 2021. 

When you're looking at that five-year retention rate you are looking at programs that, in some cases, don't even exist anymore, said Jeff Young, director at P.E.I.'s Office of Immigration.

There have been several changes made to provincial programs in place for immigrants in recent years, Young said. A particular focus for the immigration office is bolstering P.E.I.'s work force, he said.

We're focusing on helping employers fill labour gaps, labour shortages. Our programs are helping employers meet those labour shortages, he said. 

'If you look at our one- and two-year retention rates, I believe they are up about 70 per cent by now,' says Jeff Young.

'If you look at our one- and two-year retention rates, I believe they are up about 70 per cent by now,' says Jeff Young.

Photo: The Canadian Press / DARRYL DYCK

P.E.I.'s retention rate historically low

Historically, P.E.I. has had the lowest immigrant retention rate for several five-year interval studies by Stats Can. Overall, the Atlantic region has had lower immigrant retention rates compared to the rest of Canada.

However, Young said that's not the case for the Island recently. Its immigrant retention rate has been improving, he said.

A citizenship ceremony in P.E.I.

A citizenship ceremony in P.E.I.

Photo: (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

If you look at our one- and two-year retention rates, I believe they are up about 70 per cent by now, he said. 

Stats show the immigrant retention rate for work permit holders on P.E.I. is the highest among admission types to the province. 

Although noticeably low compared to most provinces, P.E.I.'s 50 per cent retention rate for work permit holders is higher than Newfoundland and Labrador's 46 per cent retention rate. Overall, however, N.L. has a higher immigrant retention rate at 46.2 per cent.

Concern on jobs offered to immigrants

Kal Whitnell, P.E.I.'s executive director of economic and population growth, said immigrants who come to the Island for work are in a variety of different job types and levels, and not just filling gaps in service sectors.

People ask me all the time, 'What sectors, what jobs are driving [immigration to] P.E.I.?' My answer, quite frankly, is all of them, Whitnell said.

We do have some folks that are filling those wage type jobs, primarily in the service sector. But we also have [immigrants] fill positions all the way through up to the bioscience industry, we're helping fill jobs in agriculture.

Whitnell said the government funds and supports services and organizations such as the Immigrant and Refugee Services Association, La Coopérative d'Intégration Francophone, the Black Cultural society and BIPOC USHR to help immigrants settle permanently on P.E.I.

Yakosu Umana (new window) · CBC News with files from Island Morning