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Cape Breton Welcome Network Helps Newcomers Across The Island
PORT HAWKESBURY - With immigration playing a large role in the recent announcement that Nova Scotia's population has finally crossed the one-million mark, a group of Cape Breton officials - including a career counsellor originally hailing from India - are doing their part to bring newcomers to the island and encourage them to put down roots.
The Cape Breton Partnership (CBP), an independent group established to further the island's economic development and overall growth, has launched the Cape Breton Welcome Network, which has set up shop in nine parts of Cape Breton to encourage individual communities in their efforts to make recent arrivals feel at home. The communities currently taking part include three in the immediate Strait Area - St. Peter's, Louisdale and Port Hawkesbury - as well as the Inverness County communities of Judique, Port Hood, Inverness and Cheticamp, Victoria County, and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM).
"It's been a great learning journey for myself, for sure, and for a lot of other people who are doing everything they can to welcome people to their communities," enthused Norma Jean MacPhee, a former CBC-TV journalist who now officially heads up the Cape Breton Welcome Network while also overseeing the St. Peter's Welcome Committee.
The Welcome Network's efforts, as well as the recent news the federal government is placing permanent status on the Atlantic Immigration Pilot that has matched up so many newcomers with local employers, is music to the ears of Gurmit Kaur. Originally from India, she came to Nova Scotia to take a Business Administration degree at Cape Breton University (CBU) and is now employed in Sydney as a career counsellor working on behalf of the Cape Breton YMCA and Nova Scotia Works.
"When people come to my office now, we are seeing people from Africa but also (places like) Vancouver, British Columbia, but they always ask the same thing: 'How can we stay here?'" Kaur told this week's Telile Roundtable panel discussion on immigration.
"And I never paint a fake picture - I always give them my real story. It was difficult, it was a big adjustment coming from a big city (in India), and I definitely had 'my days.' But when I started getting into the community and knowing people and getting connections, and that's what made it easier to be here. And that's what I tell people - you have to get out and make those connections, and there are people here who will help you make those connections."
Also participating in the Roundtable episode were the Cape Breton Partnership's director of communications, Jeremy Martell, and Port Hawkesbury Welcome Committee chair Allyson Clayton.
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