Refugees enter Canada at the Fort Erie Peace Bridge point of entry to seek asylum from war, persecution of genocide or to flee famine and natural disasters. Other immigrants enter to reunite with families and to seek new opportunities. (8,695 claimants in Fort Erie compared to 5, 240 at Pearson Airport 2000/2001).
The Peace Bridge Welcome Center reported that in 2006, 1,829 refugees made a claim for asylum at that point of entry. Of those, 383 remained in Niagara. Many identified that they came to Canada with prior education, credentials and experience as teachers, doctors, engineers, journalists, nurses or business people. They face barriers related to non-recognition of their prior education and credentials, language barriers and challenges to finding appropriate and meaningful employment. Approximately 37% of Canada’s immigrants have a university degree and this population often pursue further education in Canada.
In 2006, 18% of the total Niagara population was made up of immigrants, compared to 28.3% of Ontario’s population. In 2006, 70,320 foreign-born permanent residents were recorded in the St. Catharines, Niagara CMA, up from 66,046 in 2001. Our numbers are similar to Windsor, the other border area in Ontario. The Niagara immigrant population is made up of 10.4% recent immigrants who arrived from 2001-2006 (17.1% of the Ontario population are recent immigrants). They often require initial community settlement services: housing, language training, education, community friendships and employment.
Figure 40 Immigration Overview: Number of Foreign-Born Permanent Residents, St-Catharines- Niagara CMA.