Prince George’s population of permanent residents grew by 25 per cent in 2017, while most other towns in Northern B.C. and the Central Interior saw these numbers either stay the same or drop.
According to the most recent data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Prince George’s population of permanent residents grew from 255 in 2016 to 320 by the end of November, 2017. In 2015, the population stood at 290. Over the last ten years, Prince George has seen its total number of permanent residents jump 129 per cent. As the numbers for December are not currently available, the final numbers for 2017 may be even higher.
A permanent resident is an individual who has been granted a level of status by Canadian immigration authorities, but is not yet a full citizen. Temporary residents, such as international students or foreign workers, are not considered permanent residents.
Prince George was the only community in Northern B.C. to see a rise in new permanent residents in the last year. Between 2016 and 2017 Dawson Creek saw its numbers stay steady at 140, while Fort St. John saw its population drop from 285 to 250. Kamloops, with a significantly larger population than Prince George, saw its population of permanent residents drop from 360 to 335.
Based on these numbers, it appears that the immigrant population of Prince George may be growing faster than the overall population. The city’s overall population saw an increase of 2.8 per cent from 2011 according to the last census.
Ravi Saxena, the executive director of the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society (IMSS) of Prince George, has noticed an increase in new immigrants in the region.
"They're coming from all over the place; from the Philippines, a lot of people are coming from China, Indians. A lot of students are coming," Saxena said.
The IMSS offers services such as English language training and employment services to new immigrants. Saxena said he had seen a big increase in newcomers from the Philippines accessing these services in recent years.
Numbers from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada show India and the Philippines were the two biggest countries of origin of new permanent residents in Prince George between 2006 and 2016.
It is unclear what accounts for the overall increase in new immigrants to Prince George. Between 2015 and the end of 2017, the region resettled 50 refugees of Syrian origin. But other federal government programs designed to increase the supply of skilled workers may have played a role.
Gabriel Chand, an immigration lawyer with Chand & Company, which provides immigration services in Prince George, said the Trudeau government’s focus on the express entry program, which provided faster processing times for immigrants applying under the skilled worker category has been significant across the country. By contrast, Chand said the Conservative government under Stephan Harper emphasized more non-permanent programs, such as the temporary foreign worker program.
“The Liberals preferred permanent workers,” Chand said.
“They made it easier under express entry.”
The express entry program was started under the Harper conservatives in 2015, but has been given increasing focus by the Trudeau Liberals over the last two years. The program combines three federal programs – the Canadian experience class, the skilled trades program and the skilled worker program – as well as B.C.’s provincial nominee program. Express entry awards points to potential immigrants based on a criteria ranging from language ability and job experience to education in Canada. International students who have studied in Canada have been regularly touted by government officials as ideal candidates under this program.
Since 2015 when it was first introduced, B.C.’s total number of express entry applicants who graduated to permanent residents grew from 1,585 in 2015 to 10,880 at the end of 2017.
In Prince George, the pool of people who have applied for permanent residency under express entry stood at 30 in 2015, 45 in 2016 and 50 as of the end of November 2017.
The city’s increase in permanent residents may be related to the increase in international students who have studied at local colleges and universities. The number of graduated students in Prince George who have remained under a work permit grew from 75 in 2015, to 90 in 2016, to 120 as of November 2017.