Attracting, hiring newcomers: who’s making a difference in Atlantic Canada?

While there’s lots of room for growth in efforts to attract and hire more immigrants in Atlantic Canada, a number of businesses and organizations across the East Coast are on a pathway to success by employing or helping newcomers.


Immigration, business go hand in hand

Anyone doubtful of the economic impact of hiring immigrants should talk to Russ Mallard, president of Atlantic Beef Products in Albany, P.E.I.

Attracting employees was a challenge because of the company’s rural location near the Town of Borden and the Confederation Bridge.

So, his team started hiring temporary foreign workers in 2013 and 2014.

The first were 20 or so Filipinos who had come to P.E.I. to work in fish plants but didn’t have full-time jobs.

“We helped them to get their papers to stay on and this helped them in making a better life for themselves,” Mallard recalls.

Since then, as many as 200 new Canadians have been employed at Atlantic Beef.

Besides the Philippines, they’ve hailed from countries such as Syria, Brazil, and Nigeria.

The vast majority of the plant’s 90 or so employees are newcomers.

Many of them have earned Canadian residence status, a process the company assisted with.


New Brunswick-based J.D. Irving Ltd. hired a director of immigration last year and the company predicts it will hire 400 immigrants over the next three years for Canadian operations, according to spokeswoman Mary Keith.

— CBC News

Mallard is quick to point out a couple from Nigeria, who arrived at Atlantic Beef via Alberta, who both hold degrees in engineering and medicine and are in the process of finalizing documents to work in those fields.

They needed jobs to support themselves and Atlantic Beef was a good landing spot for them, he says

Overall, Mallard believes the immigrant workforce has helped his business and created a huge influx into a community.

“Some of them even bought homes and moved their families in. This created a mini-boom for the Borden area.”

Mallard’s perspective is counter to “Our young people are out searching (for jobs) and you want more immigrants?”

That’s some of the feedback received by SaltWire’s Deep Dive into Hiring Immigrants.

But the experience at Atlantic Beef Products aligns with what think tanks, all levels of government, economists and others say — attracting and hiring more immigrants are keys to the economic future and population base of Atlantic Canada.

And to grow in that area, programs such as Atlantic Growth Strategy, and the related Atlantic Immigration Pilot, are in place to attract skilled newcomers.

Across the East Coast, more and more businesses are like Atlantic Beef, where an immigrant workforce is helping with their success.


Hullo is an app developed by New Brunswick’s SyntecX to help with the inclusion of newcomers in the community. It includes job search, a map and messaging for newcomers to interact with settlement organizations/agencies (such as the Multicultural Association of Fredericton).

— City of Fredericton

One of them is Aspin Kemp and Associates.

Based in Montague, P.E.I., the company designs, manufactures, installs and supports power generation and energy assets for marine, offshore oil and gas, and land-based industries.

It also recruits and employs a variety of talented newcomers.

“We have a broad swath of employees here. We cast our net world-wide in hiring as there is a relatively small pool of people we can draw from,’’ Jason Aspin said. “There are 15-20 countries represented in our operation.”

He does hire local, home-grown talent, but of the 100 at the Montague office, 90 of those are international hires.

Aspin said bringing the newcomers in, supporting their families, and getting them into immigration programs has made the transition for everyone as smooth as possible.

This helps them become fluent in the required languages and also what it takes to be part of the company, he added.

“We have been lucky here. The province is a supporter of what we do and helps us to get people here. We have run into a few hiccups, but in general, it has been a good experience.”

Other Ocean Group Canada Limited is another company that’s benefited from hiring immigrants.

It operates a video game development studio in Newfoundland and Labrador, and a video game quality assurance company in P.E.I.

It’s created games for publishers such as Disney Interactive and Microsoft and develops titles for all major platforms, including iOS, Xbox and PlayStation.

Deirdre Ayre is the company’s St. John’s-based head of Canadian operations.

She says immigration has been a key element in reaching business goals.


To be designated as an Atlantic Immigration Pilot employer, a business must be in good standing, have operated in the region for two years and work with a settlement service organization to support candidates.

— Atlantic Immigration Pilot

She considers it critical, and says without highly-skilled workers from around the world, Other Ocean Interactive simply would not exist.

“It became clear that in order for our business to succeed, our recruitment efforts would need to reach well beyond Canada,” Ayre said during an address to a recent diversity conference.

The company has recruited staff from the United Kingdom, South and Central America, Continental Europe, Asia and the United States.

“Other Ocean, at considerable expense, has been successful at attracting some of the game industry’s best and brightest programmers, artists, designers and producers,” Ayre added.

She says a workplace with culturally diverse talent — both men and women — makes Other Oceans more innovative and creative and more competitive.

“We will develop products that are far more reaching demographically. A diverse workforce gives organizations a broader range of ideas and insights to draw on in decision making and policy development.”

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