Immigrants steer clear of Amherst: Stats Canada

Darrell Cole
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AMHERST - Amherst Mayor Jerry Hallee is really not surprised his community is not an attractive destination to new Canadians.
Census data released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday indicates there are more immigrants living in Amherst than in 2001, but the number is still far below the national average.
"I'm surprised that there are as many living here as there are, but not surprised there's not a lot of new immigrants coming here," Hallee said. "Amherst is becoming a place where people come to live after they have retired and a lot of those people are people from here who moved away for their careers and are now coming back."
The data shows immigrants make up 2.5 per cent of Amherst's 2006 population of 9,505. That's compared to 2.1 per cent of 9,470 in 2001. The number of immigrants increased to 230 in 2006 compared to 195 five years earlier.
While one in every five Canadians is an immigrant, in Amherst the ratio is only one in 40. In Nova Scotia it's one in 20.
Hallee said the town has tried to attract new Canadians to Amherst, but most favour the larger centres in the region, like Moncton or Halifax, or Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver - something that's backed up by the census data.
Several years ago, the town attempted to reach out to attract immigrants. The mayor and business community talked to 50 new Canadians, inviting them to the town and asking them to establish businesses here.
"We had a questionnaire and only two said they would settle in Amherst, two or three said they were interested and the rest had no interest or didn't fill out the questionnaire," Hallee said.
The mayor said it's going to take a seed in the form of an immigrant community to entice new Canadians to settle in this community.
Heidi Renner, who operates the Old Germany Restarant with her husband Holger, came to the Amherst area from Germany about five years ago. They love living here and feel the area could be attractive to new Canadians.
"The spirit of community is strong here and we were made to feel welcome right from the start," Renner said.
Renner does not accept the notion there has to be an ethnic base to attract immigration, adding that if there are opportunities people will come.
In terms of the country of origin for foreign-born people in Amherst, the highest proportion came from United Kingdom, followed by United States and then Netherlands.
Statistics Canada also released data Tuesday on languages spoken by Canadians, including those born here and those who came from other countries.
English remains the dominant language in Amherst.
With files from the Canadian Press)

Organizations: Statistics Canada, Canadian Press

Geographic location: Amherst, Nova Scotia, Moncton Toronto Montreal Vancouver Germany United Kingdom United States Netherlands

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