The City of Sault Ste. Marie has welcomed the first of its newcomers under the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.
Brilla Mercy Kunjumon and Alexander Nangpukin Likilasua – both registered practical nurses – were welcomed to the community on Dec. 14.
They're the first permanent residents to be accepted under the program.
Launched in 2019, the pilot is an initiative of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada designed to help fill labour gaps in remote and rural areas, which have traditionally had difficulty attracting skilled workers to their communities.
Under the pilot, communities are responsible for recruiting candidates and recommending them for permanent residence.
Northern Ontario’s five major cities – North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Timmins – are among the 11 communities participating.
Rounding out the list are Gretna-Rhineland-Altona-Plum Coulee, Man., Brandon, Man., Moose Jaw, Sask., Claresholm, Alta., West Kootenay, B.C., and Vernon, B.C.
Sault Ste. Marie’s new arrivals were heralded the same day that the federal government announced it’s made the program’s eligibility requirements more flexible to accommodate more applicants.
Previously, a candidate had to demonstrate one year (1,560 hours) of continuous work experience to become eligible.
Under the program’s new guidelines, candidates can qualify with the same amount of accumulated experience.
The change ensures candidates aren’t penalized because of short breaks in their employment history.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has also introduced a temporary measure that allows program applicants who are waiting for a decision on their permanent residence application to apply for a work permit without being penalized due to processing delays caused by the pandemic.