Trip Could Spark Huge Influx of Icelanders

Trip could spark huge influx of Icelanders

By: Mia Rabson
Winnipeg Free Press
13/03/2009 1:00 AM

OTTAWA — Manitoba Immigration Minister Nancy Allan is back from a whirlwind working visit to Iceland and several hundred Icelanders might not be far behind her.

Allan spent several days in the capital of Reykjavik last week putting the final touches on a special immigration initiative to connect unemployed Icelanders with jobs in Manitoba.

The program was conceived after a significant number of inquiries were made via the Icelandic embassy and consulate in Ottawa and Winnipeg, and directly to businesses and officials in Gimli, the unofficial Icelandic capital of Canada.

Over 30,000 people of Icelandic descent now live in Manitoba, the largest population of Icelanders outside of Iceland itself.

Allan said there was so much interest generated by her visit, the Canadian embassy was overwhelmed.

“They already added extra staff to handle the inquiries,” she said.

The embassy is hosting a seminar for interested applicants today which will be broadcast live on the Internet via the website sjonvarp.khi. It is at 9 a.m. Winnipeg time, 3 p.m. Iceland time.

Between 200 and 300 people are expected at the seminar. Allan said there will be a much better understanding of how many people are truly interested after it takes place.

Iceland's department of labour will help screen the applicants, who, if approved, will be admitted to Canada as temporary foreign workers. If they choose to stay in Manitoba, they can eventually apply for permanent immigration status through the Manitoba provincial nominee program.

Allan said she was charmed by both the city architecture and the landscape in Iceland but said it's clear the country is going through a rough patch. Unemployment has soared, banks are failing and the government itself was forced to declare bankruptcy in October. Economists predict the Icelandic economy will shrink by 10 per cent this year and unemployment will top 10 per cent. In the fall, Iceland's jobless rate was below two per cent.

It's led to vast social and political instability, including widespread protests that saw thousands of Icelanders descend on the national parliament buildings, resulting in clashes with police and the resignation of the president.

Allan said the parliament buildings — the oldest in the world — still bear scars from the protests, with broken windows and boarded-up doorways. There are vacant storefronts and idle construction cranes all over Reykjavik.

Construction is one of the industries Manitoba is targeting, along with information technology and finance, said Allan.

Manitoba Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen praised the initiative, saying it will help grow the Manitoba population for the long term.

“This can be nothing but good news,” said McFadyen.

Allan has received some criticism for going after foreign workers when Canadians are being laid off all over the place. She said there is no specific program to connect unemployed workers from other provinces with Manitoba, but noted they do not need to go through an immigration process.

“We encourage people from outside of Manitoba, if they want to come here, to come,” she said.


8 Commentscomment icon

Posted by:Immigration Watch

March 14, 2009 at 3:14 PM

Over 120,000 Canadians lost their jobs in January. Another 83,000 lost their jobs in February. And Manitoba Immigration Minister Nancy Allan is seriously talking about bringing workers from Iceland to Manitoba? It is truly amazing that provincial hacks like her (and others) can get elected and then get away with the damage she and her other provincial counterparts are planning to do to Canadians. If they cannot be shamed into reversing their insanity, then voters should prepare their best boots to give her and others the appropriate treatment at the next election. Immigration Watch
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Posted by:HD Aubel

March 13, 2009 at 12:37 PM

Well, I immigrated to Manitoba as a Skilled Worker and I haven't been able to find a job, so where's that shortage?
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Posted by:DPR

March 13, 2009 at 12:29 PM

Those who complain about this don't understand Manitoba's labour market needs. I am employed in a job that requires significant knowledge of MB's labour market & I get both raw & analyzed data. Manitoba simply does not have enough people with the skills to work in the construction industry. The #1 hindrance to MB's economic progress is lack of skilled workers in the jobs noted in the article above. MB is trying to train more people in construction apprenticeable trades but we do not have enough journeypersons to train the numbers we need. Any immigrants who have these skills will significantly assist in these needs. PEOPLE – get the facts before you complain. These immigrants WILL NOT effect your job. Get educated & get the straight facts before offering uninformed opinions!!!
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Posted by:GOWYLLOP

March 13, 2009 at 11:59 AM

Icelanders are one of the founding stocks in Manitoba and if the next wave is of the same sturdiness of body and steadiness of mind, then welcome to them. They're good looking too. What else d'ya want?
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Posted by:Con cerned

March 13, 2009 at 10:38 AM

Minister, think about your own country and support your own unemployed. Because Manitoba is fairing a little better than most provinces you can bet canadians will relocate here for work, as have I. Now is not the time to save on immigrant labour