Hamilton is already a highly diverse city, with immigrants accounting for 26 per cent of its population.
“Immigration has been so important to Hamilton’s past and present and it’s even more important to its future,” says Sarah Wayland, senior program manager with HIPC. “The city was literally built by immigrants and they continue to be so important to our labour force and city life.”
Immigration is critical to Hamilton’s future, since about two-thirds of population growth comes from immigration.
HIPC is a community table that seeks to create a seamless settlement experience for immigrants in Hamilton. Its partners come from many sectors – including settlement, education, business, health, social and employment services, municipal affairs, and persons with lived immigration experience — to work together on priority areas of economic stability, social inclusion and community engagement.
HIPC was established in 2009 as one of Canada’s first local immigration partnerships, and there are now more than 75 similar local initiatives across the country. Funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, HIPC’s relocation to Economic Development at the City of Hamilton in 2018 speaks to the importance of immigration to the local economy, culture, and population growth.
The city is an attractive destination for many reasons, says Wayland.
It offers better affordability than other neighbouring communities, a diverse and growing economy, strong post-secondary, secondary and elementary schools, great health care, lots of nature and parks, and vibrant ethnic communities.
“Newcomers find places of worship, grocery stores, and cultural events that make them feel welcome,” says Wayland. “Proximity and easy access to Toronto is a draw. However, ready access to all the big city amenities can also be found in Hamilton which offers a great life to newcomers.”
HIPC has set a target goal of ensuring 80 per cent of newcomers will have a successful settlement experience and feel a sense of belonging in Hamilton by 2025.
HIPC undertakes research projects, hosts events for newcomers, and works directly with employers to showcase the benefits of hiring immigrants. Next year, it will launch a campaign called Hamilton for All that will aim to empower people to work towards inclusion in their own lives.
In partnership with Hamilton Civic Museums, HIPC worked to stage a virtual exhibition called Stories of Immigration and Belonging.
Among those stories is Ebunoluwa, a second-year social work student at McMaster University, who arrived in 2018 after emigrating from Nigeria.
“I moved to Hamilton with my mom and my brother. My mom choose Hamilton because she wanted a place that had a little bit of home feeling and safety,” she shares.
“Hamilton to me is a land of opportunities where I can set goals, work hard, dream big, and know within my heart of hearts that I can achieve everything, and anything I set my mind to do.”