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OUR OPINION: A Labor Day look at Manitoban immigration

What a rare and wonderful Labor Day it is in North Dakota, a Labor Day when the state’s biggest labor problem is not a shortage of jobs, but a shortage of workers.

And what a good time for a reminder of Manitoba’s creative solution to that same problem.

Manitoba’s solution is immigration. But the first thing for North Dakotans to know is that immigration in Manitoba is very different than the immigration that usually makes headlines in the United States.

For in Manitoba, the immigration in question is legal immigration — and that’s only the first big difference.

A second is that policy is restricted to skilled immigrants. A third is that many of the immigrants are invited; the province routinely asks Manitoba employers about their workforce needs, then sends recruiters overseas to find good candidates.

And a fourth difference is that the program works, dramatically and unmistakeably.

More than 13,000 immigrants settled in Manitoba in 2012 alone. And in 2013, "85 percent of Manitoba nominees were working three months after their arrival; 89 percent had permanent jobs," the province’s website,, reports.

"Seventy-six percent of Manitoba nominees were homeowners within five years of arrival." And when it comes to retention, "87.3 percent of immigrants choose to stay in Manitoba."

Because of immigration’s successes in Manitoba and elsewhere, "most Canadians feel immigrants are just as likely to be good citizens and people who were born here," the CBC reported in 2012, describing a nationwide poll.

As one analyst put it, "the willingess of Canadians to not view a person’s foreign background as an impediment to citizenship is a product of the country’s multicultural policies and the visible effect of immigrants on the economy."

In other words, Canada’s Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty period still is under way, in a sense. Valley residents should take note, because there just might be lessons from Canada and Manitoba’s modern immigration experience that North Dakota could learn.