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Cartwright Growing Through Immigration

“There has to be a commitment by the community to welcome newcomers.”


Who’s coming to Manitoba?

Manitoba has more than doubled the number of immigrants arriving annually in the last decade – and aims to do so again within the next six years.

In 2004, 4,588 immigrants arrived in Manitoba, most coming through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), matching persons with skilled trades and professions to available jobs.

By 2008 that number had risen to 11,221. The province has a stated goal of bringing in 20,000 immigrants in 2016. And while Winnipeg continues to be the biggest magnet, more rural and northern areas are benefiting from the arrival of newcomers too.

In 2008, communities (outside Winnipeg) received 3,168 immigrants or roughly 28 per cent of the total immigration to this province.

Since 2003, approximately 13,000 have made their homes in more than 130 different locations throughout the province, other than Winnipeg. In 2008-09 the province allocated more than $1.25 million for regional settlement programming, plus an additional $1.98 million for adult language training in communities outside the city of Winnipeg. There are plans to increase that spending in 2010. Manitoba Labour and Immigration in 2009 created a new position of regional co-ordinator to facilitate better service provision to rural areas with increasing immigration.

Nadia and Alex Tolmachev’s first home in Canada was Winkler, after emigrating from South Russia in 2005. Two years later, the couple and their teenage daughter made another move – to the village of Cartwright.

Today the family speaks English, Alex runs a carpentry business and their daughter, Ekaterina, is finishing Grade 11 in this small community of 300.

Their new home is a far cry from the city of 11,000 they left in South Russia five years ago.

“In Cartwright there are better opportunities for starting a business. That’s why we can here,” says Ekaterina, who is more confident speaking English than her parents.

They’ve found life here very different than Russia, much slower paced, she adds. “In Russia there were many fast changes, that kind of stuff.”

Their family plans to stay in Cartwright. The Tolmachevs are among about 30 families, or 120 new faces in total, now calling this small south-central Manitoba village home, thanks to a strategic approach taken by Cartwright to grow its population through immigration.


This small centre’s success story began with local businesses expressing a need for skilled workers, said Penny Burton, economic development officer for Cartwright/ Mather and the Rural Municipality of Roblin who spoke at a recent conference in Brandon on steps smaller centres can take to grow through immigration.

The presence of several local manufacturing companies needing workers was Cartwright’s biggest lure for new residents, Burton said. The process of matching job openings to newcomers began with a visit by one potential immigrant, who’d come to look at rural property advertised on the Internet. He was subsequently interviewed by a local business, then returned to the UK to formalize his entry to Canada as a temporary foreign worker. He and his family of five arrived in 2004.

That’s what basically opened their gates, says Burton. A meeting with Manitoba Labour and Immigration officials was arranged to talk over local employers’ skilled labour needs.


That led to linking up with Morden-based immigration agency Pathfinders, which had networks overseas to look for people. Since that first arrival in 2004, Cartwright has welcomed over 30 families. Most come from Germany, but also from Russia, Israel, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. Many are now employed as painters, welders, and production line workers, including 17 new staff hired at Rainbow Trailers, a local manufacturer of flatbed and cargo trailers.

Burton said the rural lifestyle is also part of many newcomers’ hopes. Cartwright’s biggest challenge has been providing settlement services to its new residents. Settlement services include the help newcomers need to orient to their new surroundings, such as having different customs and laws explained, and being shown how to access public institutions.

Being a small centre, Cartwright has no resources on its own to hire settlement workers so Burton, who immigrated

with her family in 2001 from England, initially welcomes the family, then finds local volunteers to help them get settled.

“It’s an informal service that we offer,” she says, adding that a local farmer who speaks fluent German has provided invaluable support.


Burton said key to success for any small centre in successfully settling and retaining newcomers, is ensuring the whole town is on board and has the capacity to provide the help.

“There has to be a commitment by a community to welcome newcomers,” she said. In Cartwright, that has happened through forming partnerships with churches, the school and community groups, Burton said. As a result, there’s been a welcome provided on many fronts, from the local recreation commission adding soccer to its roster of activities for young folk unfamiliar with baseball and hockey to Cartwright’s history book committee making sure the newcomer families have their histories included in the 125th anniversary history book due out later this year.


The school has taken a lead role in welcoming activities, and has 41 new students added to its rolls, added Burton.

“This started with the community development corporation embracing the whole concept of this being a response to the needs of business, but it was also a way of sustaining the school.”

A key resource bolstering Cartwright’s “whole community” approach is the Safe Harbour Program.

Safe Harbour ( a multicultural awareness program with resources to help not only owners and employees of businesses employing newcomers, but all those who encounter newcomers reject discriminatory attitudes and actions and embrace diversity.

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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