'Come from away' attitude lingers in Nova Scotia, newcomers' agency head says

The head of a Halifax newcomer-settlement agency says a "come from away" attitude that views immigrants as outsiders still lingers in Nova Scotia.

Gerry Mills, executive director of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, says despite recent improvements to welcome newcomers there are still people who are suspicious of immigrants.

She told a panel discussion at Halifax's MacEachen Institute that some employers in the province only want to hire people they went to school with or who live down the road, and are reluctant to consider hiring an immigrant from overseas.

But Mills says companies hamstrung by a lack of skilled workers in the region are starting to consider hiring a newcomer, in part through a new immigration pilot program in Atlantic Canada designed to fill gaps in the labour force.

Former premier Darrell Dexter says one of the first questions people ask in Nova Scotia is "who's your father," especially in rural areas.

He says there is a tension between what he called a "clannishness" that exists in Nova Scotia and the need for newcomers to grow the province's population and economy.