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NWT joins program designed to make hiring refugees easier

A sign at Yellowknife's Birchwood Coffee Kǫ̀ in August 2022 informs customers of a staff shortage
A sign at Yellowknife's Birchwood Coffee Kǫ̀ in August 2022 informs customers of a staff shortage. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

The Northwest Territories is joining a federal program that allows refugees with skills to take jobs in the territory and work toward permanent residency.

The Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot, or EMPP, pairs employers with non-governmental organizations who help them find and hire refugees, the NWT government said in a news release this week.

Employment minister RJ Simpson said the program will “give NWT employers access to a new pool of potential employees while providing refugees the opportunity to move to the territory and start a new life.”

The minister said the program represented one way to find more workers at a time when many NWT businesses are struggling for staff.



The EMPP is connected to the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, a federal program in operation for years that, despite its name, has so far not included any northern communities.

In September last year, Simpson said the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot was “exactly the type of program that we’re talking to the feds about” as his department sought solutions to the shortage of workers and more options to help immigration.

This week’s announcement appears to be the outcome of those discussions, even though the GNWT clarified after this article was first published that the program still won’t use the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (instead, it’ll run through the existing Northwest Territories Nominee Program). Offering EMPP sees the NWT join a program already used by seven provinces and the Yukon.

When you use EMPP to hire someone, the NGO that helps charges a fee. The territorial government said businesses could expect to pay $5,000 to $10,000 per hire, including the cost of the worker’s visa, their relocation and, in some cases, temporary accommodation on arrival. Interested firms are asked to contact program staff.

For refugees, the GNWT said the program removes some barriers to their entry to Canada by waiving certain fees, offering loans where needed, and offering work experience that refugees can prove.

Across Canada in the coming years, EMPP aims to “welcome 2,000 skilled refugees to fill specific labour shortages in high-demand sectors,” the GNWT said.