“The province lacks population and talent. Specifically, there are gaps in digital skills, manufacturing and a shortage of commercial workers in the construction and forestry industries,” the 57-year-old businesswoman told the Lusa news agency.
The business consultant, born in Paris (France), was elected earlier this month chairman of the board of the New Brunswick Business Association for Immigrants.
Bernadette Fernandes, a resident of the coastal city of Saint John, explained that the immigration process remains federal, but the selection of candidates for immigrants "is different compared to other Canadian provinces such as Ontario".
New Brunswick government data project that about 120,000 jobs will not be filled over the next 10 years. The low birth rate, the increase in the elderly population and the migration rate of young people have created a shortage of skilled workers in the province.
To try to address this problem, the provincial government plans to open an office in Europe and India to attract 7,500 immigrants a year.
“It has been one of the easiest provinces to immigrate to. If the Portuguese want to come, they will be well received by the community”, he stressed.
Bernadette Fernandes, graduated from the University of St. Thomas (Bachelor of Arts) in Fredericton, is fluent in five languages, emigrated to Canada at just two years old, in 1965, having returned to Portugal between 1973 and 1975.
As for everyday life in New Brunswick, the businesswoman classified it as “very quiet, with freezing temperatures in winter and snow but “not as harsh as in other regions of Canada”, with “a lot of uninhabited space, forest, national parks, beaches” , an area suitable for outdoor activities during all seasons of the year.
Both New Brunswick and Portugal “have some similarities, both because they are maritime regions”, having as potentialities sectors that derive from the ocean such as “shipbuilding, fishing and aquaculture”.
One of the main difficulties in that region is access to Portuguese products, a situation that would be “easier if the community were bigger”, if it were “more involved in business terms”.
“We don't have associations, cafes, patisseries or restaurants. Portuguese products must come from Montreal, a city located 10 hours away by car. Pastel de nata itself is hard to find in New Brunswick. They are difficult to find in any of the Atlantic provinces”, she lamented.
The businesswoman believes that there are less than 100 Portuguese and Portuguese descendants in that region, a community “which was already larger in the 1970s, in a small environment where almost everyone knows each other”.
Although Portuguese immigration to that province is currently reduced, there are other Portuguese-speaking communities, such as the Brazilian one, which have increased considerably.
“The Portuguese speaking community is growing due to synergies with the Brazilian. It is a factor of unity, where we are going to unite more, for a community”, he stressed.
Although the Portuguese in New Brunswick “are more of the working class or retired”, a different evolution from that seen in Toronto, Bernadette Fernandes hopes to “support newcomers in their integration into Canadian society” through the local Immigrant Business Association.
New Brunswick is one of the four Atlantic provinces on the east coast of Canada, the only bilingual (English and French) in the country and has about 750,000 inhabitants.
Data from the Canadian census of 2016 reveal that there were 483,610 Portuguese and Portuguese descendants in Canada, that is, 1.4% of the population in the country.
The majority were in Ontario (69%), Quebec (14%) and British Columbia (8%).