Home > Key Services > Ontario's Immigration Strategy > Expanding Our Routes To Success

Expanding Our Routes To Success

The Final Report By Ontario's Expert Roundtable On Immigration


Program Recommendations: Settlement & Integration

Better Services, Better Coordination, Better Outcomes

21. A one-window, client-centred, "no wrong door" approach should be developed for all government services important to immigrants.
Governments must work better together and within their organizations to provide a continuum of services with minimal gaps.

Given the shared jurisdiction for immigration, careful coordination of federal and provincial immigration services is needed to avoid gaps, overlap, or silos in offerings. The Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement led to some joint initiatives to improve service coordination, but it expired in 2011 and has not been renewed.

While federal and provincial officials maintain good working relations, many programs and services remain uncoordinated. The federal and provincial governments should jointly undertake a client-centred review of their offerings with the goal of better coordination and delivery. Language training programs appear to be a particularly promising service area where better coordination could yield immediate results and improve immigrants' ability to fully contribute to and benefit from working and living in Ontario.

Within the Ontario government, several ministries manage selection and integration-related services that would benefit from increased coordination.26 The Ontario government is advised to adopt a one-window, client centred, "no wrong door" approach for all immigrant-focused programs and services to ensure that immigrants get the support they need, regardless of where they initially access services.

Governments must work better together and within their organizations to provide a continuum of services with minimal gaps.

Particularly as the Ontario government works to improve and streamline service delivery, it should ensure the continued availability of appropriate immigrant-specific services and that immigrants can easily access mainstream services. This will require a client-centred, system-wide assessment of what services immigrants need and how they access these services.

The Ontario Public Service Inclusion Lens is already being used to identify and address diversity and accessibility issues across government and could be used to advance immigrant access.

22. Pre-arrival information and services should be expanded.
Immigrants who receive pre-arrival information about working and living in Canada perform better. Evidence from Australia and the recent federal Canadian Immigration Integration Project (CIIP) Pilot demonstrated the benefits of offering pre-arrival services.28 It suggests that those who do not receive accurate pre-arrival information often take longer to settle and encounter difficulties accessing services and entering the labour market. They often rely on misinformation received from numerous sources, including family members, social networks, and unprofessional recruitment and immigration consultants.

The Trend Toward Human Services Coordination and Client-Centered Approaches
Governments across Canada and the OECD are looking at coordinated human services as a means of meeting the twin challenges of improving services and reducing costs. A significant proportion of program spending is devoted to the small number of people who have complex needs and use multiple human services - from social assistance and housing to health and children's services - at any one time. Current service delivery models often fail to improve outcomes for these individuals, and as such, do little to reduce the long-term strain on program budgets. By bringing together discrete services, this client-centred approach typically offers individuals a single point of access and coordinated case management as they move through the system. Clients no longer have to navigate complex and "siloed" government structures. They are less likely to fall between the cracks in the system.

Coordination also allows for a more dynamic approach to public service delivery. Global budgets and coordinated strategic planning enable real-time adjustments to changing needs. Staff can be reallocated from one part of the system to another in response to workload imbalances. Cost savings in one area can be reinvested in another.27

Pre-arrival services should be enhanced to ensure that new immigrants arrive in Canada with complete, correct, and current information on the Canadian labour market and the settlement services that are available to them. It is especially important that immigrants get a more accurate depiction of how their credentials and work experience will stack up in the Canadian labour market, and whether they will require additional training upon arrival.

This enhancement should be coordinated with other orders of government, and build on existing efforts, such as www.OntarioImmigration.ca, www.settlement.org, Ontario's network of municipal websites and the Canadian Immigration Integration Project. The expansion of pre-arrival services provides another opportunity for the Ontario andfederal governments to work together on additional pilot projects on information provision, the evaluation of foreign credentials, and training.

23. Programs that target immigrants' networks to enable the effective integration of new immigrants - particularly family, friends, and faith groups - should be supported in Ontario.
Many immigrants turn to their family, friends, and faith groups for advice before and after arrival. Since the information provided by these sources may be incomplete, out of date, or inaccurate, efforts should be made to increase knowledge and awareness of settlement services among immigrant networks. The Ministry of Labour's outreach to workers via places of worship and other cultural centres may provide a model for this.

24. Criteria for accessing settlement and integration programs should be coordinated across funders and service providers to ensure that temporary foreign workers, foreign students, refugee claimants, and new Canadian citizens can access these services.
Current federal eligibility criteria prevent many new immigrants and new Canadian citizens from accessing the settlement services they need to better integrate into Canada.

Federally-funded settlement services are, for the most part, only available to permanent residents and refugees (as defined by the United Nations Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees). Provincial services are available to the same client pool as federal programs, in addition to refugee claimants and new Canadian citizens. The result is that temporary foreign workers, foreign students, and others - many of whom are "immigrants in waiting" - may reside in Canada for years before being able to access these beneficial services.

To the extent that the federal government maintains its shift toward "two-step" immigration programs, it is important that temporary immigrants at "step one" have access to a more robust suite of settlement and integration programs. Broadening eligibility criteria to settlement services so that immigrants and citizens can access these services will improve their ability to quickly integrate into the workforce and Canadian society.

Ensuring common, complementary, and flexible eligibility for programs and services should be one of the issues addressed by a coordinated federal provincial review of programs. This review of eligibility criteria should be undertaken with the goal of expanding eligibility and recognizing the importance of two-step immigration to Canada. It should be recognized that some temporary residents do not intend to remain in Canada and will not expect, or require, access to these services.

Good Practices in Mentoring Immigrants
The National Mentoring Initiative supports urban centres in Canada to develop, implement and enhance mentoring programs for skilled immigrants in their communities. Mentoring is a cost-effective way to help immigrants establish a professional network, understand Canadian workplace culture, and learn to talk about their transferable skills.

According to data currently available from eight cities, 1,676 mentor-mentee matches were made in 2011/2012. 87 employers across Canada are currently participating in the program as corporate partners from both private and public sectors. 17 employers are participating in the mentoring program in more than one province as national partners. Toronto's The Mentoring Partnership is the oldest such program, and has made 6,614 mentoring relationships between skilled immigrants and established Canadian professionals.

25. Mentorship, internship, and bridge training programs should be expanded in Ontario.
Many employers have voiced concern that training programs are not adequately preparing immigrants to join the Canadian workforce. A greater emphasis needs to be placed on developing "soft skills", including workplace and business language competencies.

Mentorship, internship, and bridge training programs have proven effective in helping new immigrants acquire the additional skills they need to meet employers' expectations and enter the labour market at a level commensurate with their training, education, and experience. Ontario should work with service delivery partners, in consultation with employer sector associations and other informed parties, to refine and deliver these programs.

Particular attention should be paid to the needs of strong employment sectors, such as financial services, and of small and medium enterprises, an underleveraged source of jobs for immigrants.

It should be noted that Ontario has been a leader in bridge training for skilled immigrants and has worked with a wide variety of organizations to develop, deliver, and sustain projects across a number of sectors, both regulated and unregulated. The majority of bridge training projects provide intensive soft-skills and business communication components. The Government of Ontario is currently working closely with employers and improving its employer outreach strategy.

26. Settlement and integration services should be measured and assessed based on immigrant outcomes.
To support the successful settlement and integration of immigrants, the Governments of Ontario and Canada both fund and manage settlement, language training, and labour market integration programs. Many of these programs would benefit from more robust mechanisms to measure and assess their effectiveness.

To ensure that immigration policies and programs are evidence-based and warrant continued investment, their impact must be continuously evaluated and measured. Consistent with this goal, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is working with provinces and territories to begin benchmarking settlement and integration programs by 2013, with full measurement to be in place by 2014.

Building on this basis, the federal and provincial governments should develop joint measures and assessment criteria. They should share the results with each other and with settlement service providers so that all parties can improve their own effectiveness and outcomes and better understand gaps in service provision. Both governments should work with the settlement and integration services sector to increase providers' capacity and expertise in outcomes measurement and assessment.

Reporting and other accountability requirements should be reviewed to ensure that they focus on appropriate evidence-based indicators and outcomes and are made as simple and clear as possible for service providers. The Ontario government may conduct this review as part of its Open for Business initiative to streamline reporting and accountability provisions for the not-for-profit sector, including settlement service agencies. The federal government is encouraged to participate in the process so that organizations that receive funds from both governments do not have to unnecessarily duplicate their reporting work.

Ontarians must understand the vital role immigration plays in ensuring the future prosperity of the province and do their part.

27. Employers and communities need to be champions in the integration of immigrants.
The successful integration of immigrants is a "collective ambition" of all Ontarians and thus requires the commitment and engagement of key players in Ontario society. Ontarians must understand the vital role immigration plays in ensuring the future prosperity of the province and do their part. Communities and employers play a crucial role in helping new immigrants effectively enter the labour market and settle into their new communities. Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) are an important tool. They are comprised of key members and organizations in individual communities - municipal representatives, employers, school boards, and settlement and social service agencies - and play an important role in the development of a settlement strategy for immigrants to their communities. LIPs, chambers of commerce, and other multi-sectoral organizations should be engaged, encouraged, and leveraged by the province to advance immigration planning and integration.

Refugees

28. Federal and Ontario government supports for refugees should reflect the need to provide longer-term services to many within this group.29
The majority of refugee claimants arriving in Canada land in Ontario. Given the Greater Toronto region's significant immigrant population and that Pearson Airport is Canada's key arrival point, Ontario is likely to continue to be the destination of most refugees to Canada.

Programs to support refugees and refugee claimants often do not adequately account for the needs associated with settlement and integration services for refugees, which can be greater and longer in duration than those associated with other types of immigrants. Ontario currently bears the costs of refugee resettlement through its housing, welfare, and other programs.

The Roundtable calls on the federal government to recognize the unique needs of refugees and to fairly compensate Ontario for their longer-term support requirements. Governments should coordinate their efforts to ensure that Canada's humanitarian commitment to refugee protection is met, and that all refugees and refugee claimants receive the short- and long-term support they need.

29. The Government of Canada should continue to honour its traditional commitment to refugee claimants, including continuing to fund the Interim Federal Health Program.
Refugees are among the most vulnerable people in the world and face more challenges than other immigrants. The federal move to strip certain health care coverage from sponsored refugees, asylum seekers generally, and refugee claimants from countries deemed "safe" is a step in the wrong direction. In addition to honouring Canada's humanitarian commitments, it is in Canada's economic interest to help refugees adjust and integrate.

Ontario receives the vast majority of refugees to Canada (57.1 per cent in 2011). Ontario cannot afford and should not be forced to bear the brunt of their healthcare costs. Continued federal funding for all refugees under the Interim Federal Health Program, or new funding arrangements, are necessary.

International Qualification Recognition

30. The Ontario government should continue to work with professional regulatory bodies to improve the assessment and recognition of immigrants' qualifications, including academic credentials, practical training, and experience.
Effective and efficient assessment and recognition of international qualifications are needed to reduce employment barriers for immigrants and better utilize their skills. This could include expanding pre-arrival services to connect new immigrants with professional regulatory bodies so they can begin the credential assessment process prior to arriving in Canada. To ensure that criteria for recognition are evidence-based, regulated professions are encouraged to reduce to the greatest extent possible the Canadian experience requirement.

A Potential Model for Skills Assessment
In 1999 the Australian government instituted the pre-application skills assessment. This requires that prospective applicants' overseas qualifications be reviewed by the appropriate domestic body for regulated professions or by Trades Recognition Australia for skilled trades prior to applying for a visa. The assessment is valid only for the purpose of immigration as registration and licensing are still required upon arrival. Six years after this program commenced, labour-force attachment of recently arrived skilled immigrants had increased from 76 per cent to 83 per cent.
- Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services, Ontario Ministry of Finance, 2012

The Office of the Fairness Commissioner should continue to work with regulatory bodies to ensure that their assessment of international work experience and their requirement for Canadian work experience do not pose barriers to internationally trained individuals seeking licensure. Consideration should be given to whether stronger enforcement and incentive mechanisms would increase the Office's effectiveness.

Ontario should also continue to pursue qualification recognition efforts targeted toward non-regulated professions, in addition to the skilled trades through the Ontario College of Trades.

31. The Government of Ontario should ensure that aggrieved applicants for licensure have appropriate recourse.
The Office of the Fairness Commissioner assesses licensing in 40 regulatory bodies for Ontario professions. The Commissioner's mandate is to ensure that regulatory bodies and professions have registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial, and fair. The Commissioner may recommend changes to how a regulatory body measures and assesses professional competence; if her recommendation is not accepted, the Commissioner may refer the recommendation to the ministry responsible for that regulatory body.

The Office of the Fairness Commissioner does not investigate individual complaints brought against professional regulatory bodies concerning their licensing decisions. Complaints are made to a committee of the regulatory body concerned. They may be appealed to either a further committee of the same regulatory body (in the case of non-health professions) or to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (for health professions). A further appeal is available to Ontario's Divisional Court. The Government of Ontario should continue to closely monitor this process and ascertain whether or not additional routes should be considered to ensure that immigrant professionals have access to appropriate, timely, and transparent recourse.

32. The federal and Ontario governments should work together to ensure that the new federal credential and language assessment system is aligned with licensing bodies and not misconstrued as licensure.
The federal government recently announced that applicants to the Federal Skilled Worker Program will be required to have their foreign education credentials assessed and verified by designated third-party organizations before they arrive in Canada.

While efforts to improve credential assessment and recognition are needed, this new process will need to be coordinated with regulatory bodies' licensure systems across the country and it is unclear who will do the significant work needed to align the processes. According to the Office of the Fairness Commissioner, only one third of new federal language tests are commonly used by regulatory bodies in Ontario, meaning that immigrants will likely have to write two tests and meet two different benchmarks. The assessment of international educational credentials would not mean that Federal Skilled Workers would automatically find employment in Canada commensurate with their skills. Nor would it guarantee that they would become licensed to practice in a regulated occupation. It is the federal government's responsibility to ensure that immigrants understand that the new system is not the same as licensure.


26 These include the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of Labour, and the Ministry of Government Services.

27 Gold, J, M. Mendelsohn, and J. Hjartarson. 2011. Fiscal Sustainability and the Future of Public Spending: A Shifting Gears Progress Report. November 2011. Toronto: Mowat Centre. http://www.mowatcentre.ca/pdfs/mowatResearch/60.pdf.; Mendelsohn, M. 2010. Shifting Gears: Paths to Fiscal Sustainability in Canada. December 2010. Toronto: Mowat Centre. http://www.mowatcentre.ca/pdfs/mowatResearch/58.pdf.

28 Centre for Community Based Research. 2010. The Canadian Immigration Integration Project (CIIP) Pilot Final Evaluation Report. November 2010. Kitchener: Centre for Community Based Research. http://www.newcomersuccess.ca/images/stories/reports/2010-november-final-evaluation-report.pdf.

29 See the glossary in the Appendix for a description of the different categories of refugees and refugee claimants.


Contents