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Final Report: Research on Settlement Services Available in French for Francophone Newcomers to Ontario

STUDY CONDUCTED FOR THE ONTARIO Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration


A major portion of the funding for the research was invested in focus groups in parts of the province settled by Francophone immigrants. Our methodology called for 10 focus groups; we were able to organize nine. Our research confirmed the difficulty of assembling a group of Francophone immigrants in Toronto; they are scattered throughout the city and travel is time-consuming.

The target clientele consisted of members of organizations that had already scheduled activities such as a celebration of Black History Month, a social activity after a religious service or a fundraiser for orphans. The individuals who took part represent different segments of Ontario’s Francophone immigrant communities.

In terms of methodology, the data we gathered are qualitative; therefore, it is not possible to draw conclusions that apply to the population as a whole. Rather, these data present the viewpoints of randomly-chosen individuals concerning their experience of welcoming and settlement in Ontario.

Focus Group Locations

The following table provides the locations of the focus groups and the number of participants in each group.

Location of Meetings Number of Meetings Number of Participants
Ottawa 3 62
Sudbury 1 16
Toronto 2 21
Hamilton 1 14
London 1 18
Windsor 1 16
Total 9 147

Participants in each focus group completed a form providing certain basic information. Some participants did not provide all of the information; this explains why the percentages have been rounded off. The base data are as follows:


Age Groups

Of the 147 respondents who completed the questionnaire, 144 provided information on their age. 68% of respondents are less than 40 years of age. This reflects the fact that Ontario’s Francophone immigrant population is young.

Age Group Number Percentage of total number
Under 20 years of age 20 14%
20 to 29 years of age 46 32%
30 to 39 years of age 31 22%
40 to 49 years of age 28 19%
50 to 59 years of age 15 10%
60 years of age and over 4 3%

Status upon Arrival in Canada

Of the 147 respondents who completed the questionnaire, 138 provided information on their status upon arrival in Canada. Refugees and asylum seekers represent 46% of the sample. This high number reflects the situation in Windsor and London, which welcome a large number of refugees.

Status upon arrival in Canada Number Percentage of total number
Skilled Workers 23 14%
Refugees sponsored by the federal government or another sponsor 34 24%
Individuals seeking asylum in Canada 30 22%
Students 24 17%
Investors 2 1%
Other (family group, children born in Canada of immigrant parents) 32 22%

Language Spoken in the Home

Of the 147 respondents who completed the questionnaire, 145 provided information on the language spoken in the home.

Language spoken in the home Number Percentage of total number
Individuals speaking primarily French in the home 94 65%
Individuals speaking primarily English in the home 6 4%
Individuals speaking both French and English in the home 35 24%
Individuals speaking other languages in the home 10 7%
Individuals speaking other languages in addition to French or English in the home 60 41%

Country of Origin and Year of Arrival in Canada

Of the 147 respondents who completed the questionnaire, 140 provided information on their country of origin. The immigrants surveyed come from 24 different countries. Our research targeted primarily newcomers. In all, 85 individuals (61% of the total number) arrived in Ontario between 2006 and 2011. Of these, 69 individuals (49% of total number) are from sub-Saharan Africa and 57 (41% of total number) are 40 years of age or younger.

Year of arrival in Canada Number Percentage of total number
All respondents whose country of origin is known 140 100%
Sub-Saharan Africa 116 83%
Arrived in 1995 or earlier 5 4%
Sub-Saharan Africa 3 2%
Arrived between 1996 and 2000 15 11%
Sub-Saharan Africa 14 10%
Arrived between 2001 and 2005 34 24%
Sub-Saharan Africa 29 21%
Arrived between 2006 and 2011 85 61%
Sub-Saharan Africa 69 49%

Place First Settled in Canada

Of the 147 respondents who completed the questionnaire, 142 provided information on the place where they first settled in Canada; of these, 103 individuals (approximately 73%) first settled in Ontario. The more recent the arrival date, the more likely it was that a respondent had first settled in Ontario. In all, 41% of participants who had arrived in Canada prior to 2001 settled in Ontario as soon as they arrived in Canada. For participants who arrived in Canada between 2006 and 2011, this percentage increases to 80%.

  Place of First Settlement and Location of Current Residence
  Total Arrived in Quebec, residing in Ontario Arrived in Ontario, residing in Ontario Arrived in a province other than Quebec, residing in Ontario
Year of arrival in Canada Total Number % Number % Number %
All 142 37 26% 103 73% 2 1%
Arrived prior to 2001 22 12 55% 9 41% 1 5%
Arrived between 2001 and 2005 32 8 25% 24 75% 0 0%
Arrived between 2006 and 2011 88 17 19% 70 80% 1 1%

Current Employment Situation

In all, 66 respondents had remunerated work in their country of origin; 39 were able to find a job in Ontario; 32 went back to school. Of these 32, 12 were working and studying at the same time.

Note: we took into account individuals who had remunerated work; students and individuals staying at home were not taken into account.

Number of Years of School Completed

In all, 144 respondents provided information on the number of years of full-time school completed since age 6. In all, 36% had completed college and 49% had completed university.

Number of years of school completed Number Percentage of total number
0 to 6 years 2 1%
7 to 12 years 20 14%
13 to 15 years (college and technical training) 34 24%
15 years and over (college and technical training) 18 12%
13 to 15 years (university) 24 17%
16 to 18 years (university) 20 14%
19 or more years (university) 26 18%

Nature of Welcoming and Settlement Services Received by Respondents

Of the 147 respondents who completed the questionnaire, 38 (26%) reported that they had not used welcoming and settlement services in the 12 months following their arrival in Canada or in Ontario. 108 respondents (73%) had used these services; one person could not remember receiving services.

Services received consisted primarily of referrals, information on the services that were available in the province, help with a job search and housing, being matched up with a Canadian family, and ESL courses. Of the 108 individuals who reported receiving services, 33 did not mention the nature of the services received. However, they did provide information on the language in which services were delivered and the names of the organizations that provided them.

Language of Service Delivery

Of the 108 individuals who received services, 82 (56% of total number) provided information on the language of service delivery.

Language of service delivery Number Percentage of total number
French 55 67%
French and English 15 18%
English 9 11%
English, with the help of an interpreter 1 1%
French and other unofficial languages 2 2%

Methods used by Respondents to Reach Service Providers

Respondents were able to check off more than one box for this question. In all, they expressed 159 choices. People learn about services primarily through their contacts, friends, and relatives.

Methods used by respondents to reach service providers Number Percentage of total number
Word-of-mouth 53 33%
Recommendation by friend or family member 47 30%
Another service provider 35 22%
Website 17 11%
Other 7 4%

Satisfaction with Services Received

Respondents were asked the following question: On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being completely dissatisfied and 5 being completely satisfied, how satisfied were you with the information you received about various welcoming and settlement services? The midpoint on the scale is 3. The higher the average, the greater the satisfaction with services received.

In all, 108 individuals used settlement services. The others did not complete this section of the questionnaire.

The answers are presented in the table below.

Services Number Average Standard Deviation
Choice of school for your children 56 4.00 1.32
English or French language classes 92 3.83 1.23
French language services available in the community 91 3.37 1.41
Housing 88 3.33 1.54
Being matched up with a Canadian family 59 3.03 1.66
Job search 84 2.83 1.61
Overall average   3.39 1.51

The overall average is 3.39, which is not very high. The highest average (4.00) concerned the choice of a school for the respondent’s children. The lowest average (2.83) concerned job search services.

In all, 99 individuals answered the question about whether they would recommend the welcoming and settlement services that had served them to a friend or relative. In all, 82 individuals (83%) said that they would and 17 individuals (17%) said that they would not.

Qualitative Data

Four questions were used to launch the discussion in the focus groups:

1. Tell us a little about your experience with the settlement services you received when you arrived in Ontario. What services did you receive? What language where they offered in?

2. Were these services not very useful, somewhat useful or very useful to your process of integration?

3. What service, advice or opinion was most useful to you in your process of integration? Who gave you this service or advice?

4. If you were an official with responsibility for the settlement of Francophone immigrants in Ontario, what would you do to improve the situation?

Here are highlights of the comments received from the 147 respondents.

Approximately 25% of participants had never heard of welcoming and settlement services in either French or English. They heard about them for the first time during the session. Approximately 20% indicated that they had used welcoming services a few times when they arrived, but did not need to go back to them later. These individuals were primarily looking for information about their community; they felt that the services were not very useful.

Close to 50% of the participants in the focus groups reported that they primarily received help from their family and/or friends who had settled in Ontario before them, not from welcoming and settlement organizations. These individuals reported being very pleased with having immigrated to Ontario. They had prepared themselves well in their country of origin, carefully studying the websites for Canada and Ontario. When they arrived here, they took the necessary time to learn English well enough to use it at work. They went back to school to earn Canadian equivalencies, and now felt well-integrated into Canadian society after three, four or five years in the country. They reported a very high level of satisfaction with the educational services offered to their children in the French-language Catholic and public school boards.

Other participants had been recruited by employers and had immigrated to Canada as skilled workers. They were happy in Canada, particularly because their Francophone employer had found housing for them and had supported them in their efforts to bring their families to Canada. These immigrants reported that they had received excellent settlement services from the local Francophone organization and had spoken to their compatriots about their good experience so far.

The overwhelming majority of these satisfied individuals are economic immigrants. The most useful information they received in the process of immigrating was information provided by their families, relatives, and friends.

Approximately 50% of participants in the focus groups reported more dissatisfaction than satisfaction with the immigration process. There were various contributing factors.

Many respondents attended workshops on employment and meetings with opportunities for sharing about employment, at the invitation of the organizations. They reported that these activities did not help them in their job search. These people still do not have a job. Clearly, they don’t need more help on creating a résumé.

Some participants explained that, when they arrived in Ontario, they had skills that could have allowed them to enter the labour market because they were not in a regulated profession. However, the settlement officers did not want to help them with this. The settlement officers recommended that they go back to school or apply for social assistance. In their opinion, the most useful advice came from friends who were immigrants or Canadian and sometimes from family members who had been in Ontario for a long time. They confided that even if the services they received from an organization were in French, the quality of the employability services left something to be desired. They said that the organization did not really address their needs.

These respondents shared their experience in various areas. They had a tendency to present their life experience and the information they were given as fact. While some of their opinions are based on misinformation, they were expressed as though they were fact. It is important to understand that the following paragraphs consist of their perceptions. It is helpful to be aware of these perceptions, because they point to a need to improve communication.

According to some participants, welcoming and settlement service providers told them that they had to have a Canadian diploma or degree in order to get a good job. These individuals then chose to go back to school and earned a Canadian diploma or degree. However, some individuals were hired on the basis of their foreign credentials. Others indicated that they would have preferred to attend a college but that the welcoming organizations referred them to a university. They received loans and scholarships for four years. Subsequently, they learned that colleges provided the same training in two years, with lower loan amounts and scholarships. They weren’t earning more than college graduates and they had large student loans to pay back.

Some participants did not have good memories of the settlement workers who had helped them. They explained, for example, that one primarily Anglophone organization offered service in French, with the help of an interpreter, and had created a system that made immigrants completely dependent on their settlement worker for a résumé.

When these immigrants wanted to apply for a job, they had to see the employment counselor, who then created a résumé for them in French and English and sent it to the employer. Applicants received no information on writing techniques and did not receive a copy of their résumé. This meant that they had to go back to the counselor every time they wanted to apply for a job. Whenever they asked for services, they had to sign a document saying so. The participants were highly critical of this practice; they found it offensive because it deprived them of their rights.

In other cases, participants reported that settlement workers were too busy and could not provide them with the support they needed. They had access to computers and phones on-site, but they wanted to talk to a worker.

After visiting several service providers, some of the participants said that they realized that the résumé-writing techniques differed from organization to organization and from region to region, which made it more difficult for them to enter the labour market.

Participants in six of the nine focus groups felt the welcoming and settlement workers had not accompanied them effectively. The workers encouraged them to go on social assistance because they felt that these immigrants weren’t bilingual enough to get a job and that if, by chance, they did find a job, it would not pay well.

Despite their lack of satisfaction with the services they had received, most of the participants reported that they would recommend the organizations that had provided them with services to other newcomers. They mentioned that some basic information was useful. According to them, the concept of providing welcoming and settlement services to newcomers is a very good practice in the immigration system. However, they felt that the government should review the service delivery system and the quality of these services with service providers, whether Francophone or Anglophone.

The participants suggested the following actions:

To conclude, the participants voiced a need for useful, reliable information as soon as they arrived—even at the airport. They reported that they received a lot of information from their friends, families, and spiritual leaders. This early information is often the most important information and it is very influential. They also expressed the need for close co-operation between welcoming organizations and other organizations such as cultural organizations, places of worship, community organizations, and other organizations in immigrant communities.

Participants who had been living in the province for over 10 years said that newcomers must also take responsibility for themselves. They must take an interest in everything that happens in their new environment. They must share the culture of the host community. The participants felt that immigrants tended to live in closed communities and to only associate with members of their community of origin.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
List of Tables
1. Mandate
2. Organization of the Report
3. Demographic Analysis
4. Review of the Literature
5. Survey of Settlement Service Organizations
6. Finding of Our Interviews with Service Providers
7. Findings of Interviews with Francophone Leaders
8. Findings of the Focus Groups
9. French Language Bridge Training Programs
10. Summary of Research Findings
11. Conclusion: Further Avenues for Research