The Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement acknowledges the importance of immigration to Ontario’s future. Immigrants contribute to the province socially and economically. They bring skills and growth to Ontario’s labour market. They increase Ontario’s global competitiveness. They also energize and foster diverse communities.
One of the key goals of the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement is to ensure that immigrants can contribute to their full potential. The increasing complexity of the labour market requires new and effective supports to help newcomers succeed. Over the past 20 years, immigrants have fallen behind economically in comparison with Canadian-born residents. In multiple studies, this trend is attributed to several barriers:
- Lack of proficiency in English or French, especially for knowledge work that requires advanced language skills
- Employers’ reluctance to recognize international experience and credentials
- Lack of social and professional networks
- A complex array of services that present challenges for coordination, maintaining accurate information, and ensuring access at the right time and place.
The increasing diversity of newcomers to Canada requires a wider range of services, new approaches and better coordination to result in positive outcomes for individuals and their families. Although labour market integration is of vital importance, it is not enough for successful integration. Newcomer services must provide a continuum of supports, and be responsive to the needs of specific client groups such as seniors, women and youth. Newcomers need to become fluent in the language and customs of their communities, and Ontario’s communities need to become more responsive in welcoming and engaging newcomers from every part of the world.
Immigration is particularly important to the vitality of Francophone communities in Ontario. Effective strategies are essential to attract and support the integration of French-speaking immigrants.
Findings from Consultations and Research
The development of the Strategic Plan was informed by a series of consultations throughout Ontario in July and August 2006 with a wide range of newcomers and service provider organizations. The consultations gathered inputon needs and services throughout the settlement process, from pre-arrival to integration.
Other inputs to the Strategic Plan include a review of research and literature on factors leading to successful settlement and integration, and relevant recommendations gathered from multiple studies and consultations carried out by or with stakeholders in the settlement sector since 2002.
The settlement process is complex and lengthy, covering everything from pre-arrival information to full integration into Canadian life. Accordingly, the COIA consultations identified a wide range of needs to support successful integration. Some of these needs and issues are outside the scope of the COIA, but many can and will be addressed through the strategies and actions outlined in this plan.
Findings from Consultations held in July-August 2006
The three main needs expressed in the consultations were employment, language training, and better information and guidance.
- Better information prior to arrival
- Guidance on how and where to find work in Canada
- Timely professional and skills accreditation
- Employers who value diversity in the workplace and recognize skills that newcomers bring.
Official language (English/French) proficiency needs:
- Effective language assessment both pre- and post-arrival
- Accessible client-centred official language referral and training
- Work-related language training.
Information and guidance, and initial orientation:
- Accurate, relevant, practical and accessible information, pre- and post arrival
- Orientation to life in Canada.
Other needs identified during the consultations:
- Opportunities to interact socially with Canadian residents and other newcomers
- Emotional and social support
- Sources for financial assistance and related tools
- Affordable housing
- Access toappropriate health care, including mental health services.
Needs of Specific Client Groups, including Francophones
Women, youth (ages 13-19), seniors and Francophones identified specific needs during the recent consultations as follows:
- Affordable day care for their children so that they could seek employment
- Special services to address spousal abuse and family violence in the home.
Youth (ages 13-19)
- Specific supports for youth, including youth-oriented settlement services
- After-school programming
- Participation in social, cultural and recreational activities with their Canadian peers
- Understanding of the education system.
Immigrants over 50
- Employment opportunities
- Interpreters to assist them during key life activities such as visiting a doctor.
- Settlement services in French
- Networks that support French-speaking immigrants.