Evidence of meeting #41 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was settlement.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Joe Chang  General Manager, Chinese Professionals Association of Canada
Neethan Shan  Executive Director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
Adeena Niazi  Executive Director, Afghan Women's Counselling and Integration Community Support Organization
Patrick Au  Executive Director, Chinese Family Services of Ontario

9:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

This is the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, meeting 41, Thursday, December 10, 2009, pursuant to the orders of the day, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the study of best practices in settlement services.

We have four organizations with us today to provide us with assistance for preparing our report on best practices, and I want to thank you all for coming. I've spoken to you briefly as to how we try to run this meeting. Each of you will have up to 10 minutes. You don't have to take the full 10 minutes, but you have up to 10 minutes.

The first presenter will be Joe Chang, who is the general manager of the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada.

Good morning, Mr. Chang.

9:05 a.m.

Joe Chang General Manager, Chinese Professionals Association of Canada

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and good morning to everyone.

Thank you for your invitation to the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada to prepare for important discussions like this one.

Over the past 17 years we have been known as CPAC, an organization that represents over 25,000 foreign-born professionals who live, work, and own businesses across Canada.

Recently we welcomed both Mr. Calandra and Mr. Karygiannis to our annual education foundation scholarship gala, and just before the gala, we held our first Chinese professionals day here in Ottawa. Thank you again to those who attended those events.

How to help newcomers settle in Canada is a question that governments have been working to address for hundreds of years. Throughout our history, Canada has encouraged skilled immigrants to settle here, continue our growth, and continue building this great nation we call home. In my time today, I will make three observations and three suggestions that can make a real difference in the way people settle in Canada.

First are some observations.

First, helping professionals is critical in lifting the prosperity of entire communities in Canada. Some might not think that the most well-educated immigrants need settlement services, but they do.

Second, Canada lacks sufficient bridging programs necessary to help foreign-trained professionals practice in Canada.

Our third observation is that the Government of Canada should do more to partner with non-governmental or service-provider organizations like CPAC, the YMCA, CICS, and others to deliver bridging programs for professionals. Direct connection to the community and a lack of understanding of government by newcomers often prevents immigrants from taking advantage of all that government has to offer within its own agencies. Plus, accountable outside organizations can be more responsive to alter training to suit the situation as it changes on the street.

What's the cost of not helping professionals settle in Canada? The cost is that Canada becomes a less attractive place to land, particularly in relation to the United States and Australia, which are attracting more and more professionals from Asia. So we need to help professionals, build bridging programs, and enable NGOs to deliver programs.

Now let me provide some context and offer three suggestions.

CPAC is a very busy place these days. Our career development, mentoring support, entrepreneurship training, and networking forums are full, and we're planning to build a new career and education centre in Toronto to manage the demand for our services as things get busier.

A few days ago, our Prime Minister declared that the greatest opportunity for economic growth for Canada is in Asia. We support this statement, and the Prime Minister's recent trip to China, India, and South Korea will serve to increase the demand for settlement services in the coming months.

At the present time, the only government partner CPAC has bridging program agreements with is the Government of Ontario. Together, in concert with partners, we work with the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to help professionals close the gap between practising their profession and having a low-paying job in Canada.

Given the current demands for our services and the stories we hear from Asia, we see a great need for professional settlement bridging support in the following areas: mentoring support, soft skills training, and regulation and certification. Allow me to quickly illustrate the benefits of these three programs.

With regard to mentoring support, we have developed a very successful mentoring support program that has helped many newcomers find employment in Canada. We believe that matching newcomers with a mentor from their own culture truly helps them become settled more quickly. Mentors and mentees with similar cultural backgrounds are a success because they relate to each other—they build bonds of trust that are stronger than would otherwise be the case. This program is funded only by CPAC and other community-minded corporate partners who see these people as future employees.

Our second suggestion is a focus on soft skills training. Through our experience, we have learned that interpersonal and communication skills often make the difference for those competing for employment in Canada. We have seen first-hand that when professionals lack soft skills, entire families will suffer. CPAC encourages the Government of Canada to make soft skills training part of the curriculum in ESL and LINC programs.

Furthermore, the training must be industry-specific to be useful. For example, imagine starting a new business in Canada with 15 years of experience as an accountant in Beijing. You don't need certification to set up shop as an accountant in Canada, but for some clients, certain designations are required. To complicate the matter more, a new accountant has to choose from among four certification organizations that all say they are good. Plus, if you are from mainland China, chances are you've never met a lawyer, nor have you had to work with a bank in the way that we do here. As a result, to become established as a foreign-trained accountant in Canada takes years longer, if it happens at all.

We highly recommend more soft skills training broken down by professional categories, such as engineers, and divided further by subcategories, such as mechanical, electrical, civil.

Finally, let me turn to regulated professions: engineers, accountants, architects, health care professionals, and more. In Canada, highly skilled professionals are regulating themselves now more than ever. However, parallel regulations don't always exist in other countries. The difference becomes a barrier to settlement and success.

For example, I know a newcomer with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering who came to Canada from China in 2002. He practised his profession for more than 15 years and was a leader in his industry back home. In China, engineers undergo rigorous training, but do not need certification. Upon graduation from university, they are qualified as engineers. After struggling for two years, working at a low-paying job in Canada, he found CPAC and enrolled in our mentoring and bridging program. He soon became employed in his own field and was qualified by the Professional Engineers of Ontario. Now in his early forties, he is doing consultative work in the U.S. on behalf of a Canadian engineering firm.

The same story is repeated in almost every profession. While we applaud the Government of Canada's recent framework for recognizing foreign credentials, there are very few profession-specific programs in place to help professionals bridge the gap between the profession they knew and the profession they want to practise here.

To summarize, professionals who immigrate to Canada need help to become successful citizens here. The Government of Canada has an important role to play in providing non-governmental organizations with the resources to deliver the bridging programs that professionals need to succeed.

Improved mentoring support, soft skills training, and certification support can help make Canada once again a destination of choice for professionals the world over. By helping professionals, you will help entire families and create community role models we can all be proud of.

CPAC is willing and ready to share our experience and our mentoring and bridging model with any community agency.

Thank you once again for honouring us with the opportunity today. I will be happy to answer any question you may have.

9:10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you for your presentation, Mr. Chang. Those questions will follow.

We will now have Neethan Shan.

Members of the committee, there is an error in the orders of the day. The final item should read “Council of Agencies Serving South Asians”.

I apologize for that, Mr. Shan, and you have up to ten minutes.

Welcome to the committee.

9:10 a.m.

Neethan Shan Executive Director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians

Thank you. Thank you for having us here.

On behalf of the board of directors, staff, volunteers, and the participants of CASSA, the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present to the standing committee. Since it's 10 minutes, I had a choice either to go deep with few or go broader with many. I've chosen to go broader with many, and if you have questions, I will definitely be willing to answer.

CASSA is an umbrella organization. Our mission is to facilitate the social, economic, cultural, and political empowerment of South Asians. We serve as a resource for information, research, mobilization, coordination, and leadership. Our overall goal is to increase the participation of South Asians in defining Canada's social, economic, political, and cultural future, not just necessarily to fit into what already exists but also to be part of defining what is to come.

We're not a front-line organization. We don't see clients on a one-to-one basis, so the views that we are going to bring as an umbrella organization of over 100 agencies would be a more systemic view of what exists. There definitely is a lot of good work being done through CIC and other immigration-related funding in terms of job search, in terms of language training, settlement counselling, settlement workers in schools, etc., and we would like to acknowledge the great job that's being done by our member agencies. We would like to say that those need to continue and need to be supported.

The other factor I would like to mention is that ethno-specific services and ethno-specific agencies play a very critical role in settlement. Though they're seen as serving one particular community, those agencies are well aware of the cultural and linguistic needs of the community. I would also urge the continued support of those ethno-specific agencies. Agencies such as as South Asian Family Support Services, the South Asian Women's Centre, Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services, Punjabi Community Health Services, TESOC community services for the Tamil community, and so on, are some examples of members who are doing amazing work in Ontario and are continuing to support settlement in a meaningful manner.

I just want to caution that the term “South Asian” is sometimes misleading because it's seen as a homogenous group from outside, but it's pretty diverse, and it is a large chunk of the population of Canada, so I think we need to also look at the diversity within South Asian communities. For example, a Muslim from Pakistan and a Muslim from Sri Lanka would have totally different lived experiences and different languages and so on. Except the faith, everything else seems different. It's the same thing for a Tamil coming from India and a Tamil coming from Sri Lanka, in terms of lived experiences and so on.

We should also acknowledge that there are communities such as the Punjabi community, which has been in Canada right from the mid-1800s. Sometimes it's insulting to keep considering them as immigrants or as newcomers, but at the same time we need to acknowledge that Punjabi community members are coming as we speak as well.

Keeping that diversity in mind is important for us as an agency that works on an identity of solidarity of South Asians rather than an identity of homogeneity. Recent initiatives such as the local immigration partnership model are very appreciated. It brings multiple stakeholders together. It is an innovative approach, and we would like to commend the CIC and the provincial government for partnering to do that. The only thing I would mention about it is that it should be built around immigrant engagement, and we still feel that those local immigration partnerships are service-provider-led or municipality-led. The immigrant population is still either consulted at a distance or is tokenized at times, so it's important to keep that in mind.

The move towards one-stop models, where there is a particular location such as the welcome centres and so on, is a good way to help newcomers at the start to navigate the whole system at one place, but moving towards one-stop and not having a dispersed geographical location of services in the long run would produce problems, because the proximity of services becomes an important thing to have. A balance is needed between a one-stop model of services with having services mobile and dispersed across geographical regions that have very strong transportation challenges.

For the rest of my conversation I would like to focus on talking about smaller municipalities, forgetting about Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, which are urbanized cities. I'm talking about smaller communities, smaller cities that are facing a large number of immigrants. We're proposing something called smart settlement. What this is, is that we need to think beyond language instruction and job search. Those are two pillars of settlement. But let's talk about how much access do immigrants have to the public space. Let's talk about how much access do immigrants have in terms of arts, sports, and recreation, access to health, access to public decision-making, and a sense of belonging to the country. I think these factors are important if somebody is to feel settled.

For example, in the early parts of this decade, we talked about dispersion policies in immigration to make sure that the immigrant population was spread out. What we are suggesting is that when a father gets a job and goes to a particular municipality with the family, if the wife is not appreciated for her skills in that area and their children are not included in the school system in a meaningful way, they are not likely to stay. So retention of immigrants in smaller municipalities depends on the kind of access I was talking about.

What we are stressing is to have a smart settlement model that works on principles of access and equity. It would actually acknowledge that certain systems put up barriers for immigrants and that these barriers are based on power and privileges. That needs to be addressed if immigrants are to feel included. That has to come from proactive leadership from local leaders, local MPs, councillors, MPPs, educational institutions, and other institutions.

We try to do this at CASSA with the support of CIC. We are very thankful to the multicultural branch for this project. We are actually working in York Region to address these issues and are putting together a body based on the immigrant population as leaders and residents. The service sector is also working together to address inequities in access in York Region, which between 2001 and 2006 had a 22% increase in population. Within just one census, 40% of the public school board's students were visible minorities. I think it's important for us to look into those kinds of things.

We did a community-based engagement model and actually got the immigrant population involved. We are working in Peterborough and Waterloo this year with the same model to create more welcoming and inclusive communities for newcomers and immigrants. We are thankful for this opportunity.

In conclusion, I would say to continue investing in existing programs that are effective, as I mentioned earlier. Ask the organizations you fund to build a component of civic engagement and community building into their programs. Make immigrant engagement a theme in the programs, because without engagement, meaningful settlement will not take place.

Continue to support ethno-specific agencies.

Revisit eligibility criteria for clients. It's difficult for some people to be fully integrated into society within three years. Some of the criteria , such as the number of years, becoming a citizen, and so on, need to be revisited.

Fund broader projects beyond language and job searching. Encourage projects that bring intercultural collaboration to addressing issues. That has to be organic and come from the bottom up rather than forced from the top down.

The last piece I would say is to support systemic change through policy, programs, and funding, whether it be changing the way school boards operate, public health operates, or municipalities operate. An immigrant partner initiative that looks at systemic change would be much appreciated.

Thank you very much for having me here. As I said, I'm involved with so many things, I would be glad to answer questions later. Thank you.

9:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You gave us a lot to talk about, Mr. Shan. Thank you for your concise presentation.

The third presenter is the executive director of the Afghan Women's Counselling and Integration Community Support Organization, Ms. Adeena Niazi.

Welcome, Ms. Niazi. You have up to 10 minutes.

9:20 a.m.

Adeena Niazi Executive Director, Afghan Women's Counselling and Integration Community Support Organization

Good morning, everybody, and thank you for inviting me.

I'm going to do a brief introduction of our organization and programs, what works well and what the challenges are, and also cover some recommendations.

The Afghan Women's Organization is committed to promoting the successful settlement of newcomers and refugees in Canada by providing a wide variety of programs and services with a unique service delivery approach. We also provide assistance and protection to refugees through sponsorship to Canada. Annually, we serve over 5,000 clients of all ages and genders, with special focus on women and their families. The majority of our clients are from the Afghan community, but we are pleased to see we are getting an increasing number of clients from several other newcomer communities as well. The vast majority of our clients are refugees who have experienced trauma from war and violence. Most of the refugees who arrive in Canada have left loved ones behind. Moreover, women refugees generally have special needs distinct from those of men. Therefore, we provide professional innovative services to this vulnerable population, with the respect they deserve and the cultural and linguistic sensitivity they require.

Our services are managed by staff, most of whom can relate to the refugee experience and current circumstances of the clients. We also have a large number of committed volunteers, and we also have equally committed partners--the partners are from the settlement and other sectors as well. Over the past 19 years, our settlement staff and volunteers have identified clients' needs while serving and assisting newcomers upon their arrival in Canada. We acknowledge that settlement is a long process. Our clients want to realize their full potential in contributing and becoming full participants in the Canadian social, economic, and political society. For this to happen, Canada has a positive responsibility to be flexible to allow its new members the full opportunity to contribute to its resources.

The question is how effectively the services could be provided and how we could integrate them. In terms of assisting newcomers to adapt, it is important to prioritize the services. To get a better sense of how to prioritize the services, it is important to reflect on the settlement process of newcomers. It is generally accepted that immigrants go through three main stages of settlement in Canada: an immediate stage, an intermediate stage, and a long-term stage. In the immediate stage, newcomers require a range of services, such as completing essential forms, food, shelter, and information. In the intermediate stage, immigrants learn more about how to access and enrol in a number of Canadian associations and situations. The long-term stage involves diverse and much more differentiated elements that facilitate the long-term participation of individuals in Canadian society.

The Afghan Women's Organization, as an ethnic-based organization, has been involved throughout the three stages of the settlement process of many of its clients and has played a role in connecting new immigrants to mainstream Canadians. At this time, I'll be talking about some of the programs that work very well for our organization and for our clients.

Language instruction for newcomers to Canada, or LINC. The LINC program is unique in that it offers women-only classes. This allows many women to attend class and acquire necessary language skills that they may not have been able to get otherwise. Our women-only classes create a high level of comfort and an environment that is warm and friendly for refugee women. Research has found that offering women-only classes is the most effective way to help women learn a language. On-site child-minding facilities and transportation assistance allow many women to benefit from the program.

Our youth program is also a unique program because it focuses on youth at risk. We also provide aggression replacement training for youth, and we provide counselling referrals and other programs, which have been very effective.

The seniors' program is a new program that is very helpful for seniors with multiple problems. Family programs assist families who are experiencing integration conflict. The ISAP services are also provided in a traditional way.

On the challenges we are facing here with Afghan women's organizations, women's needs are distinct from those of other members of the community. There is a need for supportive early settlement integration of immigrant women with special strategies and programs.

Many women are in caregiving roles and also supporting their family members. Therefore it is important to acknowledge the immigrant woman's role in the family by recognizing the family unit in the funding and programs for settlement and integration.

Immigrant and refugee women are not a homogenous group with the same needs. It's important to recognize the diversity within immigrant women, such as culture, language, family patterns, historical experiences in trauma due to war, and age differences. Therefore the best practices in settlement and integration programs should encompass the diversity and provide a range of services to meet the identified needs of the women.

The best practices in settlement and integration should also provide a holistic approach to meeting immigrant women's needs, rather than the silo approach of meeting only selected needs.

I have some recommendations. First, most of our clients who require settlement services have their citizenship and are not entitled to the services. Settlement services are restricted to landed immigrants. They are important for the women, because when they come here they put their own needs on hold and take care of their families. By the time they are ready to receive the settlement services, they are already citizens and aren't entitled to them. So I recommend that criteria for settlement services be expanded to include citizens.

Second, most of the newcomers, especially women, have to wait three months for OHIP. That also creates problems for them, especially when they are pregnant and cannot see a doctor.

Third, newcomers also face a big gap when it comes to mental health services. Many agencies only provide services to clients who are diagnosed with severe mental health illnesses. Often some of the mental health issues for newcomers are not considered severe, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and migration stress. Settlement services are not funded to deal with such issues. I recommend that mental health should be taken into consideration in future funding for the settlement organization.

9:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have one minute, Ms. Niazi.

9:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Afghan Women's Counselling and Integration Community Support Organization

Adeena Niazi

I'm done, thank you.

9:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

I didn't say that to cut you off.

9:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Afghan Women's Counselling and Integration Community Support Organization

Adeena Niazi

I'll be happy to answer questions.

9:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Okay, and there will be questions, I'm sure.

The final presenter is Mr. Patrick Au, the executive director of Chinese Family Services of Ontario.

Welcome to the committee.

9:30 a.m.

Patrick Au Executive Director, Chinese Family Services of Ontario

Good morning, Mr. Chair and all committee members.

Thanks for the opportunity to come here to talk about the best practices of Chinese Family Services and our settlement services.

I would like to start with an introduction of Chinese Family Services of Ontario and the existing environment in Toronto and how our agencies deal with the existing environment in Toronto, with a focus on the Chinese community and the challenges we have. And then we have some recommendations as well.

Since 1988 there has been a group of community members who are very dedicated to their community. They found that quite a lot of newcomers and immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s came from Hong Kong, and they found that people needed counselling services, but there were no counselling services to help these newcomer immigrants. So at that time they started the Chinese Family Services as a project, and it started with only one person. Some of the volunteers and board members had to donate their money to support the agency because there was no funding for this agency.

Now, after 20 years, with lots of advocacy and community involvement, Chinese Family Services is an accredited family services agency to serve the Chinese community in Toronto. This is the only Chinese family services agency in Toronto to serve the Chinese community. Ten percent of the community speaks English, but 90% of them speak different languages, such as Cantonese, Mandarin, Shanghainese, Fujianese, and also Taiwanese. We have staff who can speak all these languages. They are all registered social workers.

This is the current situation that the Chinese Family Services of Ontario is handling. They are culturally sensitive to helping the 60% of clients we are serving who are newcomers, who have been here for just one or two years or a few years.

As you know, most immigrants move to either of two places, Toronto or Vancouver. In Toronto there are an estimated 500,000 Chinese who are newcomers. Even though it is said that the Chinese are very well off, in our agency we deal with Chinese who are marginalized, they are vulnerable, they lose their employment, they have poor families. They don't even have the money to use a phone to call for services. This is the situation we have.

Also, because most of the newcomers don't have their qualifications recognized, they get low-paying jobs. Even some of the professionals get low-paying jobs. Some of the immigrants are good and they create their own careers and they get better-paying jobs, but that is only a small population. For most of the Chinese newcomers we are serving, I'm talking about our experience, and they are very marginalized. Some of them have broken families or they are single parents. We also see child parenting issues, wife assault, violence; all these things are happening. We deal with all these things.

Because of these situations, we find that some individuals have emotional problems, whether they are employed or unemployed. But for newcomers the problems are even worse. Some of the newcomers, when they do find employment, if they have had family problems in their home country, because of adjustment issues when they come here their marital issues may get worse, or wife assault issues may get worse.

Also in our agency we are dealing with quite a lot of newcomers who are going through the second stages of immigrant processing. The research has found that the first stage of the immigration process is the honeymoon period. During the first months or first six months or even the first day they have a honeymoon period where there is curiosity and everything is fresh. But in the second stage they have difficult times. In the first stage there is an acceptance of being a Canadian.

In most of the cases we are dealing with, the immigrants are in the second stages. That means they are in difficult times. They have difficulty finding employment, housing, recognition--all these things. The psychological impact when you are in difficult times and are an immigrant means that some of them may blame Canada and glorify their home country. These are some of the things that come out. This is true, and it comes from research findings.

We are helping people to integrate into the community, to have a positive image of their communities, because of the crisis they are facing in the second stage of difficult times.

When they go through stage three, then it's “I am a Canadian. I have to vote. I have to do all these things....” These are all the things they have to deal with. This is a difficult time we have to work through with the newcomers.

In terms of best practices, we are the only counselling family service agency in Toronto. You can imagine...and you hear from the media and the public, occasionally there are some people who kill their wives or children and then themselves. Some professionals may jump from the 12th floor because they didn't get support or they got support from someone who says, in one example, “Don't worry. We'll take care of your daughter and wife.” Afterward, the man jumped, because he heard someone telling him not to worry, they'd take care of his wife and daughter, and he thinks “I can die.” This is a true story.

We find they need counselling services before the crisis comes into reality. Individual emotional counselling is not just one session and then everything is gone. It's not the way it works. That's why we have to deal with most of the family tragedies that happen in Toronto. Ninety per cent of the cases referred by the police for follow-up are homicide cases, wife-assault cases, and parenting issues or child abuse. It's when these things happen that they go through our agency. We have to deal with all these issues with very limited manpower. We have registered social workers. They are licensed and qualified, but we have to deal with quite a large caseload, which is difficult.

We have to provide evening services for people, because some of the people in low-paying jobs don't get paid when they come to our office during the daytime. We provide evening services for the poor people. They can come and receive counselling, and they don't have to take a day off, because if they take a day off they don't get paid.

We also provide them with a toll-free number. Whenever they have problems, they can call us, even from public telephones. Sometimes they just have mobile phones. They cannot even afford a home phone. They can call from anywhere, but with mobile phones you sometimes have to pay according to the hours used. We give them a toll-free number so they can call us whenever they have a crisis.

Also, we have to provide them with a friendly environment. When they come to our agency they feel like it's not just an office or an interview room. They feel that it's like a home. We provide them with a very supportive environment. Our facial expression and body language shows that we are the ones who can help them and who understand the newcomers' stress.

We also provide services for the lesbian and gay community. We have a friendly environment for them when they have a crisis. The can come and deal with their situations.

These are all the things we have done.

Even when people have their Canadian citizenship and are employed, they still have emotional problems. Newcomers, whether they are employed or unemployed, can have emotional problems. My first recommendation is that the government should pay more attention and be more focused on counselling services for newcomers.

Second, imagine if a family tragedy happens, or they have to get advice from hospital care, or from the judicial system, or if they have to go through the Don Jail, or they're dealing with child abuse, or need to get legal services; this is very expensive.

So if the government could think about it and pay more attention to counselling and other settlement services for newcomers, that would be good. If they reduce the number of family tragedies, that will reduce the need for more intrusive and expensive hospital care, legal services, the judicial system, lawyers, and all those things. You can save quite a lot of money if you just spend some time and give priority and pay attention to the counselling services for newcomers. For the time being, counselling services are not the priority.

Thank you.

9:40 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you, sir, for your presentation.

The first question goes to Mr. Bevilacqua.

9:40 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank the panellists for enlightening us with their points of view on this very important issue of best practices. I want to address a couple of concerns I have and perhaps hear your suggestions in relation to how we can improve the present circumstances we face.

What I find very interesting is that I hear often from immigrant groups and organizations that deal with immigrants and refugees that in fact there's a lack of funding to bring about the types of services and to promote services within the communities that would address some of the key concerns that immigrants have.

On the other hand, I see that, for example, funding for language training and settlement aid actually lapses in the neighbourhood of $90 million. I can understand some of the reasons why, and I'm not one who is going to cast doubts about the present government at all. I think that accountability of how money is spent and the manner in which it is disposed of--because we have to respect the Canadian taxpayers' dollar--are extremely important. So transparency and accountability are important. However, I find it very odd that on one hand we have organizations that want more money and on the other hand this lapsing is occurring. Something is amiss here. There's a problem of flow, and therefore even in the administration of your organization, best practices become extremely important. Perhaps some of your organizations missed out on language training funding and settlement funding because either you missed the deadline or you weren't aware of a deadline, or the government transparency and accountability review took longer that it should have.

The point I'm making is this. We can't have this type of disconnect, a disconnect that allows funding to lapse on one hand while on the other hand you're all struggling and looking for more funding. That doesn't make sense to me at all. It also doesn't make sense to me, not because of the organization or the government but because immigrants are overrepresented in the poverty rates, the unemployment rates, and the underemployment rates of our country. So we can't be missing these opportunities.

As you review our best practices, I would like for the organizations to come together, pool their resources, and understand how to better access funding for which there is such a requirement. So that's one issue.

The other issue is that we need to do a better job as organizations. I asked this question to a previous group of panellists. Should you, yourselves, be taking leadership to pool all the information and all the best practices together in an easily accessible website, for example, where you, Mr. Au, Ms. Niazi, Mr. Chang, and Mr. Shan, actually say, “Look, this is what works in my organization, and these are the things that we have done and they work well”?

I'm just wondering whether this type of dialogue is taking place and what we as parliamentarians can do to help you come to that point.

Not all of you at the same time, please.

9:45 a.m.

Executive Director, Chinese Family Services of Ontario

Patrick Au

This is a very good suggestion. Actually, one agency cannot do all things, so collaboration and networking is the way, because each organization has its own strength and its own capacity and resources. One agency cannot do the whole thing, so the best practice is just to liaise and network with the other agencies. Sometimes when we cannot do things, we just refer to other agencies. They have a better management or a program for that. This is a very good thing that we are trying to do. So networking, collaboration, and partnership are very important.

9:45 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

As committee members, we'd love to go to a website and read about all your best practices, and right now we don't have that opportunity. If there's anything we can do.... I'm sure we'll be recommending in our report that some kind of portal be created so that you can all access.... As parliamentarians, we need to know what's going on, and that would be very helpful.

9:45 a.m.

Executive Director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians

Neethan Shan

Through CASSA we are, today actually, launching a website called welcomingcommunitiesontario.ca. It's to complement Settlement.Org. OCASI, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, has a website called Settlement.Org that profiles a lot of things that happen in the settlement sector.

Our website is going to be somewhat complementary, looking at access-related, equity-related issues as these relate to immigrants and newcomers, through the welcomingcommunitiesontario.ca website. It profiles the work we do in various municipalities as CASSA and it also brings it together.

The other thing is that in 2005 we did the “Smart Settlement” document. At that time, many CIC staff really liked what was being suggested. I don't have a French version of it. If the ministry would fund its translation, it would be appreciated, in order to get this out as much as possible, for an understanding of settlement beyond the stuff I was talking about earlier.

As umbrella organizations, OCASI and CASSA work together. For example, we are doing a lot of work around LGBTQ communities in newcomer communities, which are often at an intersection of double barriers. These things are being shared much more broadly.

One of my recommendations is to start investing in some of the collaborative networking sessions and networking kinds of things. It could be a one-time, one-off kind of small funding that would help facilitate these things. We might put millions of dollars into settlement, but even $20,000 into a convening session would probably enhance the quality.

9:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We have 30 seconds.

Ms. Niazi or Mr. Chang?

9:50 a.m.

General Manager, Chinese Professionals Association of Canada

Joe Chang

Our perspective regarding mentoring support is to share the mentoring resources that we have built in our own organization. We're sharing with other agencies. Because of the network we have and the connections we have with them, we know they have a need, and we have some capacity, so we share our resources with them.

But this is only at a grassroots level; we have not done anything in a very broadcast manner. We share based on what we know, based on the network we have built.

9:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you, sir.

Monsieur St-Cyr.

9:50 a.m.

Executive Director, Afghan Women's Counselling and Integration Community Support Organization

Adeena Niazi

Actually, we are—

9:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Maybe someone else will pick it up. Monsieur St-Cyr has the floor.

9:50 a.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you all for being here.

I am very concerned by the issue of labour market integration. In fact, the main criterion for settlement and integration is finding a job. After that, it is much easier to participate in society.

After participating in a variety of consultations, the Bloc Québécois realized that many new Quebeckers were having trouble getting a job interview and felt they were being discriminated against because of their foreign-sounding name. A few years ago, in Quebec, a rather shocking report appeared in a Montreal newspaper, Le Journal de Montréal, to be specific. A reporter had sent two copies of the same résumé to a certain number of companies. One had the name Martin Tremblay on it, and the other, Ahmed Abdul or some other foreign-sounding name. The résumé itself was the same. Martin Tremblay received some 20 offers for a job interview, and the foreign fellow received only 2 or 3.

During our consultations, it was suggested that we adopt a method used in Europe, by large French corporations, among others, whereby résumés are submitted anonymously when it comes to offering candidates a job interview. So, after receiving résumés and pre-screening candidates, the human resources departments in these large corporations remove the name, gender, age and any information that would reveal a person's origin, before sending applications on to a recruitment officer. The recruiter then decides who will be asked to attend an interview, solely on the basis of the candidate's skills and work experience.

We are considering adopting that practice in Canada. Do you think this approach has merit in terms of helping people at least get a first job interview, showcasing their skills and improving their chances of finding employment, as past experiences have shown?

9:50 a.m.

General Manager, Chinese Professionals Association of Canada

Joe Chang

That definitely is a very interesting initiative. But having an interview is just one aspect of it . When you get the person into the room and talk with him, there are so many things you need to find out. You can describe a person, with no name and gender and so on. There is still an element there that we need to sit down and talk to him about, which means that you probably end up a little low on the front end in doing the descriptive résumé and leave the headhunter or maybe the agency with more work to do to present it to the company. With the company you eventually have to go through the real interview. By that time, you will see that there are a lot of different elements involved. There is the language element, there are attitude problems, cultural background--all these things will surface. You will probably slow down the employment services as well. So there are pros and cons in this kind of approach.

9:55 a.m.

Executive Director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians

Neethan Shan

I think it's a great idea, except that in the federal government we have employment equity to a certain extent. Unless the provincial governments mandate some sort of reporting back from employers as to what steps they have taken to eliminate these barriers and what benchmarks are set up for them to reach a diverse workforce pool, these issues won't disappear, because once you see the person, the next level of stereotyping and perception starts to kick in.

So it's a great idea to begin with, but the federal government should work together with the provincial governments to bring about employment equity—not a quota system, but a proactive reporting back to the government on what steps employers are taking to make sure they are eliminating these barriers, whether of stereotyping or credential recognition or whatever may be the case.