Evidence of meeting #42 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was need.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Debbie Douglas  Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Audrey Andrews  Manager, Diversity and Immigration Program, Regional Municipaliity of Durham
Tracey Vaughan-Barrett  Director, Recreation and Culture, Town of Ajax
Sherman Chan  Executive Committee Member, Canadian Council for Refugees
John Shields  Professor, Ryerson University, Department of Politics and Public Administration, As an Individual

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We'll call the meeting to order. It's Thursday March 26, and this is the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. We are studying promoting economic prosperity through settlement services.

I'd like all the witnesses from both panels to be present. We have a bit of a problem. We've been advised that there may be a vote, in which case our committee would have to rise. The bells will start at 10 o'clock, which means we will lose an hour if all this takes place. The committee has agreed that we will hear from all witnesses, and there should be five of you, I think. Yes, there are five. If we have time after that, we will ask questions.

On behalf of the committee, I'd like to welcome you and thank you for coming to put forward your perspective and help us with preparing a report. I'll just call the witnesses in order.

We have Debbie Douglas, who is the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

Ms. Douglas, thank you for coming. You have up to eight minutes to make a presentation.

8:55 a.m.

Debbie Douglas Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's good to be back here to talk about settlement services with you.

As you know, we are the provincial council here in Ontario for agencies working with immigrants and refugees. Our member agencies provide a range of services, including settlement, language training, employment, skills training, health and mental health, legal, housing, violence prevention, family counselling, and specialized services for women, youth, seniors, lesbian, gay, trans, and intersex folk, as well as people with disabilities. With respect to economic integration, they support clients with credentials recognition, occupational language training, bridging, apprenticeship, job search, job development and employer engagement, mentoring, internship, entrepreneurship, professional networking, and ongoing support for job retention and career advancement.

Less than half of our member agencies receive funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The majority of services related to economic integration are funded by the provincial government and other sources of funding, and supported by hundreds of volunteers.

OCASI's 2012 study “Making Ontario Home”, based on a survey of over 2,500 newcomers to Ontario, found that employment is the number one challenge for immigrants. Much has been written about the growth of precarious jobs in Canada and the impact on Canadian workers, especially young workers. The 2013 study “It's More Than Poverty” showed that immigrants are overrepresented in precarious jobs, which also means they are under-represented in those that allow access to EI programs and other income security programs. It found that barely 25% of immigrants are employed in secure jobs upon arrival, and that for many it can take more than 10 years to find permanent, full-time employment, compared to non-immigrants. The report also noted that temporary immigration tended to place workers in precarious employment.

The report “The Colour Coded Labour Market By The Numbers” found that the 2008 recession widened the gap between the labour market experience of both established and recent immigrants and that of the Canadian born, and that racialized immigrants, or immigrants of colour, were the most affected. This study is based on the 2011 voluntary national household survey and notes that the non-response bias by some groups has affected data quality. Without the mandatory long form census, we will continue to risk leaving out certain vulnerable populations when we look at issues like the economic integration of immigrants.

These findings tell us that economic integration requires many interventions, including regulatory bodies to improve accreditation practices; employers to improve hiring and retention practices; government to introduce incentives for employers through our tax system, with conditions such as retention for a specific amount of time; and immigrant and refugee serving agencies to engage employers and to provide the necessary employment support, just as immigrants are expected to improve their skills where and when necessary.

In preparing for this presentation, I canvassed some of our OCASI member agencies for their insights on supporting economic integration through settlement services, and these are a few of the things they had to say.

They said that CIC-funded settlement services are an important anchor for settlement and integration, and work well to allow immigrants and refugees to access what they need. The pre-arrival services are a useful component for most immigrants arriving through express entry. However, settlement needs become concrete after arrival and while settling in the new community, and can shift depending on the circumstances that arise from the settlement process. They also said that employment is a critical aspect of settlement. However, having a job, even a good job, doesn't mean that all settlement needs have been met. Other supports are needed to maintain employment, including job integration, health and mental health, and the settlement needs of the accompanying family members. Those who arrive in Canada with a job offer will also face these challenges and will need support.

Family reunification is an important element that contributes to better economic integration, and family separation can negatively affect job search and retention. Without family, we are creating a lonely world, and that will affect integration. The message I want to leave here is that economic success is not possible without social integration. Of course, when we look at immigrants' economic integration, we must pay attention to issues of discrimination, prejudice, intolerance, and racism in the labour market and in the community, and that affects labour market entry and job retention.

I have a few recommendations for you, but before I go there, I want to stress that francophone immigrants face major challenges in trying to get a job in primarily anglo markets like our provinces outside of Quebec. A recent joint study by OCASI and FrancoQueer, which is a provincial group concerned with the social, legal, and economic well-being of francophone LGBTI communities, including immigrants and refugees, highlights the complex challenges of being a new immigrant, racialized, and from a sexual minority, with the primary challenge being finding employment and housing.

The introduction of express entry and speculation about the potential demographic shift has dominated every sector of discussion, as you can imagine, but some things will remain the same.

The new cohort of immigrants and their families will continue to need some degree of support to settle and integrate into their new life. Immigrant-serving organizations are best positioned to serve those needs, given their years of service experience, credibility in the community, and strong and enduring relationships with the multiplicity of stakeholders including governments, employers, educational institutions, public institutions, and communities.

Our recommendations include the following:

CIC-funded settlement services are important and needed. Ideally they should be delivered seamlessly together with employment services, and the settlement plan should include employment, together with case management and follow-up.

Settlement services should be delivered seamlessly from pre-arrival to post-arrival support. Some aspects of settlement will be realized only after arrival, and immigrants will need settlement support in Canada once they are here.

Mentorship and work experience such as internships should be integrated in all employment initiatives. TRIEC, which is one of our member organizations here in Ontario, is reporting a 90% success rate because of mentorship programs. The practice firms model is a good one for newcomers, resulting in more than 80% becoming employed in the field. I can talk during the questions and answers about practice firms.

Again, we want to stress the need for francophone services outside of Quebec. These services should be brought up to par with the services that already exist in anglophone and allophone communities. We believe this training should include English language training outside of Quebec as well as supports for employment including employment mentorship and bridge training.

As in any other field, there is a need for ongoing professional development and training for settlement workers, both English and French speaking.

9 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have less than a minute, Ms. Douglas.

9 a.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Debbie Douglas

Thank you.

This is particularly urgent given the many changes to immigration policies and programs. E-learning is growing in popularity, and is a good way to maximize resources, but some learning must be done face to face and in the company of peers. We believe Citizenship and Immigration Canada has an obligation to support this kind of lifelong learning and ongoing supports for those working on the front lines.

We cannot neglect the importance of family reunification, and as I said, economic and social integration are interconnected, and no woman or man is an island.

Thank you.

9 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you for your usual excellent presentation. We appreciate that.

We have Audrey Andrews who is the manager of the diversity and immigration program, from the Regional Municipality of Durham.

I welcome you to the committee as well. You have up to eight minutes.

9 a.m.

Audrey Andrews Manager, Diversity and Immigration Program, Regional Municipaliity of Durham

Honourable Chair and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to share the perspective of the Regional Municipality of Durham on how to promote the economic prosperity of immigrants through settlement services. To provide some context, I offer the following information.

Durham region is located just east of the city of Toronto, has a population of approximately 608,000, and is comprised of one upper-tier municipality and eight lower-tier municipalities. Major employers include health, education, and energy sectors. The majority of residents work in small to medium enterprises. Many residents commute to the city of Toronto to work. Durham region is a designated infill centre in Ontario's places to grow, and anticipates a population of one million by 2031. Much of that growth is expected to come from immigration. Roughly 21% of the population are immigrants and just over 7% of the population are recent immigrants.

The Regional Municipality of Durham holds the LIP, local immigration partnership contract and has since 2009. I manage a small team that has worked exclusively on the LIP for the last six years. This team works to engage the broader community, business, educators, not-for-profits, local governments, and civil society to achieve the objectives of the LIP. The primary objectives of the LIP, as I'm sure most of you know, are to act as facilitators that create cultures of inclusion, to promote the economic and social settlement and integration of newcomers in a coordinated, efficient fashion, and to ensure that local intelligence informs local planning.

The Durham LIP works in partnership with local or lower-tier municipalities to align efforts for the best outcomes for newcomers across jurisdictional lines. Tracey Vaughan-Barrett from the Town of Ajax, one of the eight municipalities within Durham region, is on this panel as well. Hearing from both of us, we had hoped would give the committee a broad understanding of the Durham perspective.

I offer the following suggestions and observations based on my experience managing the LIP, as a former member of the Conference Board of Canada's round table on immigration, and as a member of a number of cross-sectoral committees working in and around the greater Toronto area.

I've been invited to speak to the committee about improving economic prosperity through settlement services.

The first step is defining what a settlement service is. In my opinion, we are all in the business of settlement. Traditional settlement services are government-funded. Non-traditional settlement services are provided by everyone, or at least could be. Libraries have been doing settlement work for years, not because they're funded to do so, but because their mandate is to meet the needs of all residents.

It is my experience that the economic integration and subsequent success of immigrants is most likely to happen when traditional CIC-funded settlement services and non-CIC-funded services, in other words, the broader community, work in tandem to create an environment that lends itself to immigrant success. LIPs are contractually prohibited from providing direct service, settlement or otherwise. Those in the broader community referenced in my opening statement, through which the bulk of the work of the LIP is done, are not considered traditional settlement providers. The distinction is important and worth repeating. In Durham region, the model of LIP we adopted purposely engaged the broader community to examine its structures, policies, programs and procedures to determine if they were inclusive of all populations. This type of reflective work takes years to position, accomplish, and embed. It is a work in progress.

Traditional settlement services prepare newcomers for communities. LIPs prepare communities, institutions and organizations for newcomers. When they work together, real systemic change has an opportunity to occur. LIPs, particularly LIPs positioned within another order of government, can act as agents of change. Education and information are accelerants of change. LIPs are positioned, if resourced and empowered to do so, to act as conduits to business, economic development departments, boards of trade, chambers of commerce, human resource councils, and organizations to inform and educate these bodies about the economic imperative of immigration.

If we can anticipate an increase in job-ready newcomers via express entry, the role of traditional settlements services shifts to meet a different set of needs, as does the role of the employer and the community that newcomers settle in. While the net effects of express entry are yet to be seen, it is fair to anticipate that this system will affect both traditional and non-traditional settlement services. If all parties understand the imperative of retention and not simply attraction, then the rules each play by can be more easily defined.

Looking ahead, I see traditional settlement services changing to meet the needs of a new demographic of newcomers and tailoring programs and services for the job ready, for dependent family members, and for refugees. LIPs will work with the broader community through education and knowledge brokering to inform practices around barrier-free workplaces, barrier-free institutions, and inclusive management practices. Communities like Ajax, which you will hear from in a moment, are adapting policies, expanding recreation programs, and reviewing board recruitment policies to ensure that they are barrier-free, meet the needs of all residents and create pathways to becoming part of the Canadian family.

This is happening in Durham already. As an example, the Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade, with the help of the Durham LIP, recently struck a diversity committee whose purpose is to develop a diversity engagement plan. While in its early stages, this committee is a first step towards business representatives acknowledging that it is in their best interest to understand the effects of immigration, express entry, changing demographics, and the impact on business practices, employers, employees, and customers. They are actively seeking out education and information, and the Durham LIP is making sure they have it.

The best hope for the rapid economic success of newcomers is to engage the full community in creating welcoming communities. The key players are engaged. We all have a role to play.

In summary, I would urge the committee to consider the following:

Fund traditional settlement services to do what they do best. Prepare newcomers for communities.

Empower and resource LIPs to continue the work that they have begun. Prepare communities for newcomers and lay the groundwork for institutional change.

Acknowledge and support the role of non-traditional settlement service providers, the organizations that operationalize the welcoming communities that attract and retain newcomers.

Thank you.

9:10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you, Ms. Andrews. Your presentation will be very helpful.

We have Tracey Vaughan-Barrett, who is the director of recreation and culture from the Town of Ajax.


9:10 a.m.

Tracey Vaughan-Barrett Director, Recreation and Culture, Town of Ajax

Honourable Chair, and members of the committee, I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about our perspective at the Town of Ajax on how to promote the economic prosperity of immigrants through settlement services.

Prior to joining municipal government, I worked in the NGO sector for many years. During that time I had the honour of being an executive director of a settlement agency and had the opportunity to act as a convening partner on the development of the local immigration partnership council that Audrey spoke about. I functioned as a contributing partner to the development of the immigration portal and had the opportunity to be the lead agency that developed and built the Ajax welcome centre for immigrants.

What is important to note about Durham and the Ajax context is that these three projects work closely together, each informing the other to create broad-based opportunities to collectively work on the objectives that Audrey spoke about.

Today we're discussing a topic of utmost importance. We all know the statistics regarding our dependence on immigration from a population and labour force perspective. We are all too aware of the stories of lost productivity when underutilizing the skills of internationally trained professionals. It's a waste of Canada's human capital and it's a loss in time and money invested in the immigration process, working against our mandate to build a better and stronger Canada.

Municipalities are recognizing the importance of playing a stronger role in building welcoming communities. More immigrants are choosing to settle outside of Toronto, primarily in second- and third-tier cities. Ajax is one of the top three fastest growing communities in Ontario, leading the Durham region in newcomer migration at over 34%. The challenges faced by fast growing second- and third-tier cities are many and can include working to overcome the attitudes low population diversity has fostered over time, a lack of awareness or sensitivity in some public institutions, and limited programs and service options available for our residents.

Audrey spoke about the need for traditional and non-traditional settlement partners to work more effectively together for real systemic change. There is a need for closer engagement between LIPs, community services and public institutions, and an understanding of collective leadership and joint capacity development. All parties need to determine how we make this happen consistently and what the opportunities are for innovative solutions to improve settlement outcomes and economic integration.

Together we need to employ a systems lens to recognize the roles that various stakeholders play and their influence on successful settlement and integration outcomes. As government, and in our case local government, we have something of value to significantly influence other stakeholders on the topic of immigration. As Audrey mentioned, education and information are accelerants for change. This includes varying access to information, to resources, and to the influential relationships required to make community level change. This is a significant value that municipalities and LIPs have an opportunity to contribute.

Settlement agencies are valuable partners for communities. They provide newcomers with the tools and information that are required to successfully navigate our local networks. Their hands-on expertise signals us as municipalities about the emerging community level trends and the opportunities and challenges that we will be facing in our community. To ensure success, all levels of government need to collectively legitimize this value and ensure that settlement agencies are positioned for long-term planning.

Settlement and integration are subject to many variables, sometimes taking longer to achieve all aspects of successful integration. Settlement agencies need space, scope for scalability, and to be equipped to meet the changing needs of newcomers.

There have been some great results in the area of bridging, internships, and employment support programs. Funders need to better monitor and track this success and further invest in these areas of success. They are critical to ensuring economic outcomes for immigrants. This type of targeted work requires sustainable resourcing to ensure that settlement partners can come to planning tables as equal partners and have the capacity to be innovative and to be resilient.

CIC and traditional and non-traditional partners need to better understand and be better equipped to speak to the return on investment for the settlement and integration program. The challenges are well documented. Documents that Debbie mentioned, like “Making Ontario Home” from OCASI, cite a lack of awareness of settlement services, long waiting times to access settlement services in some jurisdictions, a lack of settlement services outside of major centres, and insufficient numbers or diversity of employment programs, in particular bridging programs.

Communities need to have strong data to guide decisions. Information is critical. This is a point I will return to shortly.

CIC has changed the composition of immigrants to be more economic; however, to ensure true economic integration, employer attitudes need to shift regarding the hiring of immigrants. Taking the best and brightest from around the world when they are unable to meet their potential is counterproductive to the policy goal. This work, attitudinal shift, as Audrey mentioned, takes a great deal of sustained effort over time by multiple stakeholders, often those not identified as traditional settlement providers. Again, this is where LIPs and municipalities can play a facilitation role.

It’s important to recognize that sustained community-level change is not quick and easy. The system that newcomers will find themselves navigating is a complex one, made up of several stakeholders with different perspectives, levels of readiness, and goal objectives. Over time this system has evolved to include more stakeholders resulting in greater complexity. The more complex a system becomes, the harder it is to predict the effect of policy and program changes.

In every system, all stakeholders have specific goals that serve their interest. These goals are influenced by many factors, and the key is finding our points of intersection. This requires an advanced understanding of localized systems. This is critical knowledge for engaging stakeholders and guiding policy and program decisions. This knowledge lies in community and with our traditional and our non-traditional settlement partners.

There has been much discussion on the need for a national vision for our immigration program and a navigation system for all of us to use to guide us in the work of nation building. A shared vision is key to mobilizing the work of our traditional and non-traditional partners to ensure economic integration for immigrants and refugees is achieved. Once this vision is clear, stakeholder goals will align with that vision, and designing and implementing immigration policy will become easier and more stakeholders will benefit.

9:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have less than a minute, Ms. Vaughan-Barrett.

9:15 a.m.

Director, Recreation and Culture, Town of Ajax

Tracey Vaughan-Barrett


In terms of my recommendations to the committee, I have four pieces that I'd like to share with you.

Our council and staff believe that Ajax is a community where smart people, strong economies, and innovative ideas intersect.

In communities like Ajax and Durham region, where our communities change at a rapid pace, we must ensure that settlement services are equipped to meet the changing needs of newcomers and that programs and services have the opportunity to be innovative and locally responsive.

We need to continue to resource LIPs to facilitate sustainable community-level change and work in partnership to build more collaborative relationships among all levels of government toward a common goal of economic prosperity for newcomers and social integration.

We need to identify opportunities for research and data collection to inform local plans and support stakeholders to make evidenced-based policy and program decisions.

9:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you very much.

Sherman Chan is with the Canadian Council for Refugees, a national non-profit umbrella organization, with member organizations involved in the settlement, sponsorship, and protection of refugees and immigrants. Several years ago the organization published “Refugee Integration: Key concerns and areas for further research”, a report on particular settlement and integration experiences of refugees in Canada, which highlighted some barriers to economic integration.

Mr. Chan, welcome to the committee. If possible, would you send a copy of that report to the chair and we'll have it translated. I believe members of the committee would be interested in seeing that report.

9:15 a.m.

Sherman Chan Executive Committee Member, Canadian Council for Refugees


9:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Welcome, sir. You have up to eight minutes.

9:20 a.m.

Executive Committee Member, Canadian Council for Refugees

Sherman Chan

Thank you, Chair and honourable members, for inviting me here.

I'm on the CCR executive committee and I'm also a former co-chair of the immigration and settlement working group. In my day job I work at MOSAIC in Vancouver as the director of family and settlement services, and I've been working in settlement for the past 23 years.

There are four overarching points I'd like to highlight based on consultation with 170 CCR member agencies.

First of all, we believe economic integration is only one aspect of integration. It is important to recognize and value all forms of contribution and participation by newcomers in Canadian society. The settlement sector offers services that are crucial not only to the economic integration and prosperity of newcomers, but also to their social and civil integration and to the integration of newcomer youth. Settlement services are a long-term investment. We also believe that with settlement services we can maximize the prosperity and long-term potential commitment for new immigrants to society.

The second point is that integration is a two-way street. Communities need to welcome newcomers as much as newcomers need to adapt to Canada. Many barriers to newcomers remain to meeting their potential economically, due to discrimination in the labour market, lack of recognition of experience and credentials acquired overseas. This is why settlement service providers need to invest in outreach to the host community, not just direct services to newcomers. There are examples of successful partnership and bridging program models. For example, the local immigration partnerships in B.C. was mentioned. It used to be called welcoming communities. Also with respect to bridging programs, we have seen today there are many innovative projects with CIC on refugee and employer networking. Those are the examples.

The third point we see that is important to mention is that settlement services facilitate the economic integration and prosperity of newcomers. It is important to understand that newcomers, even the most vulnerable who come as refugees or migrant workers, contribute to the economic prosperity of Canada by paying taxes and contributing as workers and entrepreneurs. Recent media coverage indicated that refugees are contributing more than the investors group, and also that after 15 years the incomes of refugee immigrants rose to $30,000. Two-thirds of refugees report an income by their fifth year on a par with the Canadian average.

The last overarching point I'd like to mention is the importance of mental health and psychosocial support services, especially refugees and other newcomers in vulnerable situations, such as abused spouses and newcomer youth, since without addressing mental health issues, all aspects of integration and prosperity are slowed.

I'd like to mention five specific points about the contribution of settlement services to economic prosperity.

First, Canada has a broad network of specialized settlement organizations that are both close to the local communities they serve and highly skilled in identifying and responding to the particular needs of newcomers. These assets have been acquired over decades and are valued internationally. Many other countries are keen to learn from the Canadian experience. The CCR believes it is important to build on these existing assets.

Second, settlement services provide social capital for immigrants upon arrival. In many places networks are just as important as qualifications for finding employment. Service providers serve as references, advocate for the newcomer, and engage with employers to open the doors to employment and economic opportunities.

Third, employment is a crucial aspect of settlement. However, having a job does not mean all settlement needs have been met. It is important to have services available to address the full range of personal and family issues related to integration; otherwise, newcomers will not be able to maintain employment and progress economically.

Fourth, settlement service providers act as a liaison between the realities of newcomer integration and the newcomer integration policy and programming departments in the government. The settlement sector is an independent intermediary that is invested in newcomer prosperity and that keeps the decision-makers connected to the reality of newcomer experience.

Fifth, it is short-sighted from CCR's perspective to have narrow eligibility criteria for access to settlement services, thereby excluding, for example, temporary foreign workers, citizens, and refugee claimants. Such restrictions work against the economic prosperity of many newcomers who will become permanent residents.

Sixth, family reunification is key to integration, including economic success. Long delays and barriers to processing of spouses and children make families more fragile and can have long-term impacts. Reducing the maximum age of dependants to 19 years and maintaining barriers to sponsoring parents and grandparents leave families divided. These changes are especially important for the economic integration and prosperity of newcomer women, since family members may take on child care tasks that would otherwise require women to stay at home and not enter the labour force.

9:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have less than a minute, sir.

9:25 a.m.

Executive Committee Member, Canadian Council for Refugees

Sherman Chan

Thank you.

Seventh, settlement services are most effective when there are not excessive administrative requirements. We refer to the 2007 Blue Ribbon report recommending a change in the funding formula for the administration of funding contracts. We would recommend that CIC take another look at that.

My last point is that newcomers often face many obstacles within government programs, which limit their capacity to progress economically. These include delays in processing immigration paperwork, and challenges with getting errors in immigration documents corrected. Many of the settlement workers spend a lot of time helping them with those things. Based on our sector's experience on the ground, we think that CIC could assist by taking action on issues identified as barriers to promoting economic prosperity by the settlement sector.

Thank you.

9:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you, sir.

Our final witness this morning is John Shields, who is a professor at Ryerson University. His research interests include immigrant economic integration, in particular, the variables that affect labour market outcomes. He recently co-authored a report on settlement and integration.

Professor, I believe committee members have that report.

He prepared this for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and this report summarizes existing research and highlights some emerging issues as well.

Welcome to the committee, sir.

9:25 a.m.

Professor John Shields Professor, Ryerson University, Department of Politics and Public Administration, As an Individual

I'd like to thank the standing committee for the invitation to appear today to address the topic of promoting economic integration through settlement services. It's an area of great interest to Canadians.

My brief opening remarks are largely derived from this recent research synthesis report on settlement and integration, of which I'm a co-author, that was commissioned through the immigration research centre CERIS, based in Toronto, and as was noted by the chair, funded by CIC. The report, I should note, is available in both English and French.

There has been an ongoing concern related to the economic performance of immigrant newcomers in Canada, which has seen a decline over the last number of decades compared to past immigrant cohorts. The major reason we've seen a fall in the economic outcomes for newcomers is a result of a significantly altered labour market associated with the rise of more precarious employment forms, which has meant less secure jobs and generally lower compensation in terms of wages, salaries, and benefits than in the past. This is occurring at the same time that the actual human capital assets of immigrants arriving in Canada have remained very high, in fact, have been superior to past decades.

The economic difficulties faced by many newcomers pose the challenge regarding how settlement services can better address economic integration today. Before I turn to these challenges more directly, there are a few points that are important to make note of and to keep in mind.

First, Canada has a long and very successful history of newcomer integration. Canadian immigration and settlement policies have been central to the Canadian settlement story, and they have come to be widely considered examples of best practices to be learned from and copied by other nations. The Canadian model of settlement services is one where government has provided financial support for settlement programming that is delivered largely by non-profit-based agencies located in communities where immigrants reside. The fact that this remains something that's viewed internationally very positively is reinforced. Next week, actually, a delegation from Singapore will be visiting Ryerson University, and we'll be talking about integration and settlement policy. This continues to be something that is looked at very favourably internationally.

Second, the very existence of such public investments in newcomers is not just materially important, but it sends an important symbolic message to the immigrant population and to society more generally, namely, that newcomers are welcome. The warmth of Canada's welcome to newcomers has been central to the immigration process, and settlement support has been key to this. Without good social integration, effective economic integration is not going to be achieved.

Third, immigration remains key to Canadian economic growth and to a resilient, dynamic, and expanding labour market. This is especially important in a rapidly greying labour market that needs to tap into the global talent pool.

Fourth, it's important to maintain a long-term view of settlement and integration. Integration is a lifelong process. It can't simply be judged in five-year or ten-year blocks. In fact, it stretches into the second and third generations.

One of the telling successes of the Canadian integration experience is the fact that children of immigrants, second generations, do so well in school, actually outperforming by a considerable degree Canadian-born children, in terms of university attendance and achievements at university and colleges. This is a very powerful indicator of successful integration, so it tells us we shouldn't simply look at the parents, but we also have to consider the children. We also need a sort of family lens and a generational lens, a longer view of immigration and integration.

One of the most valuable things that non-profit settlement services provides is connection. They link immigrants to other people, to other members of Canadian society, and increasingly importantly, to employers. In short, they build immigrant social capital. Establishing these people networks is absolutely crucial to success in the modern labour market. This can be very clearly shown in immigrant employment programs that deal with such things as job mentoring and skills bridging.

While settlement services have been an important ingredient to Canada’s success and economic integration, a review of the literature indicates that changing labour markets and immigration patterns do call for adjustments.

This includes, for example, the need for, first of all, enhanced labour market information, particularly pre-arrival and early information and support services. Information and supports offered to prospective newcomers in their home country can help not only orient and prepare them for Canadian culture and way of life but also connect them with services and supports upon arrival. For immigrants, obtaining information and seeking supports as early as possible upon arrival in Canada are critical components of success today.

Second is the need to adjust investments in soft skills, cultural understandings of the workings of the Canadian labour market, so soft skills training as well as mentoring. Studies have shown that mentoring programs have significantly improved participants’ economic standing within a year following the mentoring experience.

Third would be that we need continued work around foreign credential recognition. This has been a rather hard nut to crack. Also bridge training has proven quite effective as well as work around work-specific language training.

Fourth, forging business partnerships with settlement service providers has become more important in improving labour market outcomes for immigrants. This is increasingly significant as businesses have become more important actors in the immigrant selection process.

Additionally, we need to take note of a growing literature examining immigrants’ experiences in the informal labour market, particularly in self-employment and entrepreneurship. It points to the exclusion of many newcomers from the formal labour market as the reason that immigrants turn to the informal economy.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have less than a minute, Professor Shields.

9:35 a.m.

Prof. John Shields

The literature also identifies the diverse backgrounds of immigrant entrepreneurs and those who are self-employed. Self-employment among ethno-cultural communities is also positively associated with organizational density as measured by non-profit organizations serving them.

The literature highlights unique barriers to immigrants starting businesses or being self-employed, outlining the challenges, experiences, and potential services and supports to help those immigrants successfully pursue self-employment or entrepreneurial opportunities in Canada. Self-employment and entrepreneurship in the current labour market have become important routes to employment to prevent poverty and foster economic success. However, in general, newcomers lack the strong networks and Canadian legal and financial knowledge to be successful in their endeavours. Consequently, additional supports that immigrant entrepreneurs and those who will be successfully self-employed require include legal supports, financial and loan processing supports, real world business knowledge, mentorship, and networking opportunities with co-ethnics and immigrant entrepreneurs. Non-profits are well positioned to provide this.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you very much to all of you for your presentations.

We'll now have a dialogue with members of the committee. We may or may not have a vote. If there is, the bells will ring at 10 o'clock, at which time the meeting will end. If we don't have a vote, we'll proceed until 9:45. So, as usual, we never know.

9:35 a.m.


Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

That would be 10:45.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative David Tilson

I'm sorry, 10:45.

Thank you, Mr. Shory.

Mr. Menegakis.

9:35 a.m.


Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you to all of our witnesses for appearing before us today and for your presentations. I have listened quite intently and I'm very pleased to see that we have good partners out there in the field working with us on this very important subject.

As you know, our country has sustained the highest levels of immigration in the history of the country over the last number of years. In fact, this year's levels plan, which was tabled in the House in the fall of 2014, is very ambitious. It's the highest levels plan we have ever had for the country. It ranges from 260,000 to 285,000 newcomers coming into Canada in 2015—that's about 0.8% of our population—65% of whom will come through our economic streams: federal skilled workers, federal skilled trades, Canadian experience class, live-in caregivers, to name but a few. There will be 25% who come through family reunification: parents, grandparents, spouses, children, and so forth. In keeping with Canada's record of being one of the most compassionate countries in the world, when it comes to our humanitarian stream, 10% will be primarily refugees.

We're very focused on giving as much assistance as we possibly can as a government to our newcomers to ensure that they are empowered moving forward in their new lives here in Canada, and to enhance as much as possible the potential for successful outcomes for them in our country.

Settlement funding, I should mention, has jumped from $200 million when the current government assumed power to $600 million across Canada, with an additional almost $55 million for refugee resettlement.

I should mention that I represent the riding of Richmond Hill, which is in York region. York region is your immediate neighbour, as you know, to the west of Durham region. I suspect it's the same for everybody across the country, but many of the issues you deal with on a daily basis are very similar. Of course, we are just across the road. Once you cross that Durham region line, you're into York region.

Let me start with you, if I may, Ms. Andrews, and then perhaps Ms. Vaughan-Barrett can weigh in on this.

What do you believe are some of the key factors for the successful immigration of immigrants? What are the immigrants actually getting out of these settlement programs?

9:40 a.m.

Manager, Diversity and Immigration Program, Regional Municipaliity of Durham

Audrey Andrews

I would reiterate what I said in my remarks, that I honestly link the economic success of newcomers to the collective will of the community in which they reside, and that when all players are engaged and we understand our collective responsibility, and our collective benefit when everyone is successful, it can be a game changer.

In Durham region and in communities across Ontario, in different ways the broader community is being engaged to have this conversation about how we all can contribute to this. I can't say enough how important it is that all elements of society participate in this conversation and understand that they share in this responsibility. When you contribute to the success of your neighbour, you contribute to your success and you contribute to the success of your neighbourhood, community, town, Ontario, and Canada.