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.