Mr. Speaker, I move that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration presented on Monday, February 14, be concurred in.
I am moving this report to concur in the motion that I placed before the citizenship and immigration committee to reverse the funding cuts to settlement services agencies. This cut of $53 million was announced quietly just before Christmas.
We know that citizenship and immigration services are often the lifeline for newcomers who arrive in Canada often not knowing where to find a job, housing or language training. They rely on these service agencies to provide them with this kind of connection. The sooner these new immigrants can get settled, find a job and their kids can find a school and adapt, Canada will be a more productive place.
It is unfortunate that this cut was made because last year Canada accepted more new immigrants than ever before. Therefore, it makes no sense to inflict the cut at this time.
We understand that many of the staff in some of these agencies work long hours but are not well paid. Many of them volunteer their time and have their relatives and friends help them out. They are involved in fundraising activities in their communities to enhance the service that can be provided to them. I dare say that for every dollar that the government invests in these services agencies, these people raise much more and we get many more hours of volunteer activities from them.
It is shocking that this elimination of services for these agencies is done without any transition plan. Many of the agencies are in leased premises. We have heard that the Afghan Association of Ontario signed a five year lease but now, with only two years remaining on the lease, it has had its funding pulled. We were told that it was Citizenship and Immigration Canada that asked it to sign a long-term lease in the first place. The cutting of the funding for the Afghan Association means that the voluntary board of directors and the members themselves are now on the hook for two more years, something like $300,000, for an office it no longer can afford.
We also heard that because there is no transition plan, instead of the staff being let go through attrition, the community action resource centre estimates that over 1,000 workers from these agencies across mostly Ontario will be facing layoffs within the next two months. Without this funding, agencies will be forced to shut their doors and their valuable services will be lost. It is not good for the economy and it is not good for Canada's productivity.
Given that many of these agencies will be closing down, I thought it would be good today in the House of Commons to read out the names of these agencies so that those who support this cut can hear directly from the agencies that are being eliminated.
The list of organizations that will not have their contracts with CIC renewed include: the Afghan Association of Ontario; African Community Services of Peel; African Training and Employment Centre; Albion Neighbourhood Services; Asian Community AIDS Services; Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario; Audmax Inc. in Mississauga; Bloor Information Life Skills Centre in Toronto, which is in my riding; the Canadian Hate Prevention Network in Brampton; Canadian Newcomer magazine in Toronto; the Community Action Resource Centre in Toronto; Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga; Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre in Toronto, which is next door to my riding; Eritrean Canadian Community Centre in Toronto; Ethiopian Association in Toronto; Gateway Centre for New Canadians in Mississauga; George Brown College in Toronto; Northwood Neighbourhood Services in Toronto; the Ontario Chamber of Commerce; Ryerson University in Toronto; the Salvation Army in Toronto; San Romanoway in Toronto; Social Planning Council of Peel in Mississauga; South Asian Women's Centre in Toronto; Tropicana Community Services in Toronto; the University of Western Ontario in London; Workers' Action Centre in Toronto; York Weston Community Services in Toronto.
I do not have time to name the other agencies that will receive less funding.
What is most tragic about this is that the immigration committee of this House spent many months last year studying best practices in settlement services. We looked at agencies and programs that would best deliver settlement services across Canada and have a series of recommendations. Just as we were about to embark on massive improvements to the settlement services, $53 million were cut.
There are six areas of programming that should receive funding: information and orientation, language and skills development, labour market participation, community connections, needs assessment and referrals, and support services. These programs would help newcomers make informed decisions about their settlement, understand life in Canada, have the proper skills needed to function in Canada and be able to find employment commensurate with their skills and education. As well, newcomers would receive help to establish social and professional networks so that they are engaged and feel welcome in the community.
These programs would ensure effective delivery and achieve positive settlement outcomes across Canada. They are the kind of programs that we believe will make a big difference in people's lives. After all, immigrants are nation-builders and are not in Canada just as economic units. We believe the faster they integrate into the community, the more productive they are and the better it is for Canada. That is why we firmly believe that spending $390 million last year to settle newcomers was a good direction. We do not want to see cuts to these services.
The committee proposed that, if possible, agencies should work together and submit joint proposals for a comprehensive approach. Because of the committee report, the agencies spent quite a bit of time connecting with each other to ensure that the services they provided were not duplicated and that services would be delivered in the most efficient way.
After they went through that exercise, some of them, unfortunately, were told that their services were no longer needed, which was a huge disappointment. They felt that the Government of Canada told them to work with each other but in the end they were being eliminated. It is seen as a betrayal by many of these agencies as they tried to improve their services.
We also noticed that there was really no performance review to tell these agencies that what they did was not up to par. There has been no attempt to talk to the agencies to tell them that they need to do something else in order to make sure their service is delivered well. Some of the service agencies that lost their funding have been commended and have received awards for delivering good services.
We also noticed that there was no transition plan to ensure that the newcomers these agencies served continued to receive service from other agencies. As a result, thousands of newcomers to Toronto will not be able to get the kind of service they need to help them settle in Canada quickly.
We find that the funding formula is deeply flawed. The minister said that funding to Ontario had been cut because it had fewer immigrants. There were only 4,000 fewer landed immigrants in Ontario last year, which is at most a 3.6% decrease, but 81% of the $53 million cut this year was inflicted on Ontario. Ontario has been shortchanged. It has 3% or 4% less immigrants. yet its funding was cut by 81%.
There is no justification for treating Ontario this way. Ontario continues to attract a large number of immigrants. Many immigrants choose to stay in the greater Toronto area. The majority of agencies being eliminated are in Toronto. It is as if Toronto is being punished for its successful method in settling newcomers. That is blatantly unfair and that is why we believe those cuts should be reversed.
The agencies that I mentioned will have their funding cease by March 31, which is in a few weeks time. Even though the immigration committee recommended that the Government of Canada continue to support and expand these immigration partnerships in Ontario and look at some of the pilot projects that have been successful in Ontario, it should be spread to other interested provinces. We studied the local immigration partnership and we believe this is a good route to take. Yet, Ontario is being punished.
The immigration committee thought it was important that we not only provide training to newcomers but also help them find jobs. Newcomers may have family issues, so we feel family counselling should be included in the theme of support services.
The six recommendations that came from the immigration committee on the best practices in settlement services need to be implemented and the funding cuts need to be reversed.
At the end of the day there are really only two ways to treat immigrants. First, we can tell them that they are in Canada only because we want them to work and we see them as economic units in the labour force.
That is one way of looking at immigrants. Another way is to say that they build our nations, that we welcome their families and their children, and that we believe that as their children go to our schools, libraries and community centres, they will enhance our communities and neighbourhoods.
A country that is willing to look ahead, be creative, and to help newcomers to adopt is the kind of country that would be far more productive and successful in the global competitive market. That is why we firmly believe that the $53 million in cuts to immigrant services really should be reversed.