A Scan of Settlement Programs and Services in Western Canada: Integration of Newcomers in Prince George, British Columbia




Okoye, Cynthia

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Introduction Canadian immigration settlement programs and services aim to support newcomers’ successful settlement and integration so that they may participate and contribute to various aspects of Canadian life (Prince, 2019, p. 4). Through contribution agreements, the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) funds service provider organizations (SPOs), such as immigrant-serving agencies, social service organizations and educational institutions to provide settlement services to newcomers under six main areas - Needs Assessments and Referrals, Information and Orientation, Language Assessments, Language Training, Employment-Related Services, and Community Connections. The Settlement and Integration Program also funds six support services - Care for Newcomer Children, Transportation, Translation, Interpretation, Disability Support, and Crisis Counselling. The IRCC also helps facilitate access to settlement programming and provide indirect services that support the development of partnerships, capacity-building, and the sharing of smart practices among settlement service providers (CIC: Funding Guidelines, 2015, pp. 5-13). Furthermore, as an essential part of the Settlement and Integration Program, IRCC engages provinces/territories, civil society, businesses and other stakeholders such as employer associations, sector councils, and credentialing bodies, to mobilize resources to deliver responsive and coordinated settlement and non-settlement services to newcomers (IRCC; Call for proposals, 2019). Despite the vast array of resources and services available to newcomers, the extent to which immigrants can adequately access and make use of settlement services provided by government and settlement agencies to integrate into Canadian society is still partially unknown. Furthermore, it is difficult to find a central portal where all of the settlement and immigration services and programs are listed for each area in Canada. Methodology and Methods The purpose of this Master Project was to identify what settlement and integration programs and services currently exist in the western provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan) and particularly the Prince George area to help aid a newcomer’s successful settlement. Also, when possible, the study identifies opportunities and strategies to improve the programs and services offered to newcomers. The data collection approach for the Project included both the analysis of academic and grey literature (reports, organizational documents, and websites). The date range included literature from the last ten years; however, the researcher included older sources where there was a gap in recent literature or where the older source seemed to be relevant to current contexts. Search terms included ‘immigrant,’ ‘refugee,’ ‘Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW),’ ‘newcomers,‘ as well as terms that would surface information on the demographics and social and economic well-being of newcomers. The scope of the study was focused on settlement services that support newcomer’s integration to the twenty community in western provinces that were studied for this report and the five cohorts of immigrants: Permanent Residents; Government Assisted Refugees; Refugee Claimants; International Students; and Naturalized Canadian Citizens, that were also studied in this report. The study involved the development of a research framework that included a definition of settlement and integration programs and services, a provincial settlement service scan of twenty local agencies serving newcomers, identification of key themes and issues developed through an analysis of the findings from the scan, and recommendations on how to improve settlement and integration services. Summary of Findings ‘Settlement and integration’ is a well-known concept within immigration studies and the term means, in the Canadian government context, that newcomers locate and use settlement services to address a variety of settlement needs to aid successful integration into a host society (IRCC, 2017f, p. 1). The research findings point to the heterogeneous nature of the literature on newcomers’ settlement and integration practices. As found in the literature, the top settlement needs for newcomers are language information (including information about training, translation, and interpretation services, and ESL programs and materials), employment information (including job searching skills and special services to foreign-trained professionals), housing information, information about making connections in the community (including connections to professional associations, volunteer opportunities, mentoring, and community organizations), and information about the new culture and orientation to life in Canada. To supplement these findings, the study also examined particular types of settlement needs and associated information including employment, housing, and health care services. Findings revealed that employment needs cut across all stages of settlement and the literature consistently points to the foreign credential recognition issue, the lack of Canadian job experience, and issues around familiarity with the workplace/occupation-specific language (Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society, 2019). The scholarly and grey literature also found that the most accessible and frequented resource for newcomers is their immediate family, friends, and the network of volunteers that are organized around community-based settlement service agencies. In this respect, ethno-specific agencies are highly preferred by newcomers as more welcoming and accessible in terms of cultural appropriateness, and ability to compensate for language difficulties by providing translation and interpretation. These services are, therefore, seen as relevant and effective; however, it was found that the resources of these ethno-specific settlement services and their volunteer corps are stretched out too far to meet the settlement needs of the target population consistently and adequately. Given limited resources (funding, staffing, and overall organizational capacity), there is a very wide gap between the service capability of these agencies and the settlement needs of newcomers (IRCC; Call for proposals, 2019). Summary of Recommendations The following recommendations were made to assist the future development and implementation of settlement and integration policies and services in general and when applicable, to the Prince George area: Policies: · Build into policy a holistic understanding of immigration and settlement that takes families, rather than individuals, as the unit of analysis and practice. · Ensure that the settlement services sector have a well-defined policy and strategy on how to integrate newcomers, and not assume that all clients' needs are the same. · Enhance organizational capacity and funding at the agency level. More innovative and flexible policy and funding model is needed that can take into consideration the unique challenges of service delivery in remote communities like Prince George. · Ensure that the voices of newcomers are heard by including them as active participants rather than recipients in the design of settlement and integration strategies and tools. · Engage in trust-building with the service sector. Supporting the sector to develop professional development standards and offer professional development opportunities to its workforce may go a long way to build trust. · Broaden the demographic coverage of the federal Settlement and Integration Program by relaxing its eligibility requirements to allow temporary migrants and recent citizens access. · Relax the 10-year residency requirement for immigrant seniors to be eligible for old age security. Services: · Increase awareness processes of the services available to newcomers should be a major focus of service providers. This could be done by increased knowledge sharing and community resource information preferably offered in different languages. Community social events, for example, can be one such opportunity. · Adopt a family-centered approach when conceiving, designing, and delivering settlement services. · Expand services to help newcomers acquire “systemic” navigational skills ranging from learning about available services and resources to connecting with civic and occupational networks. · Make language training more accessible and rewarding for immigrant women and seniors by expanding onsite childcare, providing transportation subsidies, reaching out to rural communities, and organizing flexible class schedules and locations. · Expand community-based activities, including volunteering, to reduce social isolation among, and increase social support for newcomers. · Adopt an accepting, even welcoming environment for newcomers and the opportunity to become active, contributing community members socially and culturally as well as politically and economically.



Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Non-Governmental Organizations, Service Provider Organizations, English-as-a-Second Language, Western Canada, Prince George, Immigration Settlement and Integration, provincial umbrella organizations, Settlement programs and services, Jurisdictional scan, Settlement agencies, Settlement and Integration challenges in Prince George, Funding, Settlement Process Stages, Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada