[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Thursday, June 29, 1995
The Chair: Good morning, everyone. On behalf of all the members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, I welcome you to our consultation on settlement renewal. Thank you for coming on such short notice. We appreciate it.
We're here, as I said, to discuss settlement renewal and the process by which the federal government will withdraw from direct administration of settlement programs over the next three years. The structures and roles necessary for immigrant renewal have not yet been defined. This affords us, as members of Parliament, an opportunity to discuss with you, the service providers, some of the issues that arise as a result of the government's decision.
We are at the beginning. We were in Vancouver on Monday, Edmonton on Tuesday, and Toronto yesterday. We are in Halifax today. That will give you an idea of why we look the way we look and sometimes sound the way we sound.
You are the experts. We are looking for guidance. We are looking to benefit from your expertise and your counsel.
I'll begin by having the members of the committee introduce themselves.
I'm Eleni Bakopanos, member of Parliament for Saint-Denis in Montreal, and I'm the chair of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
I'll start with the parliamentary secretary, whom I'm sure all of you know.
Ms Clancy (Halifax): Not all of them, because they're from all across the Maritimes.
I'm Mary Clancy, member of Parliament for Halifax and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I want to say welcome, and, if I may, a special welcome to Darrell Mesheau, the regional director of citizenship and immigration.
Mrs. Terrana (Vancouver East): I'm Anna Terrana, member of Parliament for Vancouver East and a member of this committee.
Mr. Nunez (Bourassa): I'm Osvaldo Nunez, member of Parliament for Bourassa, in Montreal north, and Bloc Québécois critic for immigration and citizenship and vice-chair of this committee.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
I thought we'd begin by having all of you introduce yourselves, but I understand there is one person you've all met and one person you've chosen as your spokesperson, if I'm not mistaken. So we will begin with the presentation of Ms Bridget Foster.
Ms Bridget Foster (President, Atlantic Region Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies, and Executive Director, Association for New Canadians): Thank you.
I should state that I am not an official spokesperson; however, there is perhaps a bit of misunderstanding, or people had not realized. Today I was going to be here and I probably developed schizophrenia. I have two hats.
One longstanding role has been as executive director of the Association for New Canadians, an immigrant settlement agency in Newfoundland. I have been involved with that organization for almost 15 years.
However, more recently, in fact last year, I was elected as president of the newly formed Atlantic Region Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies, which is probably something you're all familiar with now because there's a similar organization out west.
Today I would like to come from that perspective. Mike Woodford is going to represent the agency I actually work with.
The reason I feel it is important that I represent ARAISA today is that there are many key players who, unfortunately, because of the amount of notice we were given - I'm not being critical about it, but obviously it meant that certain people couldn't be here, which is unfortunate. I feel I have to be here to speak on their behalf.
Please don't think that the lack of prepared notes is a sign of disinterest.
The Chair: On that point alone, I should say that you can present a written brief at any time. The committee will not present a report to the House of Commons before the first week of October. That gives you July, August, and September if you want to present a written brief. You mentioned earlier that there were groups who wanted to be here but couldn't. If anybody else wants to present a brief, they're welcome also and encouraged to do so.
Ms Foster: I appreciate that. I don't want you to think we're not interested. It's just the time. Like you, I was back in Newfoundland on Monday night and I'm here now, so one feels as if one's going in circles.
On behalf of ARAISA I should state up front that as a group we are both enthusiastic and willing to be involved in the renewal process. In fact, we want to be involved. However, at the moment we are feeling a slight sense of panic because things are happening very quickly and we haven't had the opportunity to get our heads around, as a group, some suggestions and some models that we might like to put forward to you.
What I'm asking you is perhaps to consider the wealth of experience that is available to you, both as workers, which we all are, and as volunteers, which we are also. I don't suppose that any of us work straight time. The progress we have made in the Atlantic speaks for itself, and I certainly hope you will allow us to be involved in talking about the changes and perhaps tap into some of our experience.
It worries me a little bit when I hear the words ``settlement renewal''. Perhaps the Atlantic is a bit different, but I'm not certain that things were so wrong before. I think many of us felt that the working relationship we enjoyed with our federal counterparts was an extremely positive thing. Certainly in Newfoundland, and from what I know from the other Atlantic provinces, things worked reasonably well.
The other thing I would like to say is that a lot of changes are happening. In fact, until about a year ago we were all separate provincial organizations. Now, because of the federal restructuring, we have become a region. It's a lot to be digesting all at once, and I don't feel that we have come to terms in getting - I think that perhaps the federal government has not got its own organization completely in place yet. We certainly are not certain about to whom we now report, for what. Let's not run before we walk. Let's not try to move ahead too fast.
That really is the bottom line. I don't think we should move too quickly.
The sense that ARAISA has from this document is that cost is a major concern. I'm not certain that cost should be the prime concern when it comes to settlement. In fact, in the experience that I think we've all had, the quality of settlement is very important, and the consistency of that quality. Maybe we shouldn't be penny wise and pound foolish. To provide good, sound settlement programs that have some strong background is the best way to get people on their feet and start them in becoming full participating members of society.
I'm sorry. I didn't even get to turnover. But I hope you get a sense of who I am today and what I am trying to say.
The Chair: I appreciate that very much. Thank you, Ms Foster. As the morning evolves, I'm sure you will have more to say in terms of both hats you wear today.
Now I would like to go around the table and have everyone introduce themselves, and if they want to make any opening remarks - a minute or two - I'll welcome them.
Ms Nancy Eisener (Manager, Community Services, YMCA of Greater Halifax-Dartmouth): Good morning to all the committee members and to our colleagues at ISAM, the local immigrant settlement serving agencies. I am here with Cristina Rafales, who is the service delivery provider for our staff.
We have a brief, which I believe is in front of you. I just want to touch on a few notes that give you a little about the YMCA's philosophy and delivery system.
It may be very important to know right at the beginning that we feel in the Atlantic area we have a lot of space, we have a lot of room for newcomers, and we want to try to find ways to encourage newcomers to come and settle here, because it is a good first step. We do have time and space and I think a very human approach to the way we deliver settlement services.
So whatever you can do to increase the number of immigrants coming to the Atlantic region, we would certainly welcome that.
For the past six years the Y has actively pursued the goal of changing the face of our own organization to try to increase the diversity within the YMCA in reflection of what is happening in our community. We couldn't have accomplished this goal without the support of the government, both Immigration and Citizenship, and also our fellow ISAM members.
The Y believes community-based agencies like us are the people most appropriate to deliver settlement services in our community. With our ties to the local community, volunteer leadership, and streamlined administrative structures, we offer services that are effective and efficient and we deliver them in a professional manner through staff whose individual backgrounds provide them with the empathy and compassion to do this kind of work.
This personal approach can only be developed at the community level, by people who are working in the community and who are concerned about the lifestyles that exist there. We are accountable not only to our funders but to our friends and neighbours. I think that gives us a special perspective.
The Y itself delivers programs in two streams, host and immigrant settlement assistance. We're not involved in language training. The host program runs primarily with eleven conversation groups that meet every week for two hours in our cafe. They're composed of two or three Canadian volunteers and six to eight immigrants. They talk about the various changes they are experiencing in their lives. They usually start with maybe a newspaper article on education, on politics, or on some topical issues within the country. They read that newspaper article and then discuss its implications and say what they think. This helps them learn a little more about the culture they're moving into. It enables them to practise their language and it helps them develop a circle of friends for the future.
The immigrant youth support program, which is our ISAP stream, is a support service we offer to high school students. This is in cooperation with the Halifax school board, and we share staff with this goal partly in mind. That staff person provides support in the high schools two to three noon-hours a week, arranges individual tutoring programs for the newcomers, and provides Saturday homework help and a support service for mediation and those types of human needs that often occur.
We are very proud of those programs. We feel a mainstream organization like ourselves has a special integration opportunity, because there are already numbers of Canadians coming to our organization for services. It's easy for newcomers also to fall into that stream.
There are a few things that make the YMCA unique. The first one is that we are accountable to a local board of directors. We are responsive to the community in that they set our strategic plans, and it was through their involvement and concern that we re-established our connection with the immigrant community five years ago.
The other thing we do is set up measurable criteria to make sure that our services are efficient and effective. So we keep track of what is the changing ethnic mix of the organization, how many immigrants are moving on to become leaders in our community through volunteer training or participation in groups and that type of thing, and how many Canadian volunteers are joining us and how long they are staying and how many hours of service they are giving.
So we're very conscious to make sure that when we receive funds we can also give back very significant indicators of change to show that these funds were used effectively.
The third point would be to say that we are a very cost-effective delivery system. In our house program, we can provide 200 hours of service for $125 a year. In our ISAP program, for $425 a year we provide about 350 hours of service in tutoring and integration work. So we feel that's very cost-efficient and we wonder if another delivery mechanism could be as efficient as community-based trainers such as those around the table today.
In closing, I wanted to make a couple of comments.
First, I would like to ask the federal government to ensure that community-based trainers will remain the key delivery service system for settlement. We are able to respond very quickly. We work together very easily by virtue of the fact that we have multi-ethnic staff in the Halifax area. We can provide, collectively, services in ten different languages. I think these kinds of value-added services are available only when you work with small community groups. We are locally owned and managed and that's very important.
Second, there should be a move to standardize some of the delivery mechanisms and the allocation of funds within the settlement servicing agencies. This is important to ensure that there are performance standards across the country and mechanisms for monitoring.
It is also important for immigrants to know that service delivery is consistent across the country so they won't make the decision of where they are going to stay based on the availability of services.
The third and final point I would like to make is that I would like to recommend that in the Atlantic region funds should be allocated under the direction of an umbrella group composed of settlement servicing agencies in consultation with the government representative. I think funding should be tied to the number of immigrants being served, and I believe the settlement agencies will cooperate in the allocation of these resources.
This will mean changes in some of our organizations. However, by placing the responsibility with those of us sitting around the table and most directly affected, I think you will find the most effective solution.
I'm concerned about the fast-tracking of funds to the provinces through the impending federal and provincial block funding agreement. The provinces in the Atlantic region don't have the same kind of history and involvement with immigrant settlement as do the provinces to the west. With no existing infrastructure in place and the pressing demands already on the provinces to reorganize massively our health care system, education, and social services, I wonder if at this point in time we should expect the provinces to take on the additional role of trying to understand and implement immigrant settlement services.
This is a very important decision and, as Bridget was saying earlier, we should take the time to make a wise one.
Thank you for listening to me for the last few minutes. I would like to offer the support of the YMCA in Atlantic Canada and across the country to help you and to participate in this settlement renewal process.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
I would appreciate it if whoever has a written brief does not read it. We can read it. If you would sum up the main points in two minutes, I would appreciate that.
We will go on to Mr. Nakonieczny.
Mr. Derek Nakonieczny (Ethno-Cultural Association of Newfoundland and Labrador): Thank you. Good morning, members of Parliament and our colleagues around the table.
I am here representing the Ethno-Cultural Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is the umbrella group for 22 different ethnic, multicultural, and settlement organizations in Newfoundland.
Recently our organization has been working with the federal government on a number of consultations, most recently on human resource development. We think settlement renewal is a very important issue and we'd like to stay involved and be an active participant in this discussion and provide you with some answers to some of your questions.
A few years ago I myself personally went through the settlement process, so maybe I can provide you with a bit of a different perspective. I hope I can.
I'd like to talk a little about the involvement of the provincial governments in the settlement process today and the involvement of other departments besides Immigration. To date in Newfoundland there has been very little involvement or even interest of the provincial government in settlement and immigration issues. I personally think it would be beneficial to the whole process and to the immigrants themselves if the provincial governments, even probably municipal governments, were a little more proactive and made immigrants feel more welcome in their communities.
This is not to say that, for example, the settlement issue should be handed down to the provincial governments. We should all take time to consider the best possible options.
In your document Settlement Renewal you mention involvement of other federal departments. Again, in our province to date there has been very little involvement. For example, the department that could play a key role in training for immigrants is HRD. We'd like to see more cooperation between Immigration and HRD, and probably Canadian Heritage.
The Chair: Thank you very much for being brief.
Mr. Mike Woodford (Social Worker, Program Specialist, Association for New Canadians): Thank you.
As Bridget indicated earlier, I work with the Association for New Canadians and I'm here speaking on behalf of that organization.
The Association for New Canadians is the only settlement agency within Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, we've been in existence since 1979, which is a fairly long history.
Essentially, we aim to empower newcomers with the knowledge, skills, and self-confidence to become participating and independent members of our community. You can define community locally, as in St. John's, or as the Canadian mosaic community.
The association has had a very long working history with the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, as it is currently referred to. That working relationship developed in 1981. One of the unique things we have in Newfoundland is we have a working relationship with our Department of Social Services, which had its beginning in 1988. We have a relationship that we provide settlement services to refugee claimants on behalf of the Department of Social Services.
Before I get into my actual brief, I'd like to paint the context of services within Newfoundland. I think Newfoundlanders in general are known for our Newfoundland hospitality, and I'm very proud to say it seems settlement and integration services are extended in that manner, with the Newfoundland hospitality. For example, our organization right now has about 130 volunteers working with us, providing tutoring services and such. That is one good example of the context of the extension of the Newfoundland hospitality to newcomers and immigrants in Newfoundland.
As well, the philosophy of the association is that each client is different. We maintain a very client-centred approach to services and we look at the strengths of each family or each individual. That's how we provide services on a team basis.
More specifically on the goals of settlement revitalization, the first goal, as we all know, is to enhance the ability of communities to set priorities for funding that meet local integration needs. It's really important that the committee members understand that within the Atlantic we have four very unique provinces providing services and involved in the settlement of immigrants, newcomers. With that, we all have our very own and unique political, cultural, economic, and social composition. These are obviously variables that affect what we do in our respective communities.
So it's very dangerous for us to paint everybody with one brush. Whatever infrastructure will be developed in the next couple of years really has to take that into consideration. That has to be a primary focus.
One other concern I have is that the transformation of settlement services needs to bring in the stakeholders, and obviously we're doing that today as one of the beginning stages. However, one of the key stakeholders here is our newcomers to Canada and the newcomers to the Atlantic region. If you think about it, the whole process of coming to a new country can be pretty overwhelming and pretty disempowering. So it's very important that newcomers have a role and a responsibility and are given that sense of validation in the whole process.
Secondly, one of the goals of settlement revitalization is to streamline the funding process. Certainly we can understand that right now and try to prevent and eliminate potential duplication and overlap of services, especially in the administration of integration programs.
It's very important for us to realize that, because the Atlantic is so diverse, duplication may be required. For example, now the Atlantic region of Citizenship and Immigration is an Atlantic region, which is a new thing, just about a year and a couple of months old. We don't know if in fact that's working. They've tried to do that as a means of cutting back on the expenditures in the administration. This again we can understand, but we have to question if in fact the whole regional approach has been given enough time to determine if it is valuable or not, and if it is effective.
Thirdly, the settlement revitalization aims to increase the accountability for public funds, which again we can certainly understand and is a worthwhile goal to have. Many of my counterparts around the table can speak to the fact that Immigration has introduced a data collection module that essentially provides quantitative analysis: how many hours are spent with clients, how many hours of language services are provided, and so on. Again it's focusing on results; it's focusing on what is measurable. Settlement is a human service, and in the human services field we have to realize that not everything is measurable. Based on numbers alone, how do you determine if someone has become independent and has integrated into the community? We would like to see the whole qualitative analysis as well, and that involves bringing in newcomers.
There also seems to be a trend to break settlement down into the dollar approach, in a very business-like fashion. Yes, it is a business - public funds are being spent here - but we have to make sure that quality services are being provided. With that in mind, we really need to look at a baseline of funds necessary in order to provide services, regardless of the number of clients. If you, for example, break settlement funding down on a per-client basis, this does not necessarily mean that you're going to be able to provide ongoing support and ongoing quality services to a client.
As a wrapping-up point, I would like to say that again it appears as if not all of the stakeholders are involved. To the best of my knowledge, newcomers haven't been invited to give input into the settlement revitalization process. As Bridget alluded to earlier, the immigrant serving agencies within the Atlantic haven't been given enough time to prepare a position on the settlement renewal properly. In fact, most agencies have not had enough time to formulate their own individual stances on the issues, nor has ARAISA, the Atlantic association, been able to draw any conclusions.
I firmly believe, on behalf of the Association for New Canadians, that the entire accountability point needs to be raised in terms of whom the federal government is accountable to. That is, it's understood that CEIC and the federal government in general are accountable to the general public. However, CEIC is fundamentally responsible to newcomers to Canada, who enter this country hoping to achieve some form of independence and being able to participate in the community. If CEIC continues to become more cost oriented, one must question if settlement programs will remain at their present high quality within the Atlantic region.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
I will just reiterate what I said earlier, that anybody can present a brief at any time before the committee deposits its report in the House of Commons. As far as the clients are concerned, we started out with the non-governmental organizations first. But we can discuss that as we go along.
Ms Clancy: I wanted to thank Mr. Woodford for his presentation, but to say also that I presume we're talking on the same basis, that while Citizenship and Immigration is certainly responsible to those it serves, it's ultimately responsible to the Canadian taxpayer. While policy is not driven by dollars to the degree some people think it is, and it's not driven by dollars to the degree some people think it should be, depending on which side of the spectrum you come from, it is informed by that, and has to be. The ultimate responsibility is to the citizens of Canada, who support it through their taxes.
There is both a leadership and a response to that. I don't think you were negating that, but it needs to be underscored.
The Chair: Mr. Sexton.
Mr. Dean Sexton (Instructor, Language Instruction of Newcomers to Canada, Holland College): Good morning, everyone. I'm a LINC instructor from Holland College, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Holland College has been teaching English as a second language for a number of years. We are also involved with labour market language training.
My reason for being here is to become as informed as possible on the settlement renewal process. I believe all parties involved would like to be kept up to date on all the changes that are going to take place. Many of these interested parties around the table hope the timeframe for implementing settlement renewal will be reasonable.
Also, we are here to seek clarification on the three terms of reference. We are all interested in helping this process become a successful way to meet the needs of newcomers to Canada.
That's all I have to say. Many of the preceding speakers made many points I was concerned with.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Ms Heather Irving.
Ms Heather Irving (Prince Edward Island Association for Newcomers to Canada): Thank you for this opportunity. I represent the Prince Edward Island Association for Newcomers to Canada.
We deliver settlement, ISAP, and HOST programs. We have a community outreach program, an institutional change program. Our objectives are working for short-term and long-term social integration.
We offer a personal approach to our clients. We have a board of directors from the community we serve. Almost all the time at least 50% of our board is made up of people who have been newcomers and are now first-generation Canadians.
We have several different language groups working on our board and on our staff. We also work with the LINC program deliverers in Charlottetown. We take a client-centred approach.
We've heard the message that settlement renewal is going to happen. We want to be at the table, participating in discussions and decision-making about settlement renewal. Our association for newcomers is definitely a stakeholder in the renewal process. We have the commitment, the experience, and the expertise. We know the community.
We want to come out the other end of the settlement renewal process delivering programs that are still client-centred and that meet the needs of the clients with whom we work. We don't want the settlement renewal process to impact negatively on these clients. Our primary concern is those people.
At the end of the settlement renewal process we would like to look back and see that the process was inclusive and participatory and as democratic as possible.
In a number of government documents you've referred to partnerships and stakeholders. I hope the government recognizes that there are certain inequalities in the partnerships in that the power and the resources and the information tend to be held by the government. We hope it will work together with all of us to address these inherent inequalities. The bottom line is that we want to be at the table, we want to participate, we want to collaborate, we want to cooperate. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I think that's why you're here.
Ms Mills, please.
Ms Gerry Mills (Coordinator, Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre): The Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre provides language training for new immigrants, and also child care.
First, I welcome this opportunity to speak to this committee. I hope that this dialogue between the federal government and the NGOs around this table can continue, and expand to the province when necessary.
Settlement renewal brings with it major changes for all of us. I have just a few major concerns.
The major concern is what everybody has already said: we need to be involved in the design of the new system. It's the people around this table who have the expertise and the experience not only to provide high-quality and effective services to immigrants but also to help design and develop the new system.
The federal government has an ideal opportunity in this area, because of our small numbers and our commitment to working together through ARAISA and through ISAM, to involve us in the process of renewal. If we are given some parameters, then we can work towards the future, but at this stage we still don't know what those parameters are.
I'd like to see consultation meetings with NGOs, provincial reps, federal reps, federal employees who already work with newcomers, and also newcomers themselves, as Mike already mentioned.
My greatest concern is the continuation of service to our clients. We offer high-quality, effective settlement services and, for successful integration to continue, they have to be maintained.
Our clients are the reason why we're here today, and in any decision-making process I'd like to hear the voice of new Canadians.
Finally, I'd like to caution the federal government in the same way as my colleagues have. I see this as a golden opportunity for all of us, but we need to proceed slowly and to get it right. We need to proceed with great consideration. If there are time lines or deadlines, then we'd like to know about them. But, by their very nature, time lines and deadlines are arbitrary. The most important consideration is the welfare of our clients and the continuation of programs to sustain their successful settlement. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Judy McIntyre, do you want to add anything?
Ms Judy McIntyre (Manager, St. Pat's Adult ESL): I too am here wearing two hats. I am the current president of ISAM and I am the manager of a language school, which is St. Pat's Adult ESL. It is full-time and it is sponsored by the Halifax Department of Continuing Education with the school board.
I would prefer to bring up my own specific concerns as we're discussing issues around the table. However, I would like very briefly to introduce you to ISAM and just tell you generally, in addition to what my colleagues have said this morning, one other concern that I feel it is important to raise with you.
ISAM, the Immigrant Serving Agencies of Metro, began last September, because we realized that there was a need for community agencies individually to get together and have a forum in which we could discuss our common concerns to create ways of putting forward and expressing our collective concerns about the strategies that were proposed, issues that we felt could be dealt with in a better way.
In addition to everything that has been discussed thus far around the table, another concern we have is being in a position, we feel, of being reactive. I personally don't feel as if something has happened - and I sense from my colleagues that this is true: in the resettlement and the restructuring coming down the road, we are not able to provide anyone, including yourselves, with a really proactive focus and a comprehensive statement on what we would like to see.
We're in a position where we don't know who the players are - even in Metro Halifax, let alone in the total Atlantic region. As a result of that, there are potentially endless numbers of models that we might have to address. We end up spinning our wheels because we can't address them all and certain comments that might be specific to this model would certainly not be applicable, say, to the next four models.
We would very much welcome an approach whereby we would have very consistent and structured dialogues. We're very interested in offering our expertise and our knowledge, but if we don't know to whom to offer them, it makes it a moot point. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
We'll proceed with Ms Andrews.
Ms Dorothy Andrews (Coordinator, Metro ESL Association): I'm with the Metro ESL Association. I'm a language teacher as well as the administrator for the program.
Our school is one of the original language providers in the Halifax-Dartmouth area. We are 23 years old. We were originally in the Lutheran Church in Halifax, which Mary might know. We have a long history and we're very proud of our expertise and knowledge.
Our primary focus at our school is to deliver language training, to offer citizenship classes, and to help the newcomer integrate into the community.
Most of our students are immigrant mothers. We have on-site child care, and we are offering a new program, computer-based ESL training, which has met with great success.
Our school operates on very minimal numbers of dollars. There are very small administrative and overhead costs.
My main concern in settlement renewal is cost. When I look at the delivery costs for our program and other programs in the city, I question costs when settlement renewal goes to a new board or government. Perhaps the costs will not be as low as they are now and our clients' needs will not be met.
With the minimal costs, and perhaps with settlement renewal being transferred to the provinces, hidden expenses won't be meeting our clients' needs, and my primary concern is cost-effectiveness and continuing to meet the needs of our students, as we have for 23 years. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Ms Mary Anne McKinnon-Rodriguez (Executive Director, Metropolitan Immigrant Settlement Association): Good morning. Bonjour. Buenos dias.
I'm the executive director of MISA, and I'm also a member of ISAM and ARAISA.
MISA is an organization based in Halifax that over the past 15 years has provided a range of different programs and services to immigrants and refugees.
I'd like to address briefly a few points regarding settlement renewal.
First, accountability mechanisms: It is extremely important for the federal government to develop legal and binding agreements that will accompany any money that is transferred for the purpose of immigration settlement. These agreements would outline the conditions and general areas under which this money can be spent. This will prevent the possibility of settlement funds being spent in other areas.
In addition to these agreements, there should be periodic monitors to ensure these funds are being spent cost-effectively and in areas related to settlement.
About the make-up and structure of the local advisory committee, as we've already heard from everybody else, it is essential that all the key players be involved in this process, including newcomers, NGO representatives, government officials, business people, and others, who might vary from community to community.
Heather has already alluded to this, but I'd like to comment a little more on the concept of partnership. ``Partner'', in the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as someone who shares. I would go on to add, someone who shares in decision-making, information, responsibility, and power.
To date in Nova Scotia it is my impression everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting for the provincial government to decide whether they want to take over responsibility for settlement in this province. This is not working in partnership. It is one player holding the power, making the decisions, and taking responsibility for an issue that affects all of us, including our clients.
So although I cannot tell you how local advisory committees should be structured, I can tell you the process in this province has not got off to a good start, in my opinion.
About the most effective service delivery mechanisms, to me the answer is obvious. You are looking at those mechanisms as we sit here today. Around this table you can find individuals representing organizations from Metro Halifax-Dartmouth that have provided over a hundred years of excellent quality, caring services to newcomers to Nova Scotia. As you've already heard from my colleagues, we're all committed to continuing to do that and working together to do that.
Next, the federal government's role in all this. It is crucial that the federal government continue to play a leadership role in immigration in Canada. We have seen in different ways over the years how the federal government has shown it recognizes the importance of newcomers to Canada. Some provincial governments have also proven their commitment and leadership in this area and others have not.
Accordingly, over the next ten years the federal government will have to be flexible in its relationship with the different provinces on this issue. For example, the relationship between the federal government and British Columbia on settlement renewal will be very different, or should be very different, from the relationship with Nova Scotia. Here in Nova Scotia we're still at the stage where we're trying to provide education and sensitivity to government officials in this area.
Just a couple of other concerns I have about settlement renewal. We've heard there's been a commitment on the part of the federal government that over the next two to three years there will be funds for settlement services and support to newcomers. However, we haven't heard anything beyond that. I'm concerned about the longevity of transfer of funds and commitment to funding in this area.
Also, I'm concerned about the lack of information and contradiction of information on settlement renewal that has been received to date. What we're hearing right now is quite different from what we heard in April and when it was first mentioned in March.
Somebody has already alluded to timing. We need more information on the timing of the changes. We were told initially the transfer could happen within the next year. Now it seems it won't be able to happen that quickly. But who knows? It is difficult to give staff and clients answers to their questions about the future when the information keeps changing.
In closing, I would like to clarify my position. I believe in Nova Scotia and throughout the Atlantic the provincial governments do have a role in settlement renewal. However, I feel to date the provincial government here has not shown much interest in immigration or specifically in programs that support immigrants. Once again, the people who have shown interest and leadership in this area are found around this table. I would like to see the responsibility for settlement go to the community where the commitment and expertise is found.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I think one of the reasons we're here is to clarify some of the confusion you feel.
Ms Clancy: I think you've all received this document. It is interesting for those of us who've attended all the meetings across the country that the diversity of this country becomes ever clearer when you travel from Vancouver to Halifax in the space of four days. I said to my colleague Mrs. Terrana just a few minutes ago that nothing could point up the difference so much as the difference between this meeting today and the meeting in Metro Toronto yesterday. There are a number of pluses and minuses on both sides of that equation.
Something that needs to be said is that it is the nature of the evolution of federal policy - and I think you'd be less happy if we gave you a hard and fast statement last April and didn't move from that at all. You also have to remember that the evolution of the policy means a fluidity, which, yes, sometimes will be slightly disturbing, particularly because all of you are in the business of doing a whole lot of work on a small amount of funds and you're dependent on grants. We do understand that.
Let me deal with the three-year - it's three years, not two - funding. There really is nothing sinister in that. It's just that to go beyond three years is something bean-counters within either our department or the Department of Finance will not let us go with. It does not by any means mean there is a precipice at the end of three years, such that we are going to stand there as gleeful federal members and throw you over, if that's what you're thinking.
It would be dishonest to say we can look beyond that, because at this point we can't. But it should not be taken as an idea that an axe is going to fall at the end of three years. Indeed, axes may fall sooner than that, in various ways.
However, the really major point for us being here - and we do realize there are problems of short notice, etc. That's why, as the chair has said, you will have the time over the summer to give us more written information, and any other people who wish to do so are asked to do so. But we really do want to hear from your expertise, and I think your expertise is such that you can give us some ideas on models.
The very idea - and you're quite right, some provinces have shown a lot more interest than others. Nowhere in this does it talk about a specific devolution to the provinces. It talks about regional and local groups and things of that nature.
Again, I said this yesterday. I said it so many times yesterday that I was almost banging my head on the table. A lot of this will depend on what you people tell us and what we're told across the country, either through this forum or through other consultative measures. Believe me, this policy is not written in stone. I am going to say it now and I am not going to say it again. So it's said. Okay?
The Chair: We'll continue with Ms Vye.
Ms Beth Vye (YM-YWCA, Fredericton): Good morning. I am the LINC coordinator and LINC instructor with the YM-YWCA in Fredericton.
The international department of the Fredericton YM-YWCA has been active in providing support to newcomers since the 1960s. We have held contracts for HOST, all three ISAP, and LINC, which was formerly the settlement language program, since 1991. We have a settlement staff of 3 people plus 75 volunteers. We also have three ESL teachers, offering four classes at levels 1 and 2.
In 1992, Canada Immigration commissioned us to produce a promotional video on the HOST program, using the program we offer in Fredericton as a model. We also operate an employment services organization for immigrants and visible minorities and have a high school support program for immigrant students at the Fredericton high school. It's the largest high school in North America, with 3,500 students.
We feel we have had a good relationship with Canada Immigration over the last five years. So of course we are a little apprehensive about having to develop a relationship with a new contractor. It is natural in these circumstances to feel anxiety on behalf of our staff, who have dedicated many years to providing a service they believe necessary.
Our primary concern, of course, is that during this transition period there will be as little disruption in direct services to the client as possible. We hope that there will be minimal disruption, and we will be happy to assist in any way in this renewal process.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Ms Ann Guy (Executive Director, Metro-Region Association for Immigrant Language Services): Good morning.
Our organization, as such, is language-based in that we provide programs under LINC. We also provide programs funded through the Dartmouth District School Board. We provide labour-market language training and, in addition, we are an information service in that we are very aggressive in addressing the needs of people, not only in Metro but also in the rural areas of Nova Scotia. We've been very successful in doing that.
On a positive note, because the taxpayers want to know where the dollars go, it was very interesting that in our last labour-market language training we didn't know how receptive the employers would be when we approached them to do work placement and possible employment opportunities for immigrants. The end-result was that 80% of our students became employed. The employers - these are professional engineers and consulting firms - are very impressed with the quality and calibre of people coming into the country. I did not receive one negative response, and I say that's very good.
I am not going to reiterate what's already been said. We feel we are an extension of Immigration and, as such, we feel this is a joint venture and we would like to be involved, as all of us have stated, in the planning and decision process.
Our major concern is immigrants. We've invited them to this country for the most part, except for our dear ship-jumpers, and, as such, they are our major concern.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
I'll now ask the members of the committee for their opening statements and remarks.
Mr. Nunez: I would like to thank all the people here and congratulate them for their presentations.
There are a lot of new things for me. I am not very familiar with all that is happening in the Atlantic provinces. As I am myself an immigrant and a refugee, I am more familiar with what is happening in Quebec, in Ontario or in British Columbia. British Columbia is presently the province that receives the greatest number of immigrants per capita. I also think that people who want to come to Canada tend to head towards large cities such as Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver.
As immigration critic for the Official Opposition, I share your concerns. These consultations have been carried out so quickly that you have not had the time to reflect adequately on the significant changes which will occur in immigration over the next few years, particularly as far as settlement is concerned. I was surprised myself, because this consultation, by our Committee, was to be held next year.
As an agency that handles the integration of immigrants, you want to participate and express your opinions and that is your right.
Someone said that the Atlantic provinces wanted to receive more immigrants. That was the first time I heard something like that during these consultations. The message should be sent out to immigration officers abroad, because I don't think they mention the Atlantic provinces very much to Latin-Americans, to Chilians. It's not one of the priorities of immigration officers abroad to give out that kind of information to immigrants.
You have concerns as to the new settlement structures. I also have concerns. You asked whether these new structures take into consideration the regional characteristics of the Maritimes. I agree entirely.
A little earlier, my colleague, Mary Clancy, said that when you manage public funds, you are accountable to taxpayers. That's true, but more and more, as you know, the clients are the ones who mostly fund settlement programs. The users, the immigrants, with the $975 immigration tax, along with the $500 they must pay for their case file processing, are paying more and more for the services they receive. They should therefore also have a say concerning these new policies, and participate in the assessment of your programs.
Unfortunately, in the context of this tour we're carrying out throughout Canada, there are very few clients. The agencies you administer have participated, but not the users of your services, even though more than half of the budget you administer comes from fees paid by the users.
Many organizations give language courses. They're very important, because languages are an essential factor in integrating newcomers. That was my case. The first thing I did upon arrival was to go to a COFI, in Quebec, a ``Centre d'orientation et de formation des immigrants'' (Centre for Immigrant Guidance and Training).
We have unfortunately noted that in other cities, language courses were not accessible to everyone, particularly refugees and women at home who don't immediately go out into the workplace. That may be a problem. You didn't mention it and I'd like to hear what you have to say about that.
I also noticed that United Way, Centraide, was absent. I don't know if you work with that organization which, apparently, does a very good job in other provinces.
You didn't bring up a problem which worries me, the trend towards racism and intolerance which is growing in the large cities of certain provinces. I don't think that is the case here, and I'm very pleased with that. When you have a problem, how do you deal with it?
We've noticed that integration is easier in the smaller cities than the bigger ones. It's probably the same thing here, and I'd like to hear your opinion on that too.
There is more hostility these days. The Canadian society is becoming more intolerant concerning the origins of immigrants or refugees, because they come from countries that are so far away, so different. The Canadian society isn't ready to accept such radical changes.
Finally, as Official Opposition critic, I'm also a bit worried by the cuts carried out throughout the federal government, particularly in unemployment insurance and social programs.
That worries me because the point of this new structure is to further diminish the federal government's role in this area and to ensure that it spends less and less money.
That isn't the opinion of my colleagues on the other side, but as Official Opposition critic, I must share my concerns with you. Personally, I'm in favour of immigration and I would like the Canadian settlement services to be more efficient.
I would therefore ask you to be careful, to express your opinions in Ottawa and to tell us of your criticisms, as the Chairwoman said, and to send us your briefs. Your contribution will be of great use in the review of the new settlement policy.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Nunez.
We'll proceed with Ms Terrana.
Mrs. Terrana: Thank you for coming to this table to speak to us. I have twenty years' experience in this area as well, so I know where you're coming from and why you have concerns and why you are giving us your information.
Although I see the concern, I can also see lots of positiveness in what you're saying. Also, you've vocalized very well your concern for the clients, because that should be the concern we all have. They come first. They are the people whom we serve. They are the people who need us.
Your wanting newcomers is just great, because in British Columbia we are suffering in a different way. We have too many newcomers. So we have a little bit of backlash. As you know, it was shown in the last election in the move to the right that we had. So it's really good to know that this is happening, although, as Osvaldo said, maybe you should let people know abroad.
I happened to be on a plane with your premier, Mr. Wells, going to Japan last year. He was going to drum up business across the Orient. Maybe he should go and also drum up newcomers.
I have a few questions. One has to do with how many immigrants you get. Would you have an idea what the percentages are, and how are they distributed among the four provinces?
Another question has to do with the local advisory boards. Across the country we have heard several sorts of formulas. Ms Rodriguez was talking about local agencies. There could be conflict. There's a lot of concern about conflict. We talk about provincial governments. I have grave concerns about provincial governments, because we know what's happening, for instance, with the money we send for education.
So what do you suggest as the national agency that would be open to the various departments and the various governments? This is something on which I would really like to hear from you - maybe not today, but it's something you could discuss. I can see there is good quality, good talents, around this table, and probably we need to hear from you from the east in order to put some sanity into what's going on in the west.
The distribution of funding didn't come up very much here, but it did come up in areas such as Metro Toronto and the greater Vancouver area. The funding is distributed in a strange way. For instance, in British Columbia we get between 25% and 30% of the immigrants but we get only 9% of the funding. The funding is also distributed really strangely. Money is sent north, for instance, in British Columbia, where in fact there are no immigrants. This is money to teach ESL. Again, a redistribution should occur.
Also, the partnership - and this came up a couple of times. You said your government has taken the lead in partnership, but you are also advocating a strong leadership role on the part of the federal government. Again, we have to balance that. We are here to try to change that too, and we are here to listen to what organizations like yours have to say across the country, taking into consideration the fact that yes, it is true we are very different, not only from east to west but from region to region.
The Chair: Ms Clancy.
Ms Clancy: I won't repeat, but I'm also concerned with the things Anna raised about regional and local boards, if that is the way in which we are going. The question of conflict of interest and competition was first raised before us in Vancouver. I am therefore wondering if you could put your minds to what sort of body we'd need to be looking at.
I think the major need we have to deal with here is flexibility. As I said, believe me, in these four days the difference across the country - I think some of us had forgotten, in our travels, that the people from Moose Jaw and the prairie people in general were also calling for more immigrants. I'm always happy to say we in Atlantic Canada are the most open and welcoming, but we remember that Saskatchewan was crying for more immigrants too.
But flexibility is particularly important. Hand in hand with that, and with the question of what the actual mechanism should be, is the question of national standards. In the document it asked whether there should be national standards. For me, the idea of national standards is so absolute, just a very basic rock we build on, that I can't imagine anything less. However, I am prepared to entertain a different idea, if you have one.
Are there certain givens in national standards and then other modes in which we deal with regional flexibility? Clearly, many newcomers to Canada go to major centres, where there are already either family members or people from their own countries of origin, etc. But are there such differences in the immigrants who are coming here as opposed to the immigrants who are going to Toronto or Vancouver that those differences have to be taken into consideration in both our delivery services and our funding body or the decision-making body?
Those are some of the questions on which I'd like to hear from you. I'd like to hear your instant reaction this morning and then have your long-term reactions at a later date.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Clancy.
I'd like to proceed to read some of the points of consensus that came across from the other consultations we had. They might be good starting points for discussion.
Mary and Anna brought up a few of them, and even Mr. Nunez. But if you'll bear with me - and it might be a little repetitive - I think it's worth repeating: that consultations surrounding settlement renewal are essential; that governments should ensure the process is thorough and does not proceed unnecessarily fast in order to meet an arbitrary deadline. Concern was expressed that the community should be ready to accept the responsibilities the federal government will be passing along to it under settlement renewal; that the federal government should assume a leadership role in determining, with the settlement delivery community and its clients, the overarching principles and national standards that govern the immigrant settlement system. Such principles and standards should make provision for some degree of local flexibility.
A local settlement community should have input into the decisions about local settlement needs and priorities. However, the allocative funding decisions should be made by a body that has no vested interest in their outcome.
It is essential that the particular needs of children and women be taken into account when determining immigrant settlement services.
These are not in any order, by the way. They are just notes that we have taken along the way.
Local levels of government, municipalities and school boards, should be at the table whenever settlement decisions are made. Federal funds destined for settlement programs should be earmarked for this purpose.
Employment and language training are essential components of successful integration.
We need better communication from region to region about successful and innovative ways of doing settlement delivery. A lot of very innovative things are being done across the country, but there's not enough communication between the different regions in sharing that information.
We should consider the length of time during which settlement services - most importantly, language training - are available to immigrants. Three years is often not sufficient, particularly for women.
Funding criteria should take into account the readiness of the client, regardless of the length of residency in the country.
Integration is a two-way street. The time needed to integrate depends in part on the willingness of the community to accept the newcomer.
There should be a public information program about immigration to combat racism and anti-immigrant backlash.
In terms of accountability, the focus of accountability criteria should be qualitative, not merely quantitative.
Accountability procedures should not increase the administrative burden of the service delivery agencies.
Reporting requirements should be designed so as to avoid duplication.
A few other things came from Edmonton: the importance of ensuring that adequate information about settlement renewal is made available to all affected; the importance of involving the grass roots, which we said already; the need to avoid duplication in reporting requirements. That leads to, what type of duplication? Are we talking about services or administrative duplication? That is a question we might want to deal with today.
Settlement renewal should simplify and rationalize settlement delivery, not complicate it.
There is widespread dissatisfaction with the government's information management system, SMIS. Groups claim that it is inflexible and costly, in terms of both administrative time and dollars.
At this point I would like to take what I call a five-minute biological break. We can come back. It will give you some food for thought.
I am sorry; I was a bit negligent in my duties. I didn't introduce the two people sitting beside me.
Ms Margaret Young (Committee Researcher): I'm Margaret Young, the researcher for the committee.
The Clerk of the Committee: I'm Christine Trautmansdorff. I'm one of two clerks. Pat Steenberg is the clerk of the committee.
The Chair: They help us to do our work - or they do the work.
The Chair: I will begin with Ms Rafales, because I was negligent in not allowing her to have her say this morning.
Ms Cristina Rafales (HOST Coordinator, YMCA of Greater Halifax-Dartmouth): I am going to start with a personal note. Just yesterday I got my Canadian citizenship.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Ms Rafales: I want to share that with all of you, because I didn't know how I was going to feel. When I went for my exam, I didn't feel anything. But as the time came closer, I started feeling something. I felt very proud.
I went to Lunenburg County this weekend. In case you haven't been there - it's very beautiful. I was thinking, I belong here; these are my roots; I have to take care of this land.
After I became a Canadian citizen, we had a party. Most of the people at that party were people I've met through this program. I think ARAISA was the first place I went to, and I was welcomed even though I was only a visitor then. At that party I had volunteers and newcomers who are my friends. They are my family now. I never thought I could have this kind of family when I was back home in Spain. Back then all my friends were white, all my friends were middle-class. It was pretty boring.
The Chair: And they say Canada is boring!
Ms Rafales: I think this is what many people feel. It's just a wonderful feeling. I hope you consider all that when we make these decisions. Especially in Nova Scotia and the other Atlantic provinces we do get special treatment, but I think we are ready to give back even more. When we are talking about the small places, integration may be easier.
To link it to the racism problem, maybe some of us didn't touch on some of those issues specifically because we were more concerned about telling you we want to be part of the process. But we do have racism. Maybe it's not as visible as in Toronto or Montreal. Maybe it's a different kind of racism, and maybe we have to develop different models from what you're using in the big cities. But we do have it and it is an issue. It may be difficult to fight it.
We had a conference just last week to celebrate the G-7 and the P-7, the People's 7. A lady said it very well: maybe if we only have a small amount of racism here, it is still like talking about battered women - not because we are doing better with battered women. If there is one woman being battered, that woman is suffering and we have to fight that. We do have racism. We have to develop different models that work in this part of the country, where it is more conservative and more subtle but it is there.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
I'll take a speakers' list now, if you would like to put up your hand.
We'll begin with Ms McKinnon-Rodriguez.
Ms McKinnon-Rodriguez: To add to what Christina has just said about public education and fighting racism, we also do a lot of work in public education and cross-cultural sensitivity training and it's an area that we are committed to continuing. But we need help. We need help from the federal government in terms of accurate statistics. We can get our hands on national stats, but they are not local enough. We need good accurate information on what is happening here in Nova Scotia and throughout the Atlantic region.
There was a question about numbers. I don't know about the other provinces, but just a bit over 3,000 newcomers come to Nova Scotia each year, and a high percentage of that number settle in the Metro area.
I have a question responding to the comments that Mary made after my introduction. I'm under the impression, as I think everybody here is, that the provinces have the first option on accepting the responsibility for settlement renewal and the administration of that. From what some of you have said this morning, I'm left to wonder if that is the case. Could I get some clarification on that?
The Chair: Certainly.
Ms Clancy: Policy development, as I said, is a very fluid thing. There are a number of steps. Take the dreaded gun control issue. That went through a number of forums before it finally came to the House of Commons. This is a bit different, because we're not talking necessarily about a legislative process, although that may come out of this at some point as well.
I can only tell you that nothing is written in stone. We hear from you and your colleagues nation-wide about this. We make recommendations, and other people, through other venues, make recommendations. You yourself said that you were told certain things in April that then changed in June. What I'm telling you is that the process is still very fluid. There are those who would push the provincial model. There are those who would push a regional model. There are those who would push an NGO model. The final decision is not yet made.
Ms McKinnon-Rodriguez: Then it's very difficult for us to respond and to take a position. We don't know what we're taking a position on.
Ms Clancy: Exactly.
The point is, what I'm saying to you is, what do you think would be best? What would you want? It isn't a question of your being reactive to what somebody up there is putting together, whoever somebody up there might be. It is, what do you as MISA or you as ARAISA or you as Holland College think would be the best model? That's effectively what we want to hear from you, either what you are thinking off the top of your head here this morning or later through a written brief.
We're asking you to be proactive. We're also telling you that we can't promise, either as a committee or in my position as parliamentary secretary, that what you want is what you are going to get. I think you all know the way in which the federal government works well enough that you weren't really expecting that in the first place. You have the input; that's what we want to hear from you. As to the final decision, we'll hope that we won't be in the situation of a giraffe as a horse invented by a committee. That's all.
That was a joke at the end.
Ms KcKinnon-Rodriguez: I can respond to that. I've already said in my initial remarks that if the question is being asked, my preference is that - I don't know the model, but somehow the responsibility should stay within the community. That could mean ISAM; within Nova Scotia it could mean ARAISA; within the Atlantic provinces I'm not quite sure.
Ms Clancy: May I throw in just one thing? What do you think, you and the rest of you, about a regional model in the sense of the four Atlantic provinces, as opposed to four provincial models? One of the things we're looking at in another area in federal policy is the elimination of interprovincial barriers. I throw that out as maybe one of the ways we would want to work together in this region.
Ms McKinnon-Rodriguez: Personally, I'm open to that, but at this point it's difficult to say yes, this is the way to go.
There were some comments earlier about not having individuals in decision-making positions who have vested interests, so it would remain neutral. I recognize the importance of that. However, that might be easier to do in a province such as British Columbia, where immigration is such a huge thing and it affects almost everybody; whatever sector you go in, people are familiar with the issues, perhaps, even though they might not work directly with the issues.
It's different here. We are the people who have the knowledge. It's not to boost our egos or anything; that's just the reality. We are the people who know. If we were looking at identifying a local advisory committee and looking at identifying perhaps a university professor and different people who have expertise in specific areas, probably many of those people would lack the necessary knowledge related to immigration and immigration issues. So I understand the importance of neutrality, but that's going to be difficult here.
The Chair: Ms Foster.
Ms Foster: First of all, I'd like to thank all the committee. I think all of us feel much more comfortable. There was some concern this morning about exactly what we were going to be faced with. This isn't too bad at all.
The Chair: You should have been with us in Toronto.
Ms Foster: I must say I'm also relieved about the comments you gave us on your sense from across the country. While Canada is a huge country and obviously there are enormous regional differences, obviously many of the concerns we have are shared from west to east, east to west.
The one thing I would like to put to you - maybe you are not the right people; I don't know - is that this organization that we have is an Atlantic regional organization. To date it has proven to be a very effective vehicle. Maybe because we don't get to see each other very often, we all get on very well. Absence makes the heart grow fonder or something. I believe there's a real willingness on the part of the membership to give this their all.
What I would like to ask of you is any influence you can bring to bear - Logistically, it is quite difficult for us to meet. We come from Newfoundland, and it costs us as much to come to Halifax as probably it does to go a much greater distance. I believe there is the possibility of some sort of interim or transitional funding - whether great consideration could be given to our meeting. This is fine and we can give you our instant responses, but if we could have a couple of days I believe it would be very valuable, perhaps to you also. We could come up with some sensible alternatives and keep this cohesive feeling we have going, because I'd hate to lose that. I meet with OCASI and all sorts of groups. This is really quite relaxing.
The Chair: Thank you. I appreciate that. If we put you all at ease, that's good.
I think Mary will take your consideration into account and see what she can do.
Ms McIntyre: I would like to make two comments, the first being a concern I have about decision-making. You brought up a concern - Mary Anne had touched on this - about vested interests of home-grown groups, so to speak, having access. My concern is that if this goes to an agency or an individual who does not have a vested interest and who is not anybody here, I would certainly like some assurance that any decision that is made is going to be a decision that serves the client and does not serve an administrator.
It is very easy, if you are not knowledgeable and if you are inexperienced, to make decisions focusing on the client as opposed to your own needs. You may not even know you're doing that.
So I have that kind of concern. If that comes to pass in this area, I would certainly like to see a very structured access mechanism for us, such as an appeal process.
I am also extremely interested in what Mary was talking about earlier, a national administrator kind of model. I'm wondering, first of all, how that differs from what would be in existence today. I'm also wondering if this is an option or if there is a real following towards that kind of model.
The Chair: Ms Clancy.
Ms Clancy: I'm free-associating. I said this to Mary Anne before we started this morning: I spent a great deal of time yesterday saying nothing is written in stone. Feel free to free-associate as well.
The Chair: Perhaps I should have said this at the beginning. It's at the minister's request that we're doing this consultation also. As Mary said, the decision for the three years has been made, but the decision on how to get there has not been made.
I don't want to repeat everything Mary said. We don't have anything written in stone. I hope I won't have to repeat it ten times. Yesterday in Toronto we had to repeat it continuously. The minister has requested that the committee do this consultation because he's looking for guidance, and we're looking for guidance from you so we can then guide him on how to proceed.
Did you want to add anything, Ms McIntyre?
Ms McIntyre: I would just say that on the issue of accountability, one mechanism or one strategy you might use is the one they're using now, and that is to keep funding separate so you do not cross over, or you don't just take a lump of money and throw it into a pot, you maintain discrete categories for HOST, AISA, and LINC.
The Chair: Ms Andrews.
Ms Andrews: At the break I was speaking with a couple of the members of the committee, and I wanted to make sure the committee realized that in this area, in Nova Scotia especially, and I think regionally, when the issue of settlement renewal came up, one of the issues was duplication of services. In this region there isn't duplication of services.
I know in the Metro area, for example, there are four LINC schools. All of us are providing different services, different hours of operation, different focuses. We are meeting different client needs. Ours is primarily for mothers who have on-site child care and want the time to meet their children at lunch hour and after school. Other programs provide full-time language training. The Y is providing services for the youth in the area.
My main concern is that in different regions of the country there is a duplication of services, but that doesn't exist here.
The other thing I wanted to speak about was you said the dollars would be earmarked primarily for women and children. That's what we're doing -
The Chair: That's not what I said. I said women and children's needs should be taken into consideration, and their specific needs, to be exact. Then I said federal funds should be earmarked, but not for women and children. Let me just clarify that.
Ms Andrews: One of my concerns is I'm on the PTA of Duc D'Anville School, which has the largest immigrant population in the city of Halifax. Through school officials I know there's a very keen interest that ESL dollars be put into the public school system.
My concern is - having been in part of the school board, worked for the school board, also having worked for the federal government, I know what costs are allocated for administrative costs, research, funding, studies, etc. As I said in my original statement, I'm very concerned that if the money is not earmarked, x dollars for adults, a lot of it will be eaten up in the communities with administrative costs and salaries, pensions, and the bottom line of serving the client will not be met.
The third thing I wanted to speak about is the problem of conflict. I want to point out that in the Metro area ISAM - We have been working together for a year and a half now, and because each of us is serving a specific client or group of people, there is very little conflict of interest. I think that could be said regionally as well.
The fourth thing I wanted to speak about is cost-effectiveness. I can't say enough how cheaply we deliver our programs. I don't think that anyone could do it for the cost for which our school does it. We train 60 people a year, part time, and we're in a church hall. You can't get rent any more cheaply than that. Our administrative costs are laughable, really. We're certainly not in it for the money. So when you talk about cost-effectiveness - and I'll say it again and again - I don't think you can get cheaper than the way we're doing it right now.
If you're talking about a national agency, then all I see is air fare, hotel expenses, administrative costs, translation costs, etc. I don't think that dollar will be coming to me, and I won't be training my clients.
Ms Clancy: You reacted to my free-association. That's fine. But that's why I'd like to hear in the sense of devolution. I'll say what I said yesterday: devolution is not abdication.
Clearly you don't think a national model would be good, which is fine. That's okay.
What would you see? That's the question we're posing.
Ms Andrews: As I said before, I'd be very interested in the people at this table being a part of the decision-making process and having the money and allocating it to the different agencies.
Ms Clancy: Let me then pose the second question. Do you see it as being flexible enough?
You don't have concerns - and I must say I agree with you - about the vested interest problem here. Vested interest is always so different in Atlantic Canada from what it is in other places. Would we be able to be flexible enough, and in your dealings with your colleagues nation-wide, if we did it like that in Atlantic Canada, would you foresee a problem if they did it differently somewhere else in the country?
Ms Andrews: Not at all. I think we've worked well. Most of us have been in this business for 20 years, and I think we've accomplished - and very well, I might add - our goals.
For me, there's a real fear that the dollar will be lost in the settlement renewal. They're trying to be cost-effective, but is the money going to come to the client?
Mrs. Terrana: My comment has to do with the fact that you remind me of British Columbia 25 years ago, when I was teaching in the basement of a school and we started ESL courses through a pilot project that was called School Canadiana. In fact, I became Terrana of School Canadiana. It was our first attempt to teach new immigrants, and I was teaching in a Catholic school basement. Over the years things have changed a great deal in British Columbia. I must say, though, that my experience is that with little money you go a long way in these organizations, because there's lots of volunteering that comes about, lots of goodwill that comes about. But surely some more agencies have become really glorified and people are getting a lot of money out of them, and also money spent on salaries and pensions, as she said.
I believe you when you say you don't have a vested interest right now and that it would not be a conflict. Again, you are the experts in this area; I'm not. I commend you for that. There is a question of this in the future, but, again, things can change.
After going through the country, yesterday I came up with, should we have a national agency like the United Way that does the basics? They are already organized. They have their own evaluation criteria, assessment criteria, etc. Then these should be helped by other agencies. I'm not saying the United Way; I'm just saying like the United Way.
I agree that we have to be flexible from area to area, because the needs are very different even from Saskatchewan to British Columbia. Saskatchewan is a totally different province: there are fewer immigrants; there are fewer people.
All of this is just for another topic of discussion.
Mr. Nunez: Ms Andrews says that there is no duplication of services here. I believe her. You do an excellent job. Nevertheless, at the federal level, as a member of the Opposition, all I hear is that we should do better with less money. That's the main problem. Are you going to be able to do such a good job with less money? I think it's a question you should ask yourself.
You know that at the federal, level, 45,000 civil servants will soon lose their job. A lot of departments and services will be affected, including the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.
Regional specificity is a good point. You probably have the same problem that we have in Quebec. It sometimes costs a bit more to integrate immigrants in the region because the retention rate of immigrants in Quebec is lower than that of other provinces or regions.
I was talking a few minutes ago with some people. They raised the issue of interprovincial migrations, people who come here and then leave the province for another one. Their settling here costs money and other provinces benefit from your work. We have that problem in Quebec too, because the retention rate is not very high.
This leads me to ask you about the length of the training period. Are three years enough? We have been told, in various parts of Canada, that we should be more flexible, that three years are not enough, especially today, with all the problems about getting the immigrants and the refugees accepted by the population, and with the economic crisis. There are no jobs.
I think that in your region, the unemployment rate is quite high. I've met a number of union people when I was working in that area and they were telling me that this was a problem.
Then, there is a question of duplication and overlapping. I can see that at the federal level. This is a problem, and the government could save a lot of money if we could solve that problem. There is a lot of duplication in areas like immigration. Even with the agreement between Quebec and Ottawa, there is a lot of duplication in this area. I don't know your situation very well and I would like to hear what you have to say on that.
Here, in the region, provincial governments don't seem to have much to do with immigration, settlement, integration, from what I've been told. In the rest of Canada, there are a lot of provinces who wish to sign agreements with the federal government on immigration. Some have already done that. Quebec started this 25 years ago. Why don't you think the provincial government could have a role in that?
Ms Clancy: Briefly to comment, while there is always a place for constructive opposition, it is perhaps unfortunate to use that guise to attempt to frighten people with regard to cuts in funding. The statement has been made about three-year stable funding; I addressed it earlier. The question of downsizing in the federal government is one that is being dealt with by Minister Massé.
As many of you are aware, we were talking in the break about program review round 2. But I think that to throw that at you this morning is, in the context of the three-year statement, confusing. I'd like to remind you of the three-year statement and that that commitment is there. It is on our agenda.
The Chair: I'll continue with the speakers' list. Ms Eisener.
Ms Eisener: I have two points.
First, I'd like to add a point of general concern to your list, which is that we should find a way to bring more of the community into this process. I think immigration is a two-way street, but we're focusing a lot. Of course it's to be expected that we're focusing on the immigrant side, but we also have to make sure that we have strong education programs available for the general community. So we must find a way to broaden this table to include people from the churches, health care, and school boards. I just wanted to make sure that that was noted.
The second is more a question to you. I'm a strong supporter of an NGO-led service delivery system. I think that collectively we would like to discuss a model for that. I'm wondering if you could give us maybe five of your top-priority questions to which you would like us to provide answers in order to help us structure that brief.
The Chair: Ms Rodriguez, did you want to say something?
Ms McKinnon-Rodriguez: I'm just wondering if Nancy could share with us the model of the black community that she mentioned the other day in terms of them making their own decisions with HRDC funding.
Ms Eisener: Mary will be well aware of the black CEC work group that is operational in the north end of Halifax. This is a model that we can look to for some guidance. The local HRDC office has allocated a certain percentage, I believe 10% or 12%, of its budget to the black community. A group of all of the black community agencies gather together, set the priorities, and then come to the table seeking funding. It's an excellent example of leadership, because all of us around the table are seeking funding but we all are able to put the needs of the community first and we work in cooperation to do that. So that's a model that Mary might want to look at and share with you a little bit.
The Chair: The vested interest is there, but it still works.
Ms Eisener: Exactly. Normally we would have gone to HRDC with our various proposals and HRDC would have taken the fall-out of whatever that funding decision is. Now they hand that power in decision-making over to us and we live amongst ourselves in the allocation of resources. We've seen a lot of cooperation and some new ways of delivering service. It's not always easy, and of course it's not without wrinkles, but it is possible.
The Chair: That's great. Thank you for sharing that with us. That's important.
Ms Clancy: Insofar as the question is concerned, page 11 of the document effectively gives you that. There are eight questions that relate to - It's not just me saying this. To give you a sense of what's being examined and what will form the basis of future discussions, there's a sampling of questions. Arriving at the answers will take more time and a great deal more consultation, but these are ostensibly the areas that put it very succinctly.
The Chair: I have a question, though, on the other model. What about monitoring? How do you account in terms of the model you brought up before?
Ms Eisener: There are two monitoring systems. The quality of the program and the softer issues are done by a monitoring group within the community.
The Chair: Is it a subcommittee?
Ms Eisener: It is a subcommittee, yes. The actual dollars are monitored by the HRDC project officers. So the decision on how much money you're going to receive is not there. They are not involved with that, but the accountability, checking of receipts, that type of thing, is done by someone from the government.
The Chair: Very interesting.
Ms Guy: I have one concern and perhaps in the renewal process you could look at the funding that's presently allocated through HRDC and also through Canadian Heritage. Many of them are related to immigrants. The funding is not standardized across the country.
We just completed a study and it's not a cost-effective program. It certainly can be, and it's very much needed, and I think it has to be taken into account.
The Chair: That was brought up with some of the other consultations and we will be looking at it. Mary took notes.
There was something said earlier by Judy McIntyre concerning the HOST, ISAP and LINC to remain separate programs. Do the rest of you agree? Would this lead to inflexibility? In some regions they may want to lump them altogether and decide that they're only going to allocate one fund for all those three programs to a certain agency, then the agency decides how they want to divide it up instead of the government making the decision.
Ms Foster: I think that would depend on the organization, the provincial make-up, or the players.
I'm going to put a different hat on now. I have to keep kicking him when he says something I don't like.
From our point of view I think we've a proven track record that we can manage our money well and we hopefully are delivering quality programs. No disrespect to government, but I think to have some flexibility would be good because we know where the need is and often you can be very effective. You can piggyback one program on another. Sometimes it's better, perhaps, if the federal government doesn't know what some of us NGOs do. I think I'll go under the table now.
Mr. Woodford: Bridget is certainly correct when she talks about the organizational flexibility, and that's certainly something we have within Newfoundland. I think many of the agencies around this table maintain a great deal of flexibility in the services they provide, and we all know the saying, we bend over backwards. I think we actually do more than that at times for our clients when we have to.
One of the points I wanted to make with regard to Newfoundland - and I stated this briefly in my opening address - is that we actually have a relationship with our provincial government through the Department of Social Services.
If you remember back several years ago, Newfoundland received a lot of refugee claimants who were the responsibility of Social Services. Social Services realized that we were the experts and provided quality services to refugee claimants more cost-effectively.
So we have a contract with Social Services to provide some of those services to claimants. That's a long-standing relationship since the late 1980s with the province.
In addition, within the past year we tried to bridge other gaps with the province in some of the other departments. We actually have a committee called a coordinating committee for immigration initiative in Newfoundland that was started by the Association for New Canadians, which draws in some of our partners. I like using that word. I don't know if it's actually operationalized at times, but there are federal representatives and provincial representatives on that committee.
One of the goals of that committee is essentially to discuss what we can all do together to help immigrants integrate more effectively and more efficiently.
I have to be honest and say that this committee was sidetracked when this whole settlement revitalization process started. Really that committee was sidetracked when provincial people came to us and asked how much it cost to settle somebody. When you have to put a number on something or someone, that does digress the whole purpose, you know.
One last point I wanted to make was on the number of immigrants coming to Newfoundland. I don't have an exact number. It varies and really depends on how you define ``immigrants''. But I know the federal government, through Citizenship and Immigration, has realized and made a commitment to send to or destine more government-assisted immigrants for Newfoundland and to the other less populated regions.
Settlement is relatively easy within our city, within our communities and our provinces. Yes, we have problems, but it's dedicated people who are sitting around this table who get over those problems, with the cooperation from our partners.
Ms Clancy: I'm delighted that Mr. Woodford brought up that fact because I think, again, there's misunderstanding from Mr. Nunez about the cooperation and the ongoing work, and I think it bears -
I know Prince Edward Island has an agreement with the federal government, and with regard to other provinces the negotiations are ongoing. It's not as if they're not talking to each other in this area. Some obviously have more experience and more expertise within their own bureaucracies than others.
I wanted to throw out the unexploded bombs we dealt with across the country. I hesitate to bring this up, but I'm going to and then I'm going to hide under the table. Do any of you have any comments to make either about benchmarks or SMIS? I didn't know anything about this until I landed in Vancouver on Monday.
I would also like to hear about - and Mr. Nunez brought this up as well - the question of length of time, particularly for the English as a second language people.
One of the things we heard in other places was that women in particular are, in a sense, being doubly disadvantaged - so what's new? - because by the time they are ready, the time has run out or effectively they are too far into the time limit for it to do them much good. I would like to hear some response on that.
The Chair: Ms Eisener is first on the list.
Ms Eisener: I was just going to make a comment with regard to the funding streams. I think we need to keep in mind that settlement is a long-term process. Initially, you get to the country, as everyone knows, and get your apartment and then maybe over the next year you're dealing with the day-to-day activities. Then there's the long-term integration.
I think we need to look at putting some additional resources in that area because of the fact that we are in a national struggle to try to figure out what it is to be a Canadian. So I don't see how we can expect within the first year that a newly arrived person is going to be able to understand all the nuances, values, and that kind of thing. We are in a changing mix of the country and redefining those values.
So I think when we're allocating the funding we have to look a little bit more at that end of it. Maybe if we brought the money from citizenship into the pot we could expand those resources a bit, but I think that's an important component.
Ms McKinnon-Rodriguez: I would like to respond to a few questions from Senor Nunez. Although I know it's not perhaps appropriate, I would still like to respond to your comments about cuts in funding and the question of whether we can continue to provide the quality of service that we have with less money. It reaches a point when the answer is no. I'm not sure where that point is -
Mr. Nunez: I didn't think you noticed.
The Chair: We were listening.
Ms Clancy: We don't need a lecture either.
Ms McKinnon-Rodriguez: - but, for example, we receive many other grants. We receive grant funding through the Department of Canadian Heritage. Over the past two or three years that grant has been cut by 10%, 15%, and 10% again this year.
We are at the point now where that really had an effect on our overall budget. At this point we don't have enough money in our funds to pay for rent for this year, so that means we are going to have to scramble to pick up money somewhere else, somehow, to do this. We have been able to do this in the past, and probably will, but it takes away from the effort we put into providing services and puts a strain on.
With that happening from several different directions, we will reach a point where we can't. That's the answer.
With respect to the length of availability of services, I would respond by saying that it depends on the individual. We see newcomers, government-sponsored refugees, and every other class, who within six months are settled. They might have questions, they might need some more information, but they're doing okay.
We also see people who, after three, four, and five years, still require some support. So I don't think there's one answer for that. I think it's a very individual issue.
Maybe I misrepresented myself. I'd like to make it clear that I do see a role for the provincial government in immigration and in settlement renewal. It's just that, in this particular province, there is not much experience within the provincial government in this area. So it's scary, truthfully, for me to think they would take this on. Right now, they're showing interest because there are dollars attached. I think I would question their motivation behind that.
I do see that they do have a role, and I'm very interested and committed to working with them. We do public education sessions for different departments within the provincial government, so we recognize that, yes, they should be a partner, but there's a process of education, I think, that's needed.
I'd just like to respond to your question about SMIS. It's a joke; it's a fiasco, to be honest. The whole thing, from the very beginning was - I hope settlement renewal is not a similar situation in which the government says, ``Oh yes, we're going to have consultations; you're going to have input''. Yes, they asked us, and we had input, but nobody listened.
There was a working committee on SMIS, and one of our staff members was involved in those teleconference calls. In call after call after call, the community people were saying the same things. They had major problems with it, and the department went ahead; it just stormed through and didn't pay attention to any of the concerns.
In March and April we spent, I'd say, at least 100 hours of our staff time inputting all of our clients into the data bank. Something has happened with the system. I don't know what, but our code is incorrect. We need to change our security code - put a ``J'' in front of it - but in order to do that, it means all of the work we've done has to be done over again.
We had our own data information system. We kept our own statistics, and it was a good system. We developed it for our own needs and for our own organization. That worked really well. Now, we've changed over to this system. It's not working. We basically can't keep the statistics because of this code problem. If we want to keep going with SMIS, it means starting over again. We don't have statistics for the information we want.
From the very beginning, the whole process was a mess, and it still is. From my point of view, it's a major concern.
The Chair: Thank you. Ms Andrews.
Ms Andrews: I wanted to speak about a couple of issues that were just raised.
The first thing is what Mr. Nunez said about duplication of services. I think that, yes, that's something I haven't thought about. If you have clients coming, beginning here in the Atlantic region, moving on to Toronto and Vancouver, and accessing language training again for another three years, there's a good possibility of duplication of services.
However, as Mary Anne said, I don't think you can have a magic number of hours of training or number of years of language training. I think what we do as well as language training in our school is preventive mental health. We have yet to have a student stay at our school for 23 years. They do move on, and they move on when they're ready to.
With the LINC guidelines, the level of language training has been dropped, and it's very hard for many of these women to go out into the community at this very limited level of language ability.
I think in settlement renewal, something that should be considered, perhaps, in cooperation with benchmarks is that when a student has reached a certain level of language ability, there is some place for them to go after that and they're not just thrown back into the community.
As you know, with Public Works and the Department of National Defence, if you're on French language training or English language training, you're provided six months of full-time language training, and you reach a certain level of ability in the four skills. I think that could be done with the LINC training as well.
I think the key issue is the difference between a federal government employee accessing language training and mastering their second language and a landed immigrant, which is that there's a banana at the end. The federal government employee is going to be getting more money, because they're bilingual. Also, they're going to be moving along in their job.
I think the most difficult thing for the landed immigrant is that, when they've reached level 3 of language training, where do they go? There's no place to go. I think that's very, very important, especially for women. As I said before about preventive mental health, they're not suffering isolation, and, as I said before, they do move on eventually. So when you speak about time lengths - I just wanted to raise this point.
The Chair: Thank you.
Ms Irving: I want to speak from Prince Edward Island's point of view. I'd like to support our feeling about the SMIS system. We've a very small staff and we rely on volunteers. We just had an annual meeting earlier this week, and, for the meeting and for our audit, we had to estimate how much volunteer time is put into the organization, and it's over $50,000 worth of volunteer time. If you value it, depending on the job, between $10 and $100 an hour, it's over 4,000 hours of volunteer time.
None of our volunteers are interested in inputting data. We have to rely on staff members who already work part time, are paid part time, but work full time. So SMIS is a pain in the butt to us. If you're hearing that everybody feels this way, please make a quick decision and tell us we don't have to bother with it any more.
Ms Clancy: We're the committee.
Ms Irving: Please send your recommendations to the powers that be so we don't have to waste our time doing this any more.
The Chair: I think Mary is saying good enough.
Ms Irving: Our provincial government has no history working in settlement and settlement issues, either short-term settlement or long-term integration. We're still at the point at which we're doing cultural sensitivity training and awareness of issues training with different provincial government departments and individuals.
Enterprise P.E.I. is, I think, an arm's-length agency of the provincial government involved in trying to attract business immigrants, but they don't get into settlement or language issues.
I guess most importantly, from our point of view, is that P.E.I. is the smallest province of Canada. The population is 130,000. Last year - 1994 - I think about 160 immigrants came to P.E.I. Needless to say, there are a lot more first generation Canadians living on the Island than that, and last year we settled 61 government-assisted refugees, and we have a number of claimants as well.
Please continue to destine government-assisted refugees to Prince Edward Island. We don't want to be counted out of the equation, and we are concerned about that. We hear rumours. We hear things like ``Well, we just won't destine people to P.E.I.; it's so small. They can go to other Atlantic regions.'' That concerns us.
We are part of Canada. We want to be part of the cultural diversity and multicultural mosaic of Canada, and don't write us off because it is a small province. I think we provide a great deal of really personal service to our clients, and we can do it, because the province is small and we have a small number.
Many of the clients who left P.E.I. after a year or two years and have gone on to the rest of Canada phone us and say they wish they hadn't left Prince Edward Island. They thought they were going to larger centres where there would be more jobs. In fact, there are more jobs in larger centres, but there's more competition. There's less personal service. There's less a feeling of belonging. Prince Edward Island is comfortable in its role as a place to welcome new Canadians and comfortable when they stay. Part of our work is to make the community a place where people want to stay, but we also recognize there will be people who will want to leave.
Prince Edward Island has a very small ethnocultural community. Some people naturally want to leave to be in cities where there are larger ethnocultural communities and more supports. We can understand that, but when they leave, they leave with a good grounding. They leave with the sense that people helped them and related to them as people.
I would like to end by saying please continue to work so that people come to the Atlantic provinces and in particular Prince Edward Island.
The Chair: Thank you. There's a saying, small but beautiful.
It's interesting that much of what you said was said by the representatives from Prince Rupert and Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan.
Ms Irving: I think small communities have a lot in common when they're offering settlement services. They have a lot to offer, and we get so much out of the newcomers and first-generation Canadians. We're talking here about how we're providing services - we're giving. What we're not talking about is what we get back. Prince Edward Island is a multicultural, multi-ethnic community. Sometimes you can't always see it if you're in the middle of a field somewhere just five kilometres outside of the downtown area, but it is there and it's important to keep this because that's our connection to Canada, not the fixed link.
The Chair: Wayne Easter keeps reminding us.
Ms Irving: Good.
Ms Foster: I'd like to endorse what Heather said, that sometimes people come to Newfoundland and often after nine months they decide to leave. I don't think that should be viewed as a wasted expenditure. I like to think we help the rest of the country. When people leave us I believe they are so much better equipped to cope with their own lives and have enough language and enough confidence to go out there and get a job that I think that's an enormous benefit to Ontario and B.C. We're sending you some really nice people.
I'd like to mention to Mary that I have to agree that SMIS perhaps hasn't been quite the disaster for us that it has for other people. We have lots of power cuts in Newfoundland and this solved some of the problems, but if SMIS goes, I hope you'll leave us the computer that came with it.
I feel I've been very lucky to speak this much, but I think one of the things we haven't mentioned and I sometimes get concerned about is that the newcomer has responsibilities, too. We've all accepted that we have responsibilities and the federal government has responsibilities. Canada is a wonderful country and is very generous. In fact, I don't know anywhere else you could go in the world and be provided with the kind of help that is available.
Maybe I'm getting older and a bit more disillusioned, but I get very frustrated when language training is available for people. I think the client has a responsibility to learn one of our official languages in order to become a fully paid-up member of society, as it were. It really concerns me when I get the sense that clients are not taking this seriously, because it's a real luxury and privilege as far as I'm concerned. You can have five hours' language training a day, you get your transportation provided and somebody's going to look after your child, then you tell me you want to stay home because you didn't do your laundry last night. I get concerned. We should perhaps reinforce the fact that the newcomer has responsibility to the taxpayer too.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
If I may add a parenthetical note, I worked for 15 years in the province of Quebec in immigration. We called them the cultural communities. There was a study done exactly on that point when I was vice-president of an advisory body - what were the responsibilities the newcomer has to the community at large? A lot of what you said is in that report.
Ms Foster: As we get to hear more and more things, possibly in the Atlantic we don't - but obviously there is a feeling out there that we don't need immigrants. When we are faced with some of these issues that our newcomers are not living up to their responsibilities then the whole public perception is influenced. Unfortunately, a few people give a bad impression for the majority. I think we have to work on that.
The Chair: We called it in Quebec the social contract. Maybe it's a term that's been in disrepute after what happened in Ontario, but it was a social contract that somebody undertook. Actually, one of the recommendations was that this contract be made available to this new immigrant at the overseas office so he in fact reads what his responsibilities are even before he comes to this country. In any case, that's off the topic.
Ms Eisener: This comment follows up naturally on what you were just saying, that I think we want to look at the information that's given overseas by both the government and by the private immigration consultants before people come to Canada.
I think it's especially important to get good quality economic information to people before they arrive here. You have to question the common sense. If we're giving special points to people based on their academic qualifications, if they get to Canada and those qualifications are meaningless, what was the point of the extra points? I was asked by an engineer last week if Canada brings people here just to be cleaners. I was speechless.
The second point of concern is the notion that I'd like to urge the government to increase the number of government-sponsored refugees coming into the country, both from the humanitarian point of view and the fact that many of these individuals are excellent citizens because they know from whence they came and they are committed to making a better life here.
Mr. Sexton: One of the things I wanted noted here is that in the smaller areas we don't have a waiting list for language training. I think this in itself is very cost-effective. In big centres you have newcomers waiting probably as long for language training as it takes us to train our clients. That certainly isn't cost-effective when you have to pay them living allowances and they are not getting any training and not getting on with their life. It cannot be very fair or humanitarian to them either.
The Chair: You're perfectly right. In fact, in Quebec there is a waiting list, and actually the number of hours was cut down by the provincial government in order to allow more people to take the French language training. It also takes more time to learn French.
Mr. Woodford: One of the points I wanted to make was that right now immigration is one region within the Atlantic, whereas previously Newfoundland was its own region up until about a year and a half or so ago.
One of the goals of the whole settlement revitalization process has been that the new infrastructure or the new organization, or however the funds are going to be administered, is to reflect the local integration needs.
Currently in Newfoundland the Association for New Canadians' major contact person would be the program specialist who works out of the St. John's office. That person has an idea of the local context, the local needs, what our clients are saying we need. Then that person has to go to the regional office and advocate for these needs. That person is really acting as the middleman or middle individual. I don't know how effective this is. If we're thinking in terms of a regional body, one of the challenges we have to look at is how you really make something regional - as in four Atlantic provinces with different contexts, different political environments and so on and so forth - reflective of local needs.
Personally, I haven't put a lot of thought into it. I know we really need to have the opportunity to discuss that in more detail.
Mr. Nakonieczny: I'll just refer to what others said before. On the number of immigrants coming to the Atlantic, I think the distribution decisions made by the federal government should be more careful and we should increase the number of immigrants coming to the Atlantic. One of the reasons is over the years the expertise of people working in NGOs in a settlement area has been developed. If the number of immigrants decreases year after year, in a while we won't have settlement agencies working in the Atlantic. In a few more years down the road we'll again have a large influx of immigrants. Who will work with them then? I think we need some continuation and some steady flow of immigrants in the Atlantic.
On the same note, going back to what Mr. Nunez said, he was referring to the high level of unemployment in the Atlantic. I was wondering if he meant that bringing in more immigrants would increase the level of unemployment. I'd like to have the answer to that question.
Also, on misinformation about the Atlantic and in particular about Newfoundland and the visa posts outside of Canada, I believe there is a magazine or a paper called Canada News that is available at visa posts. A couple of years ago there was an article about Newfoundland and why immigrants shouldn't go to Newfoundland because of the bad economic climate and the bad weather. You should change those things.
The Chair: A government publication?
Mr. Nakonieczny: Yes.
The Chair: That's interesting.
Ms McIntyre: I would like to address the issue of benchmarks that Mary brought up. Mary is concerned that we have in our full-time school - as you well know, LINC is currently delivered by class 1, class 2, class 3. If you have benchmarks that are designated 1 to 25, for example, do you teach benchmarks 1 and 3 in that room? Do you teach 4 to 6 in another room? Am I going to be dealing with more teachers here who are coming in? We don't know how this benchmark is going to play out in terms of the structure of a class. We don't know - if you have an individual who is in this room, which is benchmarks 1 to 5, and this person has benchmarks 4 and 5 and 1, but also 7 and 8 - what do you do with him? Logistically, we have a real problem in understanding how this is going to play out. We can't seem to get answers to our questions on that.
I would also like to say, as a full-time school, with respect to how long a person should take to go through the program - I can think of two individuals in the past year who took longer than one year to get through. However, in making decisions about how long, I certainly feel that in a lot of circumstances in my school three years is far too long. I've had some students actually say they have three years, they don't have to go out and work. They can go there for three years and social assistance will pay for them. So it can be a deterrent to succeed in a certain way. However, you cannot compare a full-time school with a part-time school, because we give more hours in some cases, and neither can you rule out the individual himself or herself.
I had a case of a learning disability in my school. We have people in crisis who are from war. They cannot focus, they cannot attend, and they cannot retain for very good reasons. Very clearly, I think those kinds of issues also have to be taken into account when you're talking about time.
The Chair: Thank you very much. That's an interesting new perspective.
Ms Clancy: In that sense, because, again, maybe it has to do with numbers and the way in which service is delivered - In Vancouver and Toronto, quite clearly, more and more we heard three years isn't enough, and it will be interesting what we hear in Montreal, with a different language in many cases.
Everybody talked about the need to build some flexibility for the individual cases, but it sounds to me as though you're saying those are the exceptions and the rule is that three years is too long. What I heard in Toronto and in Vancouver is that they too have exceptions but three years isn't long enough in the general population. But that may be the waiting lists and the sheer numbers.
Ms Guy: I just wanted to reiterate what Judy said. We had a language school for many years, and three years is certainly sufficient, even on a part-time basis. If the interest is there, they will learn; if the interest isn't there, they'll never learn, regardless.
To address the issue of benchmarks, it's really nebulous and we don't know where it's going. I have a real concern. We've given input. However, our concerns have not been addressed. Further, we really question how it will be used if it comes to be.
I'm not sure whether you realize it, but the exam called TOEFL, which is teaching of English as a foreign language, is a test that universities and many other educational institutions require of an immigrant. However, once an immigrant becomes a Canadian citizen, this requirement is no longer in place. There are some biases, and hopefully benchmarks will not be used in that manner as well.
One concern I do have is about the province's involvement. Right now, the province involves itself with refugee claimants. It provides them with social assistance. Unfortunately, a refugee claimant cannot attend language programs because, again, his situation is unknown. If in fact a person has launched his case and goes through the process, deportation papers are not served for two to two and a half years. If in fact that person is not able to attend language programs, he becomes a burden on the social system. We would like to see him be allowed access to language programs if space is available. If they access language programs, we have proven that they will become employable; therefore, they're not a financial burden and society does not see them as a drain on the system, and we think that's crucial.
As far as young mothers are concerned, there are outreach programs and volunteer programs in place for young moms who are at home with children. Unfortunately, if for some reason they can't attend programs, we would like to see those who become Canadians and who haven't mastered the language to be able to access language schools. Right now, once a person becomes a Canadian citizen that person is asked to leave the program.
Mrs. Terrana: If three years is enough and after three years you can become a Canadian - the problem is with those people, especially in the big centres like Vancouver, who cannot go to school because they have to work or because, in the case of women, they have to stay at home because the husbands are absent. This is where the problem comes in. These people may need to go to school after the three years are up, but that's it, they cannot go any more, especially if they become Canadians. I just want to clarify that this is what we're talking about and not whether or not three years is good, bad, or indifferent. We also know there are people who will never learn the language because they don't have the basic knowledge of even their own language. This happened to many of European people who came in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Chair: Mr. Nunez wants to add something on that point.
Mr. Nunez: Not only on that point; on others too.
First, the question of unemployment among immigrants has been raised by somebody else. Any economist will tell you that there is no direct relation between immigration and unemployment. In fact, British Columbia has the lowest unemployment rate and this is where you find the majority of immigrants in this country.
Unemployment raises other questions. For example, in Quebec, there are 90,000 jobs available but there are no qualified workers to fill them.
With regard to the three years, I note that flexibility is in order, that the rule must not be applied too rigidly. Even today, we hear that it is possible to get your Canadian citizenship after three years. In fact, it is not three years, since after three years you can only apply to become a citizen; you must then wait a few months and sometimes more than a year. It is specially in the case of women that there must be flexibility.
As for courses for refugees, they should have the right, if they so wish, to take courses since they are not responsible for the delays. I heard that in Montreal, it takes eight months to get a determination hearing on a refugee claim. After which, of course, there are appeals.
We should help refugees by allowing them to take courses. The Minister grants these refugees a work permit and sometimes, work and language courses go together. In order to work, you must have a basic knowledge of the language.
I very much appreciated your presentation on PEI. Your are doing marvelous work. Your role, as an agency working towards integrating immigrants, is to promote the positive aspects of immigration.
Generally speaking, immigration has been a great asset for Canada and for Quebec. This country would not be the same if immigrants had not come here from all over the world. They work very hard. I am not an example, but I never claimed unemployment insurance since I came here. However, it is the case of many people of my generation.
The Chair: Are you having trouble?
Ms McKinnon-Rodriguez: Heather's interpretation system wasn't working, so it might be appropriate to repeat that.
Mr. Nunez: I was simply mentioning your presentation and congratulating you for the great work you do. What you do is not known elsewhere. As a party critic, I am very much attuned to what goes on in Canada in the area of immigration. Once again, congratulations.
The Chair: There is a difference, Mr. Nunez, between a refugee status claimant and a refugee. In your intervention, you confused the two.
Mr. Nunez: A difference? I don't understand.
The Chair: There's a difference between a recognized refugee and a refugee status claimant. You confused the two.
Ms Mills: I just wanted to make a few comments. We have to be flexible with the three years. Three years, I would suspect, is okay for somebody in full-time LINC training or even part-time LINC training, but that doesn't mean somebody arriving on day one who is going to leave three years later.
We have a case right now where a woman who came to our school three years ago but was out for more than eighteen months with a problem pregnancy, plus a child with problems at the end, has to leave because her three years is up. She hadn't been in training for three years, but she started three years ago.
So it's flexibility again. If the government's all for flexibility, then you have to bring this issue, especially with women. It's a women's issue.
Many of the women we see stay home for one or two years. The men go through the program. After three years they will become citizens with their husbands and they haven't been in training for three years, but they can't get training after they become Canadian citizens. That's an issue we've been talking about ever since LINC came in.
I'm hoping that whatever comes down, that issue is brought to the fore, because I suspect you've heard it from all over the country that Canadian citizens should be allowed language training.
Yes, three years is enough for the level that we're doing now, but we talked about whether one, two, or three is enough. I don't know what ``enough'' is. Enough for what? Enough for Nancy's cleaning job? That's another issue.
As for benchmarks, quite honestly they're a joke in Nova Scotia. We have not taken them seriously because we've never been asked for any real input. Nobody in Nova Scotia from federal language training has been asked for real input, so we've never taken them seriously.
We had a meeting about a year ago about the benchmarks. We looked at benchmarks and made some recommendations then. We looked at exactly the same benchmarks a week ago and nothing had been done about them. We made the same recommendations and we don't expect anything to be done about them again.
Suddenly last week we were told it's extremely possible that the benchmarks will be tied to federal funding. It seems to me that suddenly the federal government has known these benchmarks have been on the back burner and suddenly it's whoa, here is what we can do for accountability. We can push through. We can tie the funding to the benchmarks, and I don't know if that's an appropriate mechanism.
The Chair: We have three more speakers. Mr. Nakonieczny.
Mr. Nakonieczny: Just to add a couple of things about the three years, in my personal opinion the language instruction should probably be extended on both sides to the refugee claimants who sometimes are waiting a very long time to hear whether or not they can stay in Canada. I have friends who have been waiting since 1990 for the decision. It's five years now and they don't know whether or not they can stay.
Let's say that next month they hear they can stay. They've basically wasted five years of their time. They could have been doing language training, job training, or anything.
In other cases, on the other side of the extreme, sometimes the process is very fast and people become Canadian citizens very fast. Everything goes the proper route. All the steps in becoming a Canadian citizen go smoothly and people are not ready to stop the language training and move up on their own. So we have to be flexible on both sides.
Ms Rafales: I think many people are talking about flexibility, and in our case flexibility has allowed us, for example, to provide a HOST program that is not a traditional HOST program. It's not done on an individual match basis. That has allowed us to explore many different venues, to get a lot of feedback and to develop a program. I don't know how to define it, but it's working.
Flexibility allows us to do a lot of things. In the small provinces we are talking about we need that kind of venue.
Also, maybe in the big cities you can talk about deadlines and three years, but here it's very difficult. As Mary Anne said, maybe someone will settle in six months. They will get a job. They will buy a house or a car. But still, they will be calling sometimes. They are settled; they are integrated. They have their own Canadian friends, but they feel like we are part of the community, and if they don't move we are going to see them again.
So people don't get lost. No matter whether they integrate or not, people still want to come back, people want to be part of it, and it's very hard to put parameters and tell people ``Now you cannot come any more,'' because it doesn't work like that in the small communities. I think for people working in Toronto and Montreal, it is a different world and it just doesn't work the same way.
The Chair: It's obvious, I think, from today's discussions and our cross-country consultation.
Ms McKinnon-Rodriguez: I have just two issues. First is the issue of AAP - adjustment assistance program - and we heard first of all that it was possible that AAP was going to be included in the transfer to wherever that goes, and then we heard no, for sure, if everything else went to a community-based organization, AAP would probably go to the provincial government to be administered through the Department of Community Services.
I have some concerns about that. Judy said, I think it was yesterday or the day before, that in her two years she's never once been able to call a social worker and get through, and I would concur with that. I have a really difficult time actually getting through, and, when I do get through, I need an interpreter for the jargon they use. So if I do, imagine what our clients will go through. I really fear for our clients, being thrown into that huge system that is quite impersonal and lacking at this point in the cultural sensitivity that's required for newcomers when they first arrive, especially people who are coming from war-torn countries, who are survivors of torture in some cases, and who really require special treatment, in my opinion. So I wouldn't mind if there was any information on that.
The other question I have relates to Bridget's question as to whether there's money available for some sort of a meeting or a way for us to get together to focus specifically on this. My question is whether there's funding available - or perhaps this is already being done - to research other models. Nancy mentioned the model here in Halifax of the black community administering its own funds. It would be really helpful for us, in trying to make our decision, to know about other models of community organizations or community development that have worked, so that when we have our discussions, we might have an idea of things that have happened in other areas.
I'm wondering whether that might already be happening, and, if it's not, whether there might be funding available to do something like that.
Ms Clancy: This is not really in the purview of the committee, but if you want to talk to me, either call me or write me a letter very quickly, and I'll look into it for you.
The Chair: It is a request we also had from other groups about giving them types of models across the country. We're going to be looking at that as a committee and see what we can do to facilitate their presenting us with briefs.
If there are no other - Ms Foster.
Ms Foster: As a wrap-up, I feel very sorry for you all. I don't know whether you're having your breakfast now or your lunch. I hope you have a sense from us around the table that we are very willing and that we want to be part of the process, I believe for the right reasons. In particular, on an age basis - I'm going to be gone before this happens - I care enough about what I've been doing with the last 15 years of my life that I don't want to see it go.
So I would ask that you perhaps seriously endorse our involvement and consult with us. We give our time freely. We can't always get to you freely, but we're there. So please involve us.
The other thing I would like to stress is that you please take time over this. The sense, as I outlined earlier, almost of panic is not good in anybody's life. I think we've learned from our newcomers that, when people are frightened, they perhaps react differently. So give us time to digest the change. Rome wasn't built in a day, and maybe settlement renewal - So bear with us. If we seem nervous and reluctant, some of that is fear that we're perhaps not going to continue being able to do the good job we hope you consider we've done or have learned we've been doing up until now. But thank you for your time.
The Chair: Thank you very much, and I would like to say that you are doing a great job - that was obvious - and, after having gone across this country, I must say this was one of the best, if not the best, groups we have met with.
I'd like to say that this is always an ongoing process. I want to say that I, as an individual member of Parliament, Anna, Mary, and Mr. Nunez have done town hall meetings and have also done other consultations. The committee has a special mandate.
In terms of how we're going to proceed, when the House reconvenes, we will be calling other witnesses into the full committee. We had only a limited budget to travel in terms of the number of members who could come along.
I want to mention here also that all political parties were invited. The Reform Party chose not to participate, except in Vancouver. Any member of Parliament across this country was invited to be present at our hearings. That invitation was extended through me to all my colleagues on the Liberal side, and I hope it was done with the members on the other side, but it was an open invitation. No group was excluded. The invitation was put on the cable channel. There was no specific invitation sent to an individual or an organization, but we did get lists from the ministry and we did try to solicit, and I appreciate the fact that some of you who were supposed to be at the afternoon session came this morning. I truly appreciate that. It made our work easier, and we were able to finish early this morning.
I want to say something also in terms of thanking our clerk. On behalf of all the members of the committee, I'd like to thank the two clerks, Christine and Pat, and our researcher, Margaret, as well as the technical staff and the translators who did this with us. I really appreciated their technical assistance. They make our work so much easier.
I thank you very much, and we will keep in mind the ongoing consultation, but I think, through Mary, that can be worked out very easily. I'd also like to thank the director general who came from the ministry to be with us today.
Thank you very much.
Ms McIntyre: Is there going to be a written report?
The Chair: Yes.
Ms McIntyre: Could you send one to me, please?
The Chair: All participants today will receive a copy of our draft report. We're hoping for early October. But if, at any time, any group you know wants to submit any type of recommendations, even if it's just one recommendation, we would appreciate it and look forward to it.
The meeting is adjourned.