Thank you, Mr. Chair, honourable senators.
First, I want to thank you for having invited the FCFA to testify before you today.
The federation has existed since 1975. It is the national voice for French-language minority communities in nine provinces and three territories. In total, this means 2.7 million people who have chosen French, whether it was their first language or not.
Francophone and Acadian communities are present in all regions of the country and are increasingly diversified. For instance, 29% of the francophone population of British Columbia and 26% of the Alberta francophone population is attributable to immigration. In the Toronto region, more than 50% of young francophones of less than 18 belong to visible minorities.
Immigration is closely linked to the future of francophone and Acadian communities. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, in fact, includes in its objectives the development of official language minority communities.
In addition, the federal government has specific targets for francophone immigration. Among others, in 2018, 4% of economic immigrant men and women had to be francophones who would settle in our communities. That target was not reached. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada advised the FCFA last week that the percentage of francophone immigrants recruited for 2018 barely reached 1.8%. Unfortunately, this shortfall reoccurs every year. And yet, for two decades, our communities have been developing recruitment, settlement, inclusion and the retention of francophone immigrants. However, the tools the government uses to support us in that effort are not adequate.
This is where the link with the study your committee is currently doing resides. The FCFA is not appearing today as a settlement service. We are here to talk about the importance of French-language settlement services for our communities and for the newcomers who choose to settle in them.
Providing settlement services in francophone minority environments is not always the same as providing them to majority anglophone environments. The approach is completely different. Francophone settlement services aim to direct the immigrant toward French-language resources in the community. Their purpose is to ensure we retain the immigrant through the creation of links with the francophone community. This approach reflects the reality of the francophone community and the way it is organized, from the school to the francophone health centres and employment services.
The English-language or bilingual organizations cannot provide settlement services that are closely aligned with the reality of the francophone community. Very often, they do not even direct francophone immigrants toward francophone resources.
That is what happened for a very long time at Pearson Airport. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, in fact, resolved that particular issue by designating the Centre francophone de Toronto as the organization tasked with providing orientation services to francophone immigrants who arrive through Pearson Airport.
That is the type of specific measure we need to develop and strengthen settlement services created by and for francophone communities for the benefit of francophone immigrants.
Because our communities are fully aware of the fact that when they welcome a newcomer, they are welcoming an individual or a family who have chosen to uproot themselves in this major way, the well-being of the newcomers who choose our communities is always central to our concerns.
We recommend that your committee include the following measures in its report to the government.
First, there have to be calls for tender that are designed for francophone settlement services. In this way, our service providers will not have to compete with service providers to the majority, who often have more resources, but often know almost nothing about the minority realities.
Next, as I've just explained, often the francophone organizations that can provide French-language settlement services are small and have few resources. Consequently we recommend that the government prioritize strengthening the capacity of those organizations.
Third, IRCC has identified six types of settlement services provided to immigrants. In the minority francophone environment, we would need a seventh, that is to say a service that would help immigrants create sustainable links with the host community, which would allow them to develop feelings of belonging to that community, live in it in French, and in this way contribute to the growth and vitality of the francophonie.
Fourth, temporary workers and foreign students must also be allowed to benefit from settlement services.
Fifth, with respect to settlement services, I recommend that your committee underscore in its report the importance of a French perspective that takes into account the realities of the linguistic minority.
And finally, although this is not part of your committee's study, I'd like to mention that the government has undertaken to modernize the Official Languages Act. Last month, the FCFA submitted a complete draft bill in this regard. That proposal includes a government obligation to adopt immigration policies that support linguistic duality, which they do not at this time.
Good afternoon. My name is Kristin Crane. I am with the Huron County Immigration Partnership. We are located on the shores of Lake Huron, northwest of London and west of Kitchener-Waterloo.
Huron County has a population of just under 60,000 that's spread out over 3,400 square kilometres, and our largest population hub is about 8,000 people.
We are a region in Ontario that has the lowest unemployment rate. We're sitting at about 3%, and the entire area is experiencing a severe workforce shortage.
Huron County received funding from IRCC in 2010, and this was to establish a local immigration partnership. More recently, in October 2017, our county received IRCC-funded itinerant settlement services, and these are delivered to us by the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario.
Our local immigration partnership is part of settlement services; however, it offers indirect services, and that is because the work is done with the service providers rather than with the newcomers themselves. The mandate of an immigration partnership is to create welcoming communities, raise awareness of newcomer needs and bring about better collaboration and coordination of service providers. We're kind of the behind-the-scenes movers.
In Huron Country, we've seen an increase in the number of newcomers mainly because of private sponsorship of refugees. Our county is a destination for secondary migration as those sponsored families are contacting friends and family members who are in urban areas. Therefore, many of our newcomers have low literacy rates, very low English levels and a high level of needs. However, we have very few formal services to offer them.
This is where the volunteer sector fits in. This increase in population is much needed. However the volunteer sector isn't quite equipped to serve all the needs of these refugee families.
The benefit of volunteers is that they do offer a very personalized service and a high level of support. However, they are untrained and they don't usually engage in training because all of their free time is spent helping the families.
We see that the volunteer sector is filling the gaps, but they cannot be replacing the settlement services that we need in our area.
That brings me to talk about some of the gaps that we're experiencing in settlement services in our rural areas. I want to add that it goes beyond Huron County. It's our entire region. I've gotten feedback from a lot of other counties in the area.
The first area is around language. We have a lack of interpretation services, and people must travel an hour and a half to provide those interpretation services in our area, which becomes very expensive to pay for that travel time as well as the cost of the service.
Our English classes are infrequent. They happen on a weekly basis only, and they aren't federally funded, which means that they do not come with funding for child care. They are still very high quality. Again, it's the volunteers who are providing child care so that the parents can attend these classes.
A really large gap that I want to focus on is the youth in our area. The kids are being left very unsupported. None of our schools have SWIS workers—settlement workers in schools—and most of the schools don't even offer the ESL classes. We find that the 10- to 16-year-olds are becoming a very vulnerable population. There are problems with language acquisition, which spills over into some academic barriers. There are social integration issues. They carry heavy responsibility in the family, providing child care for those younger siblings as well as providing interpretation and translation services to their parents, in addition to sometimes having part-time jobs or a lot of work in the home.
What is really significant is that there are not enough peers of a similar ethnocultural group, so this is leading to pretty significant feelings of isolation in our communities.
I want to make a series of recommendations of what I think I could see settlement services looking like in rural areas.
First would be having SWIS workers wherever settlement service workers operate. If the parents are receiving services, the youth should be as well.
Next would be training for the volunteer sector—perhaps mandatory training for those sponsorship groups prior to receiving the families, while they still have time to commit to that kind of training. Another recommendation would be to have more funding for support by the settlement service providers and agencies to train the volunteers on how best to support the newcomers and when to refer them to the formal settlement services. I think this would ensure that appropriate boundaries are set, and it would avoid the volunteer fatigue that many are experiencing right now. It would allow the volunteers to do what they do best, but allow the professionals to step in when that is needed.
I feel that the volunteer sector is what makes rural communities strong. Increasing their capacity makes our communities strong, but I think it will also save the government money.
Thirdly, I would advocate for virtual settlement services. If there are SWIS workers or ESL teachers who cannot come to the students on a regular basis, could they connect virtually or could students join classes elsewhere? There's a big opportunity to better utilize technology. The technology exists in the schools and employment centres. Almost all newcomers have a smart phone and can access the Internet, at least through the libraries in all the rural communities. This doesn't replace the human touch, which is still needed, but it can be a definite add-on to services.
As well, I recommend ensuring that the community connection program is funded in all rural areas as part of settlement services. This program encourages the social, cultural and professional interactions and connections between newcomers and the community. It assists immigrants and refugees to feel connected and engaged in the community, to feel as though it's home. Isolation is a huge factor in rural communities; it is very prevalent. We need to do more programming that brings newcomers together and newcomers to interact with other community members.
Another recommendation is to ensure that settlement services programming includes funding for transportation in rural areas so that newcomers can access the services they desperately need.
Lastly, I recommend that urban service partners that offer interpretation should receive funding to provide those services in rural areas, to cover the travel cost so that interpretation isn't cost-prohibitive, because we know that language is the fundamental barrier to overcome.
I want to focus on a few of the best practices that we've seen in our region.
It is actually the itinerant settlement service model. That's where the settlement services come to the newcomers and the transportation barrier is overcome. It doesn't rely upon maintaining physical buildings, and it's very efficient with its resources. As well, it's very flexible. It's based upon the needs. The appointments are set up as needed, and the location is left up to the newcomers, where it's convenient for them, which usually is in the library in the small communities where people live.
My last best practice would be to involve non-traditional partners in the settlement process—in this case, employers. Our Huron County Immigration Partnership has worked very hard to engage employers as partners and we've had a large success rate of newcomer employment in our area. Employers should be encouraged to adapt their practices to include more involvement in settling their newcomer employees. The growth and the survival of their businesses depend upon the newcomer workforce in many of our rural regions, so the employer should be doing what it can to support that.
As our reputation increases in rural areas as being a great destination for newcomers, we need to take measures that ensure that newcomers have positive experiences and that settlement services can meet their needs. Certainly the approach for settlement services in rural areas is very different from what it looks like in urban centres.
Good afternoon. My name is Dustin Mymko, and I serve as the Community Development Officer for the Roblin-Cartwright Community Development Corporation.
Since the federal government took over the settlement services program in Manitoba—in 2013, I believe—we've held the contribution agreements with CIC and IRCC to administer the Cartwright Killarney Boissevain Settlement Services for the communities of Cartwright, Killarney and Boissevain and the surrounding areas.
I act as the community development officer and oversee and deliver settlement services as a part-time, single-person office.
Settlement services are of the utmost importance in our rural communities, and this is especially so in Cartwright and the surrounding Cartwright-Roblin municipality. Our municipality has approximately 1,300 residents, with about 350 of those residing in what was formerly known as the Village of Cartwright.
As with most rural Canadian communities, Cartwright has experienced its share of challenges over the years, but an incredibly strong community spirit, coupled with an intense desire to maintain the viability of our rural life, has led Cartwright to keep its population steady.
The majority of individuals in our community are tied into either agriculture or manufacturing, but our real pride and joy rests with the school. Cartwright has fought over the years to keep our school going, and we are now in our 27th year of funding Cartwright Community Independent School, which allows our students to graduate at home.
The community continually prioritizes the school, and we know that if it were to shut down, it would be the first step towards the decline of our community. The population and tax base would drop, the services would begin to be cut and life as we know it would become that much more difficult to maintain.
As of September 2018, the start of our current school year, our K-to-12 school had 97 students, up from the low 60s a couple of years ago. Forty-eight of those students, or 50% of them, have parents who were not born in Canada.
I fully believe that immigration has been the single biggest factor in the success of our community, and that the provision of settlement services to those newcomers has been extremely beneficial.
Our organization is contracted to provide only the most basic of settlement services: Information and orientation sessions and needs and assessment referrals. Newcomers arrive and we help them get their feet on the ground. We show them how to obtain social insurance numbers, we help them obtain a post office box and set up a bank account, and we introduce them to potential employers and community groups. We assist them in their applications to Manitoba Health and the Canada child benefit program. We get the children enrolled in school and make sure they know about the local English classes.
Once they have all of that out of the way, we're here to assist in overcoming any of the other obstacles they face as they adapt to life in rural Manitoba.
We began our contracts with about 16 hours per week of funding to cover the three communities, which are separated by about 70 kilometres in total. Over the years those hours have been cut back to the 11.25 we have been able to negotiate for this fiscal year. The continual reduction in service hours and overall funding is very challenging and very concerning. We've learned first-hand, many times over, that once services leave our rural communities, they very rarely return.
Recent direction from IRCC ahead of the call for proposals for 2019 is that single-person offices such as ours are no longer a part of the model. We've been urged to pursue partnerships with larger organizations. This initially caused a lot of consternation throughout the sector, especially in our rural communities. There are about seven of us operating as single-person offices in Manitoba, and we felt initial reactions of impending job losses and sudden itinerant service delivery.
Upon further consideration, however, this appears to be an excellent model going forward. The Roblin-Cartwright CDC board weighed our options and we are currently in discussion with Westman Immigrant Services in Brandon to try to carve a new path forward.
This will allow us to reduce our administrative burden, build capacity in our settlement services organization and raise our overall level of service. There are hopes of expanding our services to include the settlement workers in schools program, to bring language training and settlement under one banner, and to add new programming such as conversation circles and mentoring partnerships.
While in a general sense these partnerships are a step in the right direction, there are still some areas that could drastically use improvement, from my experience. The definition of an eligible client, being a person with permanent residency, seems woefully inadequate on both ends of the spectrum.
Our community has seen an increase in temporary foreign workers, both through need from local agricultural producers and manufacturers using the program and through choice. We have immigration consultants who are assisting people in obtaining case type 58 work permits as their pathway into Canada. They're here, they intend to stay permanently, but they don't have the status. On the other hand, once a permanent resident becomes a Canadian citizen, they no longer qualify for the services. They have passed the test, acquired their citizenship and now they're on their own.
Expanding the definition of eligible clients to include temporary foreign workers, who need help as much as and sometimes more than permanent residents, and moving the end point past the arbitrary cut-off of citizenship would go a long way to helping our newcomers, especially in rural communities where other secondary supports like cultural communities are rare.
Another issue facing rural settlement service provision is training and assistance. The single-person offices have very few places to turn when needing to find answers to newcomers issues. Every newcomer comes in the door with a different problem, and sometimes they are wildly specific. As one individual with no manual on hand, the only place to turn has been the IRCC hotline, and it has long been functionally obsolete. Attempting to call that number to help obtain answers for a client's ultra-specific immigration issue has long led to nothing but frustration and defeat.
For years now, rural Manitoba settlement service providers have had to lean on one another for assistance, advice and support. lt works in a pinch, but it really shouldn't have to. Establishing a service-provider-only hotline, where settlement service providers could be advised on how to interpret a certain government form or immigration process, would raise the level of service nationwide.
We are lucky in Cartwright that our member of Parliament has very knowledgeable and very helpful staff who are happy to assist and really are invaluable to the services we provide, but, from speaking to my colleagues, I know that not everybody is in that same position.
ln conclusion, l would like to say that I realize that the cost per client in rural settings is going to be higher than in urban centres, but l would offer that the amount is well spent. Retaining newcomers in rural communities truly is the way to ensure the longevity of these communities. Providing these folks with the supports they need, which they can't get elsewhere, is a big step towards that goal.
I'm Lily Kwok, the Executive Director of the Calgary Chinese Community Service Association. I'll give a very brief introduction of CCCSA.
We are a non-profit organization that is now 40 years old. Our mission is to connect the Chinese community and other ethnic communities to the mainstream, and we are committed to providing an inclusive society in which people's life-chances are maximized.
CCCSA's main target is immigrants, and we try to equip them with knowledge and skills. One important way we do that is to provide them with services to reduce social isolation so that they increase their confidence and independence and are better able to function in Canadian society.
We have four pillars of programs. One is integration and civic engagement, which we call ICE. Under this pillar, we have a lot of supports such as interpretation, one-on-one support, English programs and social inclusion exercises.
The next pillar supports children and youth. Again, this is for immigrant children and youth. We reach out to schools to organize after-school programs, social-norm activities, as well as career investigation.
There are two other pillars—law and advocacy, and family and wellness.
Under the ICE program, we have two English programs. One is called Stepping Stones, and the other is called computer-enhanced ESL literacy. We started Stepping Stones in 2002, and now it is 15 years old. After we started that in the Chinese community, we tried to bring it to the Sudanese and Punjabi communities, but due to a lack of infrastructure, it could not continue.
In 2006, we moved the program to the Afghan community, and we have now had that program in the Afghan community for nine years. This program is very well known in both the Chinese and Afghan communities, and it's getting more popular.
The other one, computer-enhanced ESL literacy, was once a Bow Valley College program, and it was transferred to us in 2015. Both programs are funded by Calgary Learns. We do not receive any IRCC funding. There are other communities that are requesting this program.
I'll give it to Nazifia to explain more about these programs.
It's a complete pleasure to be here to present our program to you. Thank you so much for giving us the chance.
Our programs, Stepping Stones and computer-enhanced ESL literacy, is for students with very low literacy. I know there are lots of LINC classes around that are based on the PBLA system. We are targeting students who have limited formal schooling; they have no education from back home. I have students who don't even know how to grab a pen and then how to write. These students are homebound and isolated. They could be seniors or mothers with children who haven't gone out to study for a long time. We are helping those individuals.
What is unique about our program is that we welcome everyone. We definitely focus on their ESL benchmark, but we do not limit them such that if they don't have certain marks, they cannot get into the class. It's open to them. They can come and they can learn more and then get a chance to go into a LINC class. We've had lots of students who graduated from our program and then eventually went to LINC classes to pursue their studies. That's one of the biggest successes of our program.
I also want to say that we have trained bilingual facilitators. For example, in the Chinese community, we have Chinese bilingual teachers helping these students. There are many reasons behind that. First of all, these students are isolated. They don't know how to get out of their homes, and they don't know how to go and follow a formal PBLA system. Once they come into the class and they see that the teacher is from their own culture and the teacher welcomes them with their own culture, then they feel more comfortable getting connected to the teacher and then to the learning.
The bilingual facilitator helps a lot in class. Ninety-five per cent of the class happens in English, but only 5% if a student is stuck. If they do not understand the material, we will help them in their own language. Especially when we do our needs assessment or pre- and post-evaluations, we definitely need help to make sure that the students are giving us the correct answer, so we approach them with their own language.
Right now the Stepping Stone program is happening in the Afghan and Chinese communities. We have bilingual facilitators. In the Chinese community, we have four terms, 45 hours every term, or 180 hours per year, and then in the Afghan community we have three terms, 30 hours every term, or 90 hours per year. We mostly target PB or CLB or lower students to make sure they get a chance to pursue their education.
Computer-enhanced literacy is for everyone. It's a multicultural program. Everyone is welcome to attend that program. When we are talking about computer-enhanced literacy, I'm not saying here that we're teaching these students the details of the computer. We are introducing technology to them. We all know how important technology is becoming now, so we introduce them to using an iPad, how to do banking online and so on.
Thank you for having me here today.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm a private bar lawyer with more than 20 years of experience, specialized in helping people to immigrate to and become citizens of Canada.
At the beginning of my career, I spent two years working with low-income clients, and for the remainder of my career, I've been assisting people of various economic backgrounds who can afford to pay for that service. I also do a significant amount of pro bono work for deserving clients who can't afford to pay.
Although I've never worked directly in settlement services, my profession takes me into almost daily contact with people who do provide such services. More importantly, I have more than 20 years of experience working with clients and observing how and why certain clients successfully transition into Canada while others fail to do so.
I noticed that a lot of the other witnesses whom you've called for this study on previous days have focused mostly on low-income families and refugees and how to better integrate them. As a result, I'd like to take a little bit of a different approach in my remarks today by focusing purely on economic immigrants and the reason why I believe Canada fails to retain and integrate many of them. I hope you find it sufficiently on topic.
Over the years, I've found myself increasingly disturbed about the amount of attrition I see in newcomers to Canada, as a result of our failing to retain and integrate them. What I mean is the degree of emigration from Canada that I observe. Literally, there is not a single day that goes by in my office that I don't speak to at least one person, and often more than one person, who went to a huge degree of effort and expense to become a permanent resident only to subsequently abandon Canada and return back to their home country.
Many of my colleagues describe the same experience, and I think if you multiply that across Canada, even anecdotally, we have a big problem. It strikes me as a terrible loss that we've put so much effort to attracting the best and the brightest to come to Canada, yet we've put comparatively little attention to tracking and understanding why people leave.
It's my observation that those client families who don't remain in Canada tend to leave for three main reasons.
Number one is economic. They can't find a job commensurate with their skills.
Number two is family ties. It's mostly parents who have been left behind.
Number three is that they never really intended to stay here in the first place.
I read with a lot of interest the brief that was filed by one of the organizational witnesses called MOSAIC. I agree with them wholeheartedly in their approach that Canadian work experience and re-skilling programs are totally crucial if you're going to address the gap between newcomer skills and the jobs that are actually available to them in Canada.
The world is a different place now from 20 years ago. Economic immigrants have a lot of choices for their future, and they don't want just any job; they want a good one that is commensurate with their experience. I've observed through my own client base and even just my own experience as a business owner that the options along the lines of those outlined by MOSAIC are extremely effective in achieving this. In fact, I have three people working for me full time who were hired through co-op placements, and two of those were new immigrants to Canada. So, mentorships, on-the-job training and co-op programs that introduce newcomers directly to employers in the workplace need to become the norm and not the exception.
A further observation is that those of my clients who obtained a Canadian educational credential either before or after immigration had much more success in economically establishing in Canada and were much more likely to stay in Canada over the long term. That's why a program like the Canadian experience class, for example, has been so successful.
For new permanent residents, however, often expense is the main challenge. I recommend prioritizing funding to subsidize re-education and re-skilling programs in a short period after arrival.
Family is also a main reason why people fail to successfully integrate and ultimately abandon Canada. Isolation, loneliness, lack of help with their children and concern for aging parents are powerful factors. In most countries of the world, people grow up in tight-knit, multi-generational families who often live together in one home and share responsibilities. Young families who immigrate to Canada lose that support network. The best-case scenario for a new immigrant family, even if they get a wonderful job immediately, is that they need at least three years of high-level tax returns before they can even think about applying to sponsor parents.
Realistically, it takes people more like five years.
I would recommend implementing ways to keep these families together from the start. One idea, for example, would be allowing economic class immigrants to include their parents on their application if they have sufficient funds to support that.
Another idea would be allowing people to sponsor their parents as caregivers for the grandchildren. In many cultures that's the norm, and it gives parents the opportunity to focus on career and education. There was, in fact, a recent Federal Court case in which the judge was openly perplexed as to why a visa officer would not consider allowing a caregiver work permit for grandparents when they clearly had raised several children of their own and had the relevant work experience.
Finally, my last observation—and I've said this publicly before—is that in general the more wealthy, accomplished and well established a person is in their home country, the less likely they intend to make Canada their permanent home. I've seen a huge amount of abuse in the immigration system by individuals who just use permanent residence as a way to get their dependants to Canada in order to benefit from the various things that we offer to our permanent residents, but have no genuine desire to stay here and contribute professionally or economically.
It makes sense to screen out such people at the time they apply for permanent residence, as opposed to trying to deal with the problem later when they fail to meet the residency obligation. The act contains a mechanism for guarding against it, but I've literally never seen it used, and I think it should be used. Under paragraph 20(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, it is required that every foreign national who seeks to enter or remain in Canada as a permanent resident must establish that they've come to Canada in order to be a permanent resident and live here permanently.
I believe that officers need to be alert to that issue as a part of the application process. Applicants should be held to the proof of it, when requested, in order to prevent both abuse of the system and attrition of permanent residents whom we spend so much time trying to attract.
A lot of other people I've asked questions of don't either. It's a problem.
That's okay. Maybe I could ask a question to both of you, and to Ms. Desloges as well.
It appears from the evidence we've heard at committee that the IRCC's evaluation of settlement program says that employment-related services have the broadest positive impact on client outcomes.
How can we get employers to get involved in these programs? Are they likely to come along and say that they can't afford that?
I can tell you that in my riding, for example, there's a group—at this point I don't want to reveal the name of the company—that has told me that they're having trouble finding people to work on assembly lines, and they will train them. They will provide services and training, but they don't know how to do it.
I'd like to hear from you, Ms. Desloges, whether you have any thoughts on that. I'm just saying that there's a company that's prepared to get involved in that and provide employment services to encourage not just language but also on-the-job training to provide employment.