June 8, 2018 / Toronto – OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants congratulates Premier-elect Doug Ford on receiving a majority mandate from voters to form the next government of Ontario.
As the umbrella organization of immigrant and refugee-serving organizations in Ontario and the collective voice of the sector, OCASI is prepared to work diligently with our new government to build the best possible outcomes for refugees, immigrants and migrants in this province.
Immigration is essential for Ontario’s economy. Immigrants are needed to grow the workforce, stimulate innovation and keep Ontario competitive. As well, this province has been shaped and made richer politically, socially and culturally by generations of immigrants. Ontario has a strong tradition of welcoming refugees and immigrants. This has helped it continue to be the number one immigration destination in Canada.
Yet research shows that refugees and immigrants continue to face the worst outcomes and disproportionate inequality in employment, earnings, housing and food security. This is in spite of the fact that immigrants have among the highest levels of education compared to any other groups. The Royal Bank of Canada estimates that we lose $30.7 billion every year due to the under-employment of skilled immigrants. Chronic employment and income insecurity can damage the health and wellbeing of immigrant families as well as Ontario society as a whole.
Like all Ontarians, refugees and immigrants should have access to decent housing, sufficient income, good healthcare, good jobs, affordable childcare, and affordable education from when they arrive. Here are a few ideas for the new Ontario government to get started on ensuring the province gets all the benefits of immigration while making sure refugees, immigrants and migrants can thrive in their new lives in our communities:
- Increase minimum wage to $15/hour next year so that refugees and immigrants – who are over-represented in minimum wage jobs in the province – are able to pay their bills and take care of their families. As well ensure that decent work policies (such as equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave and more) are fully implemented so that refugee and immigrant, and all Ontario workers can have more income, protections and benefits in their jobs.
- Encourage employers to hire immigrants and other under-represented people in the workforce (for example Indigenous women and women of colour) when they are selecting from qualified candidates, as well as implement this principle as an employment equity law.
- Further, ensure that women are not left behind by investing in a universal childcare strategy, as well as ensure all women’s safety by continued support for the Gender Based Violence prevention strategy
- Remove barriers to credentials recognition for internationally trained immigrants with attention to the unique challenges faced by refugee and immigrant women and Francophones; and most importantly invest in Bridging programs to ensure they can then actually be hired in a job consistent with their skills and experience.
- Sustain investment in newcomer settlement services and language training, and ensure that Ontario initiatives and programs such as housing, healthcare and employment respond to the unique circumstances of refugees and immigrants.
- Remove barriers to healthcare access for refugees and immigrants, including the three month wait for OHIP and provide better funding for language interpretation, mental health and trauma focused services.
- Allow Ontario residents with precarious immigration status, who live and work here and are part of our communities, full access to police services, healthcare, education and other provincial supports regardless of immigration status and without fear of immigration reprisals.
- Speak out against racism and hatred in Ontario while tackling systemic racism by fully implementing the Anti-Racism Strategic Plan and the Independent Police Oversight Review.