Federal Election 2019



On October 21, 2019 Canada will hold a general election that will determine the next government of Canada.

A vibrant democracy must include all voices. If you can vote in these elections, vote! If you cannot vote, become involved by asking your candidates where they stand on the issues that matter most to you.

OCASI member agencies across the province identified the issues that matter to them and the communities they serve and helped to develop these questions. Please use these questions to find out where your candidates stand on these issues, or ask your own questions on these themes.

OCASI is the umbrella organization and collective voice of immigrant and refugee-serving organizations in Ontario.

Environment and climate change and the realities that face Indigenous peoples in this country are urgent concerns that demand swift and decisive action from the new government to come. While they are not included here, we encourage you to ask your candidates where they and their party stand on these priorities as well.

1. Support immigrants and refugees

Many communities across Canada look to immigration as an important resource to fill jobs and sustain the local tax base. The faster immigrants settle into their new lives the better it is for everyone. Some immigrants need no assistance, or very little assistance to get started in a new community. Others may need support to find a job or housing or childcare, or choose a school or a healthcare provider.

Similar to many other women in Canada, immigrant and refugee women, and trans women face different and unique systemic barriers and disadvantages, as well as a higher vulnerability to gender-based violence. They require supports and services that address their unique circumstances to settle in their new communities and to thrive.

The federal government funds settlement services for immigrants and refugees (except in Quebec which has its own approach), including English or French language classes, help to find a job and support for immigrant and refugee women.


1.1 What will your party do to support immigrants and refugees regardless of where they settle?

1.2 What will your party do to support the immigrant and refugee serving-sector to deliver appropriate settlement services to immigrants and refugees, including specific services for women and trans women, and support them to reach their full social, political and economic potential?

1.3 What will your party do to ensure immigrant and refugee women and trans women have access to justice, including as survivors of gender-based violence?

2. Employment

According to Statistics Canada, immigrants and Canadian-born adults have similar employment rates. Immigrants have similar educational attainment as Canadians, however they have a significantly higher rate of post-graduate education. Skilled immigrants, especially those who are racialized, are chronically under-employed and are earning far below their potential . For many, re-training, re-qualifying and licensing in Canada have not resulted in better jobs or higher wages.

Recent immigrants (arrived in 2011-2016) have an income gap of 37 percent compared to non-immigrants. Recent immigrant women have a 59 percent income gap compared to non-immigrant men. The income gap is likely the highest for racialized recent immigrant women.

Racialized women earned 58 cents, and racialized men earned 76 cents for every dollar a white man earned in Ontario in 2015; The ‘colour-code’ persists for second generation workers of colour.

Hiring and wage discrimination is a major barrier for immigrants and refugees, particularly those who are racialized. This is a significant missed opportunity for our economy and a tremendous personal cost to the affected individuals and their communities.


2.1 What will your party do to improve employment prospects for immigrants at all skill levels?

2.2 What will your party do to enable a living wage at a minimum, and pay equity for women – including immigrant, refugee and racialized women and trans women - in all sectors of employment, and not just in the federal government and/or federally regulated industries?

3. Citizenship

The rate at which permanent residents become citizens in Canada has been going down for several years. According to the 2016 Census, the overall rate was 82.7 percent. This is lower than the rate of 85.6 percent reported in the 2011 National Household Survey. The drop was most likely caused by the many restrictions to citizenship introduced in 2014 by the then federal government . Many of these changes were reversed by the government in office in 2017.

The drop was also likely caused by the massive increase in the processing fee introduced by the government in 2014-15, from $100 to $530. The increase was not reversed and remains in place.

Women and people who are racialized are more likely to be low-income or live in poverty, and would face the biggest difficulties in applying for citizenship.


3.1 What will your party do to ensure everyone has equitable access to Canadian citizenship?

4. Commitment to Refugees

Canada has a good reputation internationally for welcoming refugees and making them feel at home here. Canada also has international humanitarian commitments to refugees that it meets through government and private refugee sponsorship, and by giving refugee claimants a fair hearing of their application for asylum. People who arrived as refugees and claimants have gone on to enrich our communities and have made important economic, social, scientific, artistic and cultural contributions. Refugees thrive when they receive services they need to build a new life here. We also have an obligation to make sure that refugee claimants receive at least basic services.

Over the past few years and during this election campaign we have seen an increase in racist, xenophobic and toxic anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiments expressed by political leaders and representatives, and amplified in traditional media and social media. This disturbing trend is destructive to our communities and harmful to all Canadians.


4.1 What will your party to do ensure refugee claimants receive at least basic services, including legal aid?

4.2 What will you and your party do to respect dignity of refugees and migrants during the federal election campaign and beyond, and work to build a country that is tolerant and welcoming of everyone?

5. Migrant Workers

Canada has relied for decades on migrant workers to support and sustain the economy. In previous years, migrant workers in all occupations and sectors (except workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Program) were allowed to stay and build a new life in Canada for themselves and their families. In recent years, although migrant workers are recruited to work in almost all sectors and occupations, only some are allowed to stay as permanent residents and build a new life here.

Migrant workers work at low pay in difficult jobs, and often face poor working and living conditions. They pay local taxes, but do not have access to services, or have only very limited access. They are vulnerable to exploitation by recruiters and bad employers, and have limited access to protections and recourses.


5.1 What will your party do to provide a pathway to permanent residency to all migrant workers, including those recruited through the Temporary Foreign Worker, International Mobility and Seasonal Agricultural Worker programs?

5.2 What will your party do to ensure migrant workers have access to justice, and at least basic services and supports?

6. Family reunification

Family reunification is a pillar of Canada’s immigration program. Changes to legislation and policy in recent years combined with existing barriers are contributing to an increase in prolonged and sometimes indefinite delays in reunification. They include a narrow definition of family, lower maximum age of a “dependent child” who can be sponsored, limitations on reunifying with parents and grandparents and more. The federal government recently introduced certain changes that will reduce the delay, and provide access to family members who were previously excluded . However, some systemic barriers remain, particularly the high cost and long delays in sponsoring parents and grandparents.


6.1 What will your party do to remove barriers to family reunification and allow all categories of family members to reunite in Canada?

7. Residents without Immigration Status

Canada has a large and growing number of residents without full immigration status. The growth has resulted in part from gaps in immigration and refugee policies and practice, and increase in the number of people who are recruited as migrant workers and who are often subject to exploitation and abuse. There are virtually no pathways to permanent residency for people with precarious immigration status. Residents without immigrant status are a part of our economy and our communities. Most do not qualify for any form of government assistance or poverty reduction measures – such as the Canada Child Benefit - and support themselves and their families through their own efforts while continuing to pay local taxes.


7.1 What will your party do to allow residents without full immigration status a pathway to permanent residence?

7.2 What will your party do to allow Canadian-born children of parents with precarious immigration status to qualify for the Canada Child Benefit?

8. Housing and Homelessness

Homelessness is the situation of an individual, family or community without stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. Approximately 235,000 Canadians experience unsheltered or emergency sheltered homelessness in any given year, and there are more at risk of homelessness or living in inadequate or substandard housing.

Indigenous peoples, peoples of colour and immigrants are over-represented among those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. They typically face discrimination on the basis of source of income, credit history, access to guarantors and references, racial identity, immigration status, gender and age. One study found that most immigrants were spending more than 50% of their income on housing with 15% spending 75% or more of their income on housing.

The affordable housing shortage and increase in homelessness in Ontario communities and communities across Canada has been caused by changes in affordable housing policy and lack of investment in creating and maintaining social housing. However certain politicians and media commentators irresponsibly and unfairly blame immigrants and refugees, especially refugee claimants, for the housing crisis.


8.1 What are your party’s plan to address homelessness and housing precarity in Canadian communities?

8.2 What will your party do to halt and challenge the racist and xenophobic blaming of immigrants, refugees and refugee claimants for the housing crisis?

9. Childcare

Child poverty rates in Canada are 13% for white non-immigrant children, but 51% for Indigenous children (and 60% for Indigenous children living on reserve); 32% for children of immigrants; and 25% for children of colour when taken as a whole.

Access to affordable and appropriate childcare has a direct effect on immigrants and refugees ability to settle in Canada and find jobs or pursue education. It has a disproportionate impact on opportunities for women immigrants who often bear the biggest responsibility for child care. The highest cost of full-time child care for children aged 4 and younger was found in Ontario, with a median cost of $677. Because of Ontario government changes, municipalities in the province will have to pay 20% of the cost of creating new childcare spaces as of January 1, 2020. At present this cost is fully funded by the province.

We urgently need a publicly managed, universal child care system in Canada that is affordable, supports high-quality early learning and child care (ELCC) for children, and where workers have fair wages and working conditions.


9.1 What will your party do to create a universal, affordable childcare strategy for Canada?



Fact Sheet #5 Racialized Poverty in Employment. Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change. March 2019. https://colourofpovertyca.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/cop-coc-fact-sheet-5-racialized-poverty-in-employment-2.pdf

Griffith, Andrew. What the census tells us about citizenship. Policy Options. March 20, 2018. https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/march-2018/what-the-census-tells-us-about-citizenship/

Changes to the Citizenship Act as a result of Bill C-6. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2017/10/changes_to_the_citizenshipactasaresultofbillc-6.html

Sponsorship of undeclared family members. IRCC website. September 6, 2019. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/notices/sponsorship-undeclared-family-members.html

Homelessness & precarious housing in Canada: Where we have been & where we are going. Public Sector Digest. July 2018. https://publicsectordigest.com/article/homelessness-precarious-housing-in-canada-where-we-have-been-where-we-are-going#_edn2

Fact Sheet #9 – Racialized poverty in housing and homelessness. Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change. March 2019. https://colourofpovertyca.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/cop-coc-fact-sheet-9-racialized-poverty-in-housing-homelessness-2.pdf

Homelessness & precarious housing in Canada: Where we have been & where we are going. Public Sector Digest. July 2018. https://publicsectordigest.com/article/homelessness-precarious-housing-in-canada-where-we-have-been-where-we-are-going#_edn2

Download questions in Microsoft Word format


Canadian Council for Refugees

Migrant Rights Network

Democratic Engagement Exchange

Samara Centre for Democracy

Vote PopUp Organizer Guide