In the Field Newsletter Volume 22


OCASI In the Field
Volume 22
Message from the Executive Director

Debbie DouglasI had planned on writing about the many proposed legislative changes before our federal and provincial parliaments this month. But over this past weekend it was brought home to me that as a sector we are in a time of flux. We are witnessing many changes in leadership as sector leaders age, retire or reduce hours; as many of our colleagues (primarily women) face grave illness- themselves or of family members. As we mature as a sector serving immigrants and refugees we are witnesses to a changing world of policies, programming, political will - and alas of faces and voices of the champions for progressive social change.

Read more of Debbie's observations on change happening in the sector.

OCASI Member Feature

Let in the Light: PhotoVoice LGBTQ Youth Project

Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services improves health outcomes for the most vulnerable immigrants, refugees, and their communities. We do this by facilitating access to services and addressing systemic inequities.

The “Let in the Light PhotoVoice” Project is an opportunity and safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer newcomer immigrant youth under 24 years to be themselves, explore their migration path and their gender identity/expression and/or their sexual orientation.

Read More

OCASI Happenings

OCASI's Invitation to Join the Regional Positive Space Network

OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants invites you to join your regional Positive Space network in support of LGBTQ+ newcomers and the service providers who work with them. Subscribe to this mailing list if you would like to stay-up-to-date on relevant local news items including:

  • Upcoming Events
  • Job Postings and RFPs
  • Volunteer Opportunities
  • Training Sessions and Webinars
  • Workshops and Conferences
  • Consultations and Focus Groups
  • Community Resources
  • Tools and Strategies
  • New Initiatives in Your Area

News items may be OCASI projects, or may be shared by OCASI on behalf of a community partner. If you have a relevant piece of news that you would like to share through this list, please send it to

OCASI OrgWise Organizational Standards Project

Would you like to better understand your agency's strengths, champion your successes and identify areas for growth? Then OrgWise can help! The OrgWise Organizational Standards Assessment tool allows organization leaders to assess the health of their organization, set priorities, articulate clear objectives, and forecast the future in terms of anticipated shifts in political and economic realities. Read more here: OCASI OrgWise Organizational Standards Assessment Tool

OCASI completes pilot training of new VAW Course

OCASI is very pleased to complete its new 5-week pilot training course “Understanding & Responding to Sexual Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities”, offered through the Violence Against Women's Project. 12 engaged participants completed the 5 week training.

This introductory-level course helps front line practitioners working with immigrant and refugee communities to better understand issues of sexual violence and develop a supportive response for survivors.

A participant commented, “I was exposed to the critical analyses of how rape culture is embedded in our social norm and to watch the videos of lived experiences of real people was very emotional. Through this program I have a lot of information to help me refer clients who are in need of this service.”

Another participant recommended the course to others saying, “it is thought provoking, educational and allows you to complete it your own pace. Also the certification is an added bonus.”

This course will be offered throughout the year for OCASI member agencies. The next round of training starts on April 30th. For more information on the training and details to register, please contact Krittika Ghosh, Senior Coordinator, VAW Project

See schedule for upcoming trainings.

Sector Happenings

Ministry of Labour Know Your Workplace Rights Campaign

Ontario is launching a Know Your Workplace Rights advertising campaign to ensure vulnerable workers know their workplace rights. Beginning March 3, 2014, advertisements in 27 languages will raise awareness of a worker's right to:

  • be treated fairly on the job
  • work in a safe and healthy workplace
  • renew and revitalize yourself through networking with Diversity and Inclusion leaders, practitioners and colleagues
  • be trained to deal with workplace hazards

The campaign will run for four weeks. It will include 85 ethnic newspapers and multilingual television. Information will also be posted on multilingual websites. The campaign is part of the Ontario government's ongoing commitment to protect vulnerable workers, including immigrants, new Canadians, migrant workers and foreign live-in workers. It is one of a number of initiatives aimed at vulnerable workers.

Report Launch Event

Like Wonder Women, Goddesses and Robots: how racialized immigrant women in Toronto are impacted by and respond to employment precarity

On March 20th, 2014, Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services celebrated the launch of its new report on immigrant women and precarious employment.

The report is based on in-depth interviews conducted with 30 racialized immigrant women stuck in precarious, non-standard forms of employment (short-term, temp, contract, on-call types of jobs with little or no job security.) Drawing on perspectives of immigrant women, the report also provides rich insights about how immigrant women manage post-migration gender relations in Canada as they negotiate a labour market increasingly marked by precarious types of employment. The report concludes with urgent policy solutions that can enable immigrant women get stable meaningful employment.

This study is one of the six case studies of the Poverty and Precarious Employment in Southern Ontario (PEPSO) project funded through the Community University Research Alliance (CURA) grant from SSHRC.

Dr. Wayne Lewchuk (Professor, School of Labour Studies and Department of Economics, McMaster University) provided introductory remarks followed by presentation of key findings from the report, Q and A discussion of policy actions and next steps. Hard copies of the report were formally launched and distributed at the event.

Kay Blair Receives the 2014 Frances Lankin Community Service Award

Friends, family, colleagues and well-wishers joined Frances Lankin at Social Planning Toronto's 2014 Award reception honouring Kay Blair on March 27th at the YWCA Elm Centre. Frances Lankin's opening remarks stressed the importance of leadership for the sector, while Susan McIsaac, who presented the award, spoke to Kay's strength, determination, and deeply held values.

Kay Blair is the Executive Director of Community MicroSkills Development Centre. Kay has grown MicroSkills into a highly-successful community agency serving immigrants, low-income women, and youth that is highly respected by funders, government, the business community, clients, and other service providers.

The Frances Lankin Community Service Award is presented annually to an individual who has made a “significant, sustained contribution to the non-profit community services sector in Toronto.” The award was accepted on Kay's behalf by her son Karim Blair, her colleague Aina-Nia Grant, and Karen Webb, the Board President of MicroSkills, where Kay has been the Executive Director for more than a decade.

Social Planning Toronto congratulates Kay on this richly deserved recognition, and thanks everyone who attended and made the event such a success.

Vital Youth/ Playing for Keeps Grant Program- by April 23, 2014

The Toronto Community Foundation is supporting Toronto's youth by providing increased access to recreation through the Vital Youth/Playing for Keeps Grant Program. The program invests in high-quality recreational programs for young people that help them connect to their community, interact with their peers, and develop their skills and leadership abilities. Proposals are due by April 23rd, 2014.