OCASI Comments on Federal Budget 2021



Toronto / April 21, 2021

The 2021 federal Budget tabled on April 19, 2021, recognizes that immigration is vital to Canada’s economic growth and looks ahead to prepare for an anticipated increase in post-pandemic immigrant arrivals.

The biggest immigration-related budget investment is to update the digital immigration platform with the goal of improving application processing. Canada has not met immigration targets for 2020 as a result of pandemic-related travel restrictions, processing delays and drop in applications. It is not clear if the shortfall can be made up through increased immigration in 2021 and the following years. OCASI encourages the government to consider other options such as expanded selection criteria to widen the applicant pool, as well as make additional investments to eliminate delays. Canada can quickly and effectively meet immigration targets by introducing a broad-based regularization program to allow those already in Canada to apply for permanent residence. Thousands of undocumented residents and people with precarious immigration status are already members of our communities, as well as making strong economic, social, and cultural contributions. Allowing them to stay legally would be the Canadian thing to do.

OCASI welcomes proposed investments to provide better protection and certain services for migrant workers, address gender-based violence among refugees, the extension of the Racialized Newcomer Women Pilot (launched in January 2019) which provides employment related supports, and employment support for refugee and immigrant youth. The Budget also makes an important and much welcome investment in immigration and refugee legal aid. We urge the government to make this a permanent investment as an access to justice commitment.

The Budget acknowledges that Indigenous, Black, racialized, refugee and immigrant women and communities face long-standing systemic inequities, and promises targeted investments to address economic, health, and certain other disparities. Investments include the first national action plan to address gender-based violence (GBV), $2 million to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to support refugees and immigrants facing GBV, and significant investment for the first national childcare system in Canada. The Budget provides a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour, which would benefit refugee and immigrant racialized women who are over-represented in minimum wage jobs.

We are encouraged by the continued support for disaggregated data collection as an important analytical tool that can help to eliminate disproportionate inequalities – including a Disaggregated Data Action Plan by Statistics Canada, funding for Justice Canada to collect race-based data, and funding for academic research into systemic barriers facing diverse groups.

The Budget includes numerous initiatives intended to address systemic racism, anti-Black racism and racial discrimination, such as investments in Indigenous and Black communities, community organizations and Black entrepreneurs, and particularly $200 million to establish a new Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund. The Budget invests in the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to support racialized residents and community groups to combat racism.

We welcome the additional investment in the Social Finance Fund, with the stated promise to support organizations that serve marginalized residents, immigrants and refugees. We are encouraged by the commitment to apply a diversity analysis to investment decision-making – which has the potential to provide much-needed support for ethno-racial organizations that have long faced systemic barriers to getting funded. We urge the government to apply an intersectional equity analysis to all funding decisions so that Indigenous, Black, racialized, women and gender diverse, people with disabilities, youth, LGBTQ2 and low-income communities and groups are equitably supported, and disproportionate disadvantage is eliminated.

We welcome the promised investments in public transit, mental health supports and affordable housing, including rent support, shelter and housing for women and children fleeing violence. We urge the government to eliminate immigration status as a condition of accessing housing and other supports so that women and children with precarious immigration status are not excluded from these investments. In particular, we call on the government to remove the systemic barrier to Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for parents with precarious immigration status, and eliminate systemic barriers to Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement for immigrant seniors. 

OCASI is encouraged by Canada’s first GBA+ budget – a long-standing recommendation by the Council. We will continue to review the full document and post any updates on our website.

Read the Budget: https://www.budget.gc.ca/2021

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Read the statement from Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change on the Budget: