Participatory Policy-making with Refugee Claimants in the City of Toronto



Toronto / November 7, 2023

Participatory Policy-making with Refugee Claimants in the City of Toronto was researched and written for OCASI by Sharmarke Dubow, MPP Candidate at the University of Oxford. Mr. Dubow prepared the report as part of the 2023 Master of Public Policy summer placement at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

Executive Summary

Increasing numbers of refugee claimants in Toronto, Canada are revealing the strain between promises of inclusion and the limitations of current top-down policy approaches. As participatory approaches to policy making become increasingly recognized as a valuable method of developing holistic policy, improving government capacity to engage with people who have lived experience is critical.

Toronto’s 2022 - 2026 Welcoming Newcomer Strategy commits to improving City programs and services to be more equitable and inclusive for all newcomers. This paper assesses whether this strategy aligns with a human rights, intersectional, and policy justice theoretical framework, drawing attention to key areas where the City can better integrate participatory approaches. It recommends four policy options that outline how the City of Toronto can better work in collaboration with newcomers, with a specific focus on refugee claimants given their distinct and precarious immigration status.

Local Pathways - engaging refugee claimants at the local level

  1. Build capacity for City staff through education and training
  2. Establish meaningful partnerships with refugee claimants
  3. Develop leadership opportunities for refugee claimants at the City
  4. Establish participatory monitoring & evaluation indicators

Based on an examination of local policy options, this paper advocates for the creation of meaningful participation of people with lived experience within local governance models. It is important to recognize the valuable participation of a range of civil society actors advocating for claimants and pushing the City to adopt better practices.

Download the paper [PDF]