Executive Director's Message

Resetting The Municipal Agenda

Increasingly those of us working in the immigrant and refugee serving sector have recognized the importance of municipalities in immigration, immigrant and refugee settlement, and inclusion.  It took the provinces and the federal government a bit more time to acknowledge this but it came together for us in Ontario in 2005 with the signing of the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA, which expired in 2010) which for the first time formally recognized the important role municipalities have to play in our political project of immigration integration. Having formal agreements among the three levels of government created the framework for the NGO sector to engage municipalities on settlement and inclusion policies and programs.

Telling Tales

It is a cliché that the only constant is change. But all clichés have their truths. We are living in a season of change. We have witnessed exponential changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection program. We are engaged in discussion (and debates) on changing how public services are delivered and funded. We are questioning and looking to change the way relationships of influence are established and utilized, and whose interests become paramount or are sidelined and ignored.

Taking the Pulse of the Immigrant and Refugee-Serving Sector

Since the millennium, Ontario's immigrant and refugee-serving sector has been witness to significant shifts in the kinds of programs and services required to meet the needs of immigrants and refugees. There has been a shift in demographics in terms of countries of origin beginning about a quarter century ago, but as important has been the later change in the education levels, employment experience and official languages facility of new arrivals.

Message from the Executive Director - July 2014

This past two weeks exemplified what makes Ontario one of the best places to live, work, worship and play. The province and particularly the City of Toronto put out its welcome mat to the world for the International Human Rights Conference and World Pride 2014. At the risk of sounding like the cheerleader in chief, there has been no better example than that of the proactive, intentional planning that went into ensuring an inclusion agenda, which paid off in spades if we can go by the energy generated by our visitors and those of us who live here, as we met each other and celebrated our victories of minority communities around the world and cried and commiserated about how far we still have to go to ensure legal, political and social equality for too many.

Message from the Executive Director - June 2014

Finding a topic of interest on which to comment proved particularly difficult this month. Not because of a lack of subject matter but of competing interests- between the angst that the new bill amending the Citizenship Act is causing many of us concerned with issues of immigration and citizenship; and the fiercely  fought Ontario provincial election that's just days away, there's much food for thought and commentary here. So I'll indulge myself and write of both.  The Citizenship Bill first.

Message from the Executive Director

Over the past year OCASI and some of its members have been intimately engaged with the debate on the Canada Jobs Grant program and the implications for Ontario's newly arrived immigrant populations and other groups with little or no labour market attachment (which makes them EI ineligible); supported  the campaign to increase the minimum wage to $14/hour; took every opportunity to speak about the need to increase social assistance rates including ODSP (Disability support program) and the need for a boost to the Ontario Child Benefits program. Needless to say there was great anticipation about the 2014 provincial budget. Imagine then the response to the not unexpected decision of the opposition parties to withhold support for the budget, setting the stage for a provincial campaign and an election in mid-June.

Reflections

I 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.

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