By RON FANFAIR
Blindsided by Ottawa’s decision last December to suddenly abort program funding to 10 immigrant-serving agencies in the Greater Toronto Area, the provincial government is ramping up its call for federal settlement funds the same as Manitoba and British Columbia.
The federal government is slashing funding to immigrant service agencies across Canada by $53 million this year, $43 million alone in this province that attracts the bulk of newcomers to Canada.
The five-year, $920 million Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, signed in 2005 and extended by a year, expires today.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said the federal cuts to settlement services were inappropriate and short-sighted.
The funding termination could lead to job losses, agency closures and newcomers losing access to the services they need.
“We had no idea these cuts were coming,” McGuinty said last week. “That is why we would like to have our own immigration agreement in place. We are the biggest province in the dominion and we accommodate more immigrants on an annual basis than the entire Western, Atlantic and three territories combined.
“We account for 40 per cent of the new immigrants right here. We want a made-in-Ontario immigration program so that we could provide more support to our people.”
McGuinty praised Citizenship & Immigration Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins – who is negotiating with the federal government for a new agreement that will benefit the province – for his leadership in cobbling together urgently needed relief funding to help the immigrant service agencies.
Ontario provided $500,000 in stabilization funds to eight of the 10 hardest hit agencies.
“This was done so we could help some of our settlement agencies meet some of their critical needs,” McGuinty said.
Federal Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney claims the funding cuts are necessary because the number of immigrants settling in Ontario has dropped in the last five years from 145,000 to 106,000. He said many newcomers are now settling in the Atlantic and western provinces.
The organizations affected by the cuts include Northwood Neighbourhood Services in the city’s north end which has been providing culturally-appropriate programs and services for newcomers for the past 27 years and Tropicana Community Services Organization, Canada’s largest Black social service delivery agency, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.