By Dr. ERIC HOSKINS
Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Ontario is fighting a federal government decision to cut $44 million from 35 community agencies that help new Canadians get job-ready and strengthen Ontario’s economy.
Before the holidays, 10 Toronto-based community agencies received a letter from the federal government informing them that they would lose 100 per cent of their funding. Twenty-five others are facing significant cuts. This decision was made unilaterally by the federal government, without consultation or warning.
The impact of these cuts on both newcomers and the community agencies that serve them are devastating. Not only will hundreds of dedicated settlement workers – many of whom are immigrants themselves – lose their jobs, tens of thousands of new Canadians will lose access to the vital services they need to succeed and contribute to our economy. These federal cuts – if not reversed – will hurt Ontario’s economic recovery and, ultimately, Ontario’s future prosperity.
Immediately upon learning of these cuts, I organized an urgent meeting with the affected community agencies. They told me that the federal cuts mean that they will have to lay-off settlement workers who help immigrants in their own language, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Amharic, Tagalog, Spanish and others. These cuts mean more than jobs lost; they mean that immigrants speaking those languages will effectively be cut-off from services that will help them integrate into Ontario’s economy.
In total, (federal) Minister (of Citizenship and Immigration) Jason Kenney and the federal government are cutting nearly $44 million from settlement agencies in Ontario, and $53 million nationwide. This funding is used to support language training programs, job search, mentorship and other programs that help newcomers integrate into Ontario’s economy, with many of them going on to start their own businesses, creating new jobs to keep Ontario strong. These cuts are in addition to $207 million which the federal government promised to Ontario’s newcomers under the Canada Ontario Immigration Agreement, but which it has failed to spend.
Commenting to media after these cuts were announced, Minister Kenney said that he was redistributing funding to reflect the fact that some immigrants are choosing to settle in other provinces.
But let’s be clear – the federal government is unilaterally imposing a $53 million nationwide cut. There is no redistribution of these funds. It is a massive national cut in funding for settlement services, at a time when immigration levels are increasing in Canada. The bulk of this cut, $44 million, is hitting the province of Ontario, which still accepts more immigrants each year than the next two provinces combined.
Furthermore, Ontario welcomes many “secondary migrants,” immigrants who land in other parts of Canada but then move to Ontario in pursuit of opportunity and ties to their communities. Ontario receives no funding for these secondary migrants.
Immigrants to Ontario deserve a level of support from the federal government that is fair, and that reflects how much we value the contributions new Canadians make to this province.
The federal cuts mean that immigrants to Ontario will not get their fair share. Quebec receives approximately $5,011 to help each immigrant, and Ontario only receives $3,248, less than two-thirds of what Quebec receives. Why do Ontario’s immigrants deserve less support from the federal government?
And now is the worst time to cut back on supports to help people find work. Just when the economy is turning the corner you don’t turn your back on helping people train and find jobs. The federal government should be working with us to support new Canadians, many of whom go on to start their own businesses, creating new jobs and helping our economy grow stronger.
In the days and weeks ahead, I will continue to fight on behalf of Ontario’s newcomers, and all Ontarians, by calling on Minister Kenney to reverse these devastating cuts and treat Ontario fairly.