Ottawa scales back underused immigrant support program after tripling budget in 2015

January 7, 2019

By Vancouver Sun

Ottawa will fund 16 organizations to deliver pre-arrival services, down from a high of 27. The program’s budget is $22.6M per year, down from $32M

The federal government has scaled back an immigration program designed to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada that was used by fewer than 10 per cent of immigrants despite having its budget nearly tripled in 2015.

As of Jan. 1, Ottawa is funding just 16 organizations to deliver pre-arrival services, down from a high of 27 in 2015. The program’s budget for the next five years is $113 million, or $22.6 million per year, down from $32 million in 2016-17.

Pre-arrival services are intended to help economic and family-class immigrants and refugees prepare for life in Canada before they land, and can include help with skills training and professional qualifications, connections with employers and mentoring.

The changes come after an audit last year revealed problems, including ineffective promotion and low uptake. Service providers were struggling to reach clients, serving as few as 13 in a single year at a cost per client of up to nearly $28,000.

The retooled program is meant to streamline the process, with just four organizations providing orientation and core services to economic and family-class immigrants, and then referring clients to more specialized providers.

“Providing services to newcomers before they arrive in Canada is critical to successful integration,” Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said in announcing the cuts Thursday in Vancouver. “These services help newcomers make decisions about the life they want to live in Canada as early as possible in their immigration journey.”

One of those four core organizations, B.C.-based S.U.C.C.E.S.S., will receive $22.4 million, Hussen said. The organization has provided services to 14,800 newcomers since 2008. In November, CEO Queenie Choo told the Post that the government needed to review the number of service providers in the program, “to streamline what is regular and what is needed.”

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