Debating difference and diversity: combining multiculturalist and interculturalist approaches to integration

Much of these debates and discussions are more semantics than substantive, as the devil is in the details regarding the specific practices and policies of integration, social cohesion, multiculturalism and interculturalism:

In the UK, as elsewhere in Western Europe, issues of integration and social cohesion in relation to ethno-cultural minorities are never far from the headlines or policy concerns in one form or another. In the last year, events such as the Black Lives Matters protests, COVID-19, the Euros, and the upcoming Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, have all prompted reflection on integration. In 2019 the government published a new indicators of integration framework and the term has again been the central concern of a recent report by a prominent think tank, which notes that integration is ‘one of the slipperiest concepts in the political lexicon’.

One of the central issues to thinking about integration is what is to be done about ethno-cultural difference? Is it a problem to be overcome, a barrier to integration? Is it something positive, to be embraced and celebrated? Should it be overlooked in favour of what we all, as individuals, have in common, or should it be the ground we build a more equitable sense of belonging from?

The term integration can be not just slippery but the site of antagonistic and at times heated debate. These two properties of antagonism and slipperiness are well exemplified in debates between two alternative camps on how to manage and think about integration and ethno-cultural diversity: multiculturalism and interculturalism. Whereas the former emphasises respect for difference and hyphenated identities, the latter emphasises contact, mixing and what is shared or common against difference.

The two have frequently butted heads in academic debates, with multiculturalism under fire from interculturalists as in need of replacement, something reflected in political and policy discourse. For instance, the government’s 2018 Integrated Communities Strategy stated that ‘multiculturalism has too often encouraged communities to live separate lives – reinforcing distinct cultural identities to the detriment of efforts to draw attention to what we have in common – and is defunct’. Multiculturalists have responded by pointing out how these arguments misrepresent or caricature multiculturalism.   

In a new research project, PLURISPACE, we ask if this antagonism must necessarily be the case. We’ve found that integration as it exists in government policy as well as policy advocacy from civil society organisations more often combines these two opponents in various ways, and this is where the slipperiness comes in. Peeling back from political rhetoric and academic theory debates, what might we learn from the slipperiness?

While policies that are consistent with an intercultural position have become central, through increased emphasis on contact and mixing, as well in discourse around fundamental British values, the term itself is found nowhere in policy documents or parliamentary debates themselves (unlike, for example, in Spain or at the EU level). Moreover, these interculturalism gains have not been to the detriment of multicultural policies, which have also shown an increase over the last few decades. This begins to point to types of complementarity between different approaches, which forms the focus of the PLURISPACE project. But what different forms does such complementarity take in practice?

From an analysis of documents produced by prominent civil society organisations, supplemented by interviews, we can point to three main types of complementary form in which multiculturalism and interculturalism are combined in the UK, reflected in alternative emphases on the idea of integration. The first two represent what we might call a principled multiculturalism, complemented or qualified by interculturalism to different extents.

The first variation is broadly multiculturalist in emphasis. It wants to preserve the importance of difference between ethnic, cultural, and faith communities whilst developing a sense of multicultural nationhood that can include these differences. Integration is thought about as relations between communities and across difference, but which adds to this the need for contact and mixing between people of different ethnicities and faiths and a simultaneous emphasis on what is held in common if it is to be successful. Here, integration is very much a ‘two-way street’.

The second variation represents a more equal mixing of multiculturalism and interculturalism. It is more cautious of stronger statements about group rights but with a significant feature; its underlying premises can be said to be more multiculturalist than interculturalist. That is, underpinning interculturalist features is a stronger sense of the need to recognise and respect difference as a fundamental way in which equality is thought about. As one report puts it: ‘If integration is not about everybody, it is not integration‘. Interculturalist emphases from this position are important, but bound to fail if not substantively underpinned by thicker multiculturalist sensibilities and policies when it comes to identifying and addressing discrimination and positive recognition.

Across these two positions features of interculturalism are seen as extremely important but also as inadequate and ineffective if not underpinned by more substantive approaches to equality consistent with multiculturalism.

A third position is one we might call critical interculturalism. This adopts a broadly interculturalist stance, but is qualified in significant ways (and ways that some interculturalists would reject) by multicultural emphases. It emphasises contact and mixing, and is oriented foremost around individual rights and the centrality of ascribing to fundamental British values, and of minority integration into these values. It stresses general laws and policies that apply to everybody, rather than differentiated policies and stronger forms of group recognition. Yet, different expressions of this broad position also emphasise the national level as significant in setting the tone for equality and integration; some emphasise that group targeted policies might be necessary in order to address patterns of discrimination and disparities in policy areas such as employment, education and so on, even if they are not necessarily ideally desirable and one day might not be necessary. We might see this as a kind of stop gap multiculturalism.

Overall, these different forms of complementarity are suggestive of the important contestations and differences there are when it comes to questions of what integration should mean and look like. But what they also show is that out of the shadows of academic debates and political rhetoric, syntheses and hybrids are occurring on the ground, and this has lessons for theory and politics alike. It also shows that behind the rhetoric, multiculturalism is not only alive but a multicultural sensibility is a significant feature of how we should think about equality and belonging.

Thomas Sealy (@SealyThomas) is Lecturer in Ethnicity and Race in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol.

Source: Debating difference and diversity: combining multiculturalist and interculturalist approaches to integration

Greg Abbott Backs Immigrant School Policy That Helped Turn California Blue

Of note, political virtue signalling for the right, with risks of possible backlash. Proposal is intrinsically deplorable:

In 2001, then-Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, signed what was known as the Texas DREAM Act, providing in-state tuition rates to young undocumented students as long as they were state residents for three years, graduated from a Texas high school, and promised to apply for permanent residency.

Two decades later, immigration politics in Texas have been completely transformed. Governor Greg Abbott is now calling for the Supreme Courtto strike down the 1982 Plyler v. Doe ruling that forces states to pay for the education of undocumented children.

Speaking on a conservative radio show, Abbott said Texas already sued the federal government long ago over having to incur the costs of the education program.

“And the Supreme Court ruled against us on the issue,” Abbott said. “I think we will resurrect that case and challenge this issue again, because the expenses are extraordinary and the times are different than when Plyler v. Doe was issued many decades ago.”

In light of the report that the Supreme Court is set to strike down Roe v. Wade and reverse long-enshrined federal abortion protections, Democrats and activists privately worry that efforts like Abbott’s are not the fantasy they would have seemed just six months ago, but could actually become reality in the near future.

But they argue Abbott’s gambit could backfire, as a similar campaign did after the passage of California’s infamous Proposition 187 in 1994 signed by then-Governor Pete Wilson, a Republican, which denied public services to undocumented immigrants, including public education.

After all, “Prop 187,” which only survived five years, had unintended consequences. Not only did it fail in discouraging immigrants from seeking services, it also helped to create a mobilized Latino electorate that proved to be a major factor in turning California blue.

Mike Madrid, a longtime Republican strategist, worked in California GOP politics and considers Wilson a friend. But he says the fallout from Prop 187 could serve as a warning for Texas Republicans.

“The legacy of 187 was to create a generational voting bloc of Latinos against the Republican Party that would not normally happen,” Madrid said, adding that California was then experiencing the rightward shift Texas is experiencing now. “That changed substantially because of these attacks on the community. Once attacked, Latinos rally.”

In California, the Latino share of the electorate nearly doubled at the time and support for Republicans crumbled, a far cry from the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan garnered 48% of the Hispanic vote. When Bob Dole ran in 1996, he received a paltry 6% of the Latino vote.

Julissa Arce, an activist and author of the new book “You Sound Like a White Girl: The Case for Rejecting Assimilation,” told Newsweek she was once an undocumented student in Texas when she lived in the state from age 11 to 21.

“Thank God no one was questioning how I got there,” she said. But fear was always present. “I never wanted to go talk to my counselor, afraid they might look at my documents.”

Abbott’s rhetoric creates an environment of fear, Arce said, particularly in a state where nearly 53% of public school students are Hispanic.

The end of the state educating undocumented kids would likely include echoes of the chaos of Prop 187, with school administrators having to ask children about the immigration status of their parents, and parents who have both undocumented and U.S.-citizen children pulling their kids from school.

Abbott has tacked to the right during his reelection campaign in an effort to energize his primary voters, often around issues concerning immigration and education. He sent buses of migrants to Washington DC, a message to the Biden administration to deal with a problem he feels it has made worse.

Last week, Abbott slammed the Biden administration for providing baby formula to immigrants in holding facilities, “as American parents scramble amid a nationwide shortage of the product.”

John Wittman, Abbott’s former communications director, told Newsweekthe Texas governor widely publicized moves are an effort to draw attention to the federal government’s shortcomings.

“I think the governor’s point is the federal government continues to fail in its responsibility of dealing with immigration, and Congress has failed for decades, so as a result states have had to deal with the fiscal responsibility of the issue,” he said. “The border and illegal immigration is something Texas has picked up the tab on.”

Arce called Abbott’s announcements “anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric” for a reelection campaign, but acknowledged “it feels different because he could really turn this into action as we’ve seen with Roe v. Wade, and this relitigation of things we thought had been settled.”

Source: Greg Abbott Backs Immigrant School Policy That Helped Turn California Blue

Institute for Canadian Citizenship makes Canoo [Cultural Access Pass] available to Permanent Residents

Significant move, expanding access to Canoo to Permanent Residents during their first 5 years in Canada, not just new citizens within one year of becoming a citizen.

From their announcement:

Thanks to generous donors large and small, 2 million Permanent Residents will now have free VIP access to our country’s best culture and nature attractions from the get-go. There is no better way to prove to immigrants that Canada values and respects them – to make them feel truly and completely at home. 

We also added spectacular new benefits to Canoo, including big discounts with Air Canada, film festival memberships, sports tickets, concerts, shows, classes, kid-friendly activities, volunteering, and so much more. 

Canoo is now a one-stop-shop for becoming Canadian, not just in your passport, but in your heart.

Settlement services need to improve their online offerings for tech-savvy newcomers

Interestingly, the number of those from outside Canada accessing IRCC’s “Find immigrant services near you” is comparatively small: about 10,000 per month in 2021, a small decline from pre-pandemic 13,000 per month in 2019.

Given the diversity among immigrants, clearly more segmentation of services, more digital for the digital savvy and more high touch in person for those less so.

Will see what Ryerson’s Virtual Bridge comes up with in terms of recommendations:

Welcoming and including newcomers is increasingly becoming an important part of creating vibrant cities. 

Settlement agencies don’t just deliver services to newcomers. They also identify the best possible channels to reach them and provide them with the necessary information to make settlement in Canada a seamless process. 

But a 2021 study found that although newcomers were using the internet for many things, few were using it to look for settlement services. There’s still a gap when it comes to helping newcomers with better targeted online services. 

The federal government is investing in pre-arrival settlement service delivery so that newcomers are prepared for life in Canada. 

There are currently 147 active settlement program initiativesbeing funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. These projects are valued at over $250 million, with a goal of finding new ways of delivering services to newcomers. 

About 45 per cent of these funds went towards 17 pre-arrival settlement service initiatives that virtually prepare newcomers for life in Canada. The initiatives provide employment-related services, orientation services, needs assessment and referral services. 

Pre-arrival initiatives have seen success in digital learningcounselling and community-building, including tackling xenophobia and misinformationskills training and starting an online business.

The initiative taken by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and local governments are in step with the embrace of digital technologies and the internet among newcomer communities and the demand for more pre-arrival information.

But more must be done to increase awareness among newcomers about the services provided by settlement agencies. 

This is an area of focus for the project Virtual Bridge, which aims to provide research and tools for settlement service agencies to improve their online communications and service delivery. Given the technological aptitude of so many newcomers to Canada, online outreach and services are critical to ensuring their successful resettlement.

Canadian municipalities like TorontoLondonWinnipeg and Halton Region open their doors to a large number of newcomers.

These communities recognize the importance of digital initiatives like welcome portals, pre-arrival services, web/mobile phone applications and online newcomer guides in creating a welcoming environment. The mobility restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for these online services and has even spurred digital adoption among migrants themselves.

Settlement agencies, however, still have work to do to ensure they’re offering enough online services to newcomers, including using online channels to communicate with them before they arrive in Canada.

Digital divide

Make no mistake — some newcomers may be excluded because of pre-existing inequalities in access to internet services or devices in their home countries. Demographics will determine whether they have access to digital services. 

Those include age (young people use the internet more often than older generations), gender, location (including whether they come from places in their home country with poor internet service or expensive or absent broadband services), household wealth, education levels and migration status (some refugees and asylum-seekers depend on internet service and social media platforms to navigate the journey between home and host country). 

This is known as the digital divide. For host countries like Canada, unequal access to digital services means another layer of inequality that must also be addressed by settlement services. Failure to do so could further exacerbate what’s known as digital poverty.

Newcomers who do go online must be skilled enough to navigate various platforms, persistent misinformation and hate speech on social media. 

This requires them to obtain vital and accurate information. They can and do. Refugee youth from the Middle East and East Africa, for example, use various platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Viber before and after coming to Canada to communicate and get information. 

Similar examples are found among immigrants from Bangladeshrefugees from Syria and the Tamil diaspora.

A 2018 report found that newcomers who used pre-arrival settlement services were more informed about where to go to find more information after they arrive, they knew how to get their professional credentials evaluated and they had an overall better understanding of Canadian workplace culture.

They also actively looked for work, while some enrolled in further education to upgrade their skills.

New tech transformation

Before coming to Canada, migrants often have limited sources of information about life here, relying mostly on their social networks. 

Technology allows potential newcomers — with the assistance of friends and family on social media — to make informed migration decisions and improve their search for job market information.

Even before the pandemic, 67 per cent of newcomers to Canada were using social media, similar to Canadian-born usage rates (68 per cent)

Newcomers were mainly using it to learn English, get local news, learn about the Canadian cultureconnect with family and friends, find job market information and for further education opportunities.

Nonetheless there can be some negative impacts on newcomer integration due to social media, meaning there’s a role for newcomer settlement service agencies to build greater trust into virtual spaces.

Some platforms can potentially inhibit integration if they limit interactions with local citizens. Chinese immigrants using WeChat, for example, interact a lot more with other Chinese immigrants and much less with Canadian-born citizens. This can delay how newcomers learn about Canadian social practices. 

Social media can also create privacy and security challenges for newcomers that leave them vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and misinformation. 

Searching for settlement services

Settlement agencies don’t just deliver services to newcomers. They also identify the best possible channels to reach them and provide them with the necessary information to make settlement in Canada a seamless process. 

But a 2021 study found that although newcomers were using the internet for many things, few were using it to look for settlement services. There’s still a gap when it comes to helping newcomers with better targeted online services. 

The federal government is investing in pre-arrival settlement service delivery so that newcomers are prepared for life in Canada. 

There are currently 147 active settlement program initiativesbeing funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. These projects are valued at over $250 million, with a goal of finding new ways of delivering services to newcomers. 

About 45 per cent of these funds went towards 17 pre-arrival settlement service initiatives that virtually prepare newcomers for life in Canada. The initiatives provide employment-related services, orientation services, needs assessment and referral services. 

Pre-arrival initiatives have seen success in digital learningcounselling and community-building, including tackling xenophobia and misinformationskills training and starting an online business.

The initiative taken by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and local governments are in step with the embrace of digital technologies and the internet among newcomer communities and the demand for more pre-arrival information.

But more must be done to increase awareness among newcomers about the services provided by settlement agencies. 

This is an area of focus for the project Virtual Bridge, which aims to provide research and tools for settlement service agencies to improve their online communications and service delivery. Given the technological aptitude of so many newcomers to Canada, online outreach and services are critical to ensuring their successful resettlement.

Source: Settlement services need to improve their online offerings for tech-savvy newcomers

New research finds that preference for remaining is key to successful immigration: Turkish immigration in Germany study

Of interest:

New research finds that policies granting permanent residency to immigrants conditional on acquiring host country skills—like language—are most likely to generate higher fiscal contributions to the host country through income taxes. In fact, immigrants with a preference for remaining in the host country develop social contacts and other specific skills that allow them to find better paid jobs and stay for a longer time.

As immigration worldwide increases, host countries are faced with crucial policy decisions aimed at maximizing immigrants’ economic contributions. Designing the right policies requires understanding exactly how immigrants make their decision to migrate and return to their country of origin. Bocconi University, Milan, professors Jérôme Adda and Joseph-Simon Goerlach, with co-author Christian Dustmann (University College London), in a forthcoming article in The Review of Economic Studies, develop and estimate a that provides key insights into the decision-making process of immigrants. They find that immigrants’ expectations for the length of their stay and their location preferences can explain their decisions to invest in career improving skills, their acceptance of lower-paying jobs compared to natives, and how they respond to immigration policies on the duration and possibility of permanent residence.

While previous research focused only on productivity differences between immigrants to explain their career profiles, the authors argue that location preferences could be crucial in determining how much immigrants invest in acquiring skills that consequently impact their career profiles. For instance, an who prefers the host country and intends to stay permanently may invest more in learning the local language, familiarizing themselves with the local labor market, and developing social contacts and other host country-specific skills. Alternatively, a migrant with a location for their original country may not invest in these skills as they are likely undervalued back there. The authors model this preference and estimate the impact of location preferences and planned migration duration using data from surveys of Turkish immigrants in Germany over three decades, starting from 1961.

Indeed they find that immigrants who remain are higher-skilled due to their conscious investment in host-country skills. Their model is also able to explain why immigrants may be more willing to accept low-paid jobs compared to natives. They argue that immigrants from countries that have a lower price level and who want to return home would face higher effective wages since their wage allows them to consume more at home over their lifetime. Knowing this may encourage temporary migrants to accept lower-paid jobs.

The authors also use their model to compare three different types of prevalent today that grant permanent residency after 5 years either conditional on:

  1. An earning threshold (like the UK);
  2. Acquiring host-specific skills such as language (like in some countries of the EU);
  3. Granted randomly with 30% probability.

The authors find that scheme 1 selects for high productivity migrants and scheme 2 for those with a high preference for the host country.

Assuming a population of 25-year-olds migrating to Germany in 1970 as an example to estimate on, the earning threshold rule would generate an annual per capita increase in tax payments by €782 compared to if the policy wasn’t there. The host-specific skills rule would generate an average annual tax gain of €789 and fewer tax losses due to fewer individuals leaving the host country. The random lottery instead leads to a decrease in average annual taxes by €633 since the expected returns to investing in host country skills are reduced due to the scheme’s reliance on random chance. Furthermore, schemes 1 and 3, due to the barriers they pose to seeking permanent residency, reduce total immigration by about 26% whereas the host-specific skills rule does so by around 3%.

Thus, the authors show how these schemes could have differential impacts when one accounts for not only immigrants’ productivities but also their location preference / expected duration of stay. As the recent Ukrainian refugee crisis shows, such considerations are crucial for both the host countries’ goals as well as the lives and decisions of the arriving immigrants and their integration and acceptance in societies.

Source: New research finds that preference for remaining is key to successful immigration

Canada to offer language training, employment assistance to Ukrainians fleeing war

Significant change, one that continues to blur the previous lines between temporary residents, previously not able to access settlement services, and Permanent Residents who were, as well as highlighting the preferential treatment of Ukrainian nationals compared to others fleeing from their country.

Reality, both policy (the distinction between temporary and permanent has become increasingly arbitrary given that most new Permanent Residents are not former temporary residents) and political (the size and influence of Ukrainian Canadians), results in a major change.

The government will help Ukrainians arriving in Canada find a job and learn to speak English or French, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Monday.

Applications opened March 17 for a program to allow an unlimited number of Ukrainians fleeing war in their home country to come to Canada for up to three years while they decide whether they want to apply for permanent residency.

Those who are approved can work or study in Canada during their stay.

The Immigration Department says nearly 60,000 Ukrainians and their family members have applied for the program so far.

“We’re expanding the federal settlement program to offer key services such as language training, orientation, employment assistance and other supports for Ukrainians as they settle into their new communities,” Fraser said as part of a series of Tweets Monday.

More details are expected Tuesday.

The department estimated it would take about two weeks to process each application, so Ukrainians could begin to arrive under the new program as early as this weekend.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a mass exodus of mainly women and children who fled the violence that erupted one month ago.

The UN refugee agency estimates 3.8 million people have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24.

The temporary program for people who have left Ukraine is unlike the regular process for refugees, which includes help to find housing and community orientation.

Fraser’s department is working on more ways to help settle the potentially thousands of Ukrainians who could come to Canada over the next several weeks.

“We’ll continue to support Ukrainians, before and after they arrive in Canada,” the minister tweeted.

Beginning Friday, help will be available at certain airports to welcome Ukrainians, with assistance and arrival information in their language.

The Ukrainian Congress has called on the government to provide the new arrivals with financial support for food and shelter during a three-month transitional period.

On Monday the government announced a special grant program for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers affected by the invasion.

“We are establishing this measure as another way of demonstrating our support for Ukraine, to help Ukrainian researchers and students working in Canada to continue their important work,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement.

“It will also help protect the future growth of the Ukrainian scientific community.”

The program will provide grants of up to $45,000 for Ukrainians who wish to continue their studies and research in Canada, as well as Ukrainians in Canada who can’t return home because of the war.

Source: Canada to offer language training, employment assistance to Ukrainians fleeing war

German integration chief plans to ‘advertise’ to migrants with citizenship revamp

Of note:

Germany’s integration chief has said she wants to advertise the country to migrants and smooth their path to citizenship, as the country looks to plug expected gaps in the workforce.

Reem Alabali-Radovan said Germany was “in competition with other countries”, such as Canada, to attract migrants with the prospect of a good life and a path to German nationality.

Concerns over worker shortages are fuelled by an ageing population in Europe’s biggest economy, with the number of working-age people projected to decline by 150,000 a year.

Germany has historically been wary of dual citizenship, with some people forced to choose only one passport when they turn 18. But the three parties which formed a coalition last month have promised to loosen these rules.

“Germany has to present itself as a modern country of immigration that offers new prospects,” Ms Alabali-Radovan, who is Secretary for Migration, Refugees and Integration in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office, told the newspaper Tagesspiegel.

She said she wanted to support ministers in “advertising Germany” to potential workers.

“I see it as my task to work towards making people here want to stay here,” she said. “There’s much more to that than a work contract – we also need language courses, housing, schools and a chance to be part of society.”

Berlin’s tone contrasts with that of Britain, where Conservative ministers tout stricter migration rules as an accomplishment of Brexit, and France, where right-wing candidates are taking hard lines before April’s presidential election.

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Germany after the 2015 migration crisis similarly led to a backlash on the right.

But the centre-left government that took power last month has promised to shorten the period for naturalisation to five years, instead of eight, and simplify the process of obtaining nationality.

Some migrants may be exempted from language requirements if they cannot afford lessons, while the threshold will be lowered for descendants of the mainly Turkish “guest worker” generation of the 1960s and 1970s.

Ms Alabali-Radovan said existing laws meant workers such as carers and tradespeople were facing the threat of deportation because they had only a temporary status in Germany.

“We have a shortage of skilled workers – we need them, we don’t want to deport them,” she said.

The head of Germany’s labour agency last year said the country would need 400,000 immigrants a year to fill its workforce.

Germany has separately promised to take in thousands of vulnerable Afghans, after refugees described fears and bureaucratic delays in the weeks after the Taliban took power.

Ms Alabali-Radovan, 31, is the child of Iraqi parents who left their home country after opposing former president Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Born in Moscow in the last days of the Soviet Union, she moved to Germany in 1996 and settled in the east of the country.

Source: German integration chief plans to ‘advertise’ to migrants with citizenship revamp

Syrian refugees who now call Canada home look to help Afghan newcomers


The living room at Zoheir and Nadia Darrouba’s home is a hive of activity in the late afternoon – their older children, just back from school, are taking turns carrying around their baby brother as their parents look on.

It’s a simple scene but one that makes Zoheir Darrouba feel at home in the mid-size Ontario city the Syrian refugee family of eight has now put down roots in.

“We have settled here. We cannot live outside Peterborough,” he says. “It’s a good and quiet city. There are not problems here … People are helpful and nice.”

The family is among nearly 46,000 Syrian refugees who were resettled in Canada under a program introduced by the Liberal government in 2015. The first flight carrying Syrian refugees landed in Toronto on Dec. 10, 2015, exactly six years ago.

The Darroubas, who made their way to Canada under the resettlement program in November 2016, used to live in Idlib, in northwest Syria, one of the first regions where local uprisings escalated into widespread violence. The family lived for a period of time in Lebanon before finding themselves settling in Peterborough.

Now, as they consider themselves firmly established locals, the family is looking to help Afghan refugees who’ve started arriving in the city following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul earlier this year, although the pandemic has made that effort a bit more complicated.

“There are several (Afghan) families here … They are in quarantine, unlike before,” said Darrouba, who wants to offer support because he knows first-hand how hard starting over in a new country can be.

“When we came here, we didn’t know anyone here. If someone showed up to visit us, we would feel it’s great support.”

Darrouba currently works as a driver delivering COVID-19 PCR test samples for local pharmacies in Peterborough to a lab in east Toronto.

The family’s five older children, ranging in age from eight to 16, are all doing well at school, their father says, while their mother is staying home to care for her two-month-old.

Nadia Darrouba says she’s content with her Canadian home.

“In my first days in Canada, I used to look at the snow from the window and cry thinking when the winter will be over,” she recalled. “We are very comfortable now. My children grow up here. They don’t know Syria.”

Two of her daughters, who are blind, say they’re well-supported at school and feel set up for success.

“If I compare where I was and where I’m now, it’s a huge achievement … I used to speak English but it wasn’t so good. Now my English is a lot better … My grades are very good,” said Aya Darrouba.

The 16-year-old, like her father, said she feels drawn to helping Afghan refugees who are now beginning a new chapter, just as her family did.

She volunteers with a local settlement agency that’s helping Afghan refugees and, since the pandemic has made it challenging to meet in person, recently helped it make a video offering advice to the newcomers.

“I just tried to make them feel at home,” she said of the video. “I told them your first days in Canada will be difficult but you will get used to the country.”

The federal government has committed to resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees, with 3,625 now in Canada, including about 80 in Peterborough, according to government data.

Marwa Khobie, executive director at the Syrian Canadian Foundation, said Syrian refugees are well placed to help the Afghan refugees who started arriving in Canada in the last few months.

Her organization, which is based in Mississauga, Ont., launched a campaign this week to raise money for Afghan newcomers and connect them with 100 Syrian refugees.

“Now that Afghan refugees have arrived, it was kind of a way to refresh our memories and remember what we went through five years ago,” she said.

“Many Syrian newcomers were actually asking and telling us: ‘How can we support Afghan refugees? What can we do? How can we meet them?'”

Her organization has partnered with four other groups that are supporting Afghan refugees to provide opportunities for now-settled Syrian refugees to help the newcomers in the Greater Toronto Area, she said.

Khobie said the campaign, called From Syria to Afghanistan, will also have a positive impact on Syrian refugees.

Sharing their success stories, remembering what they went through – this is a way to empower Syrian newcomers and Afghan refugees at the same time,” she said.

“For Afghan refugees, we want them to feel welcomed here in Canada, a sense of belonging, knowing that they’re not alone in the community, and everybody is willing to support in every way possible.”

Source: Syrian refugees who now call Canada home look to help Afghan newcomers

Canada’s health and settlement systems are failing newcomers. It’s time for a new system of care

More theoretical than practical given the fragmentation within and between sectors an the jurisdictional issues:

Last year, the federal government announced its intention to welcome over 1.2 million immigrants to Canada by the end of 2023. The truth is, however, that our care systems are not ready to adequately support those newcomers upon arrival — and here’s why.

Right now, Canada’s health care system and settlement services have operated in silos and are funded by different levels of government. This is creating large gaps in services, with newcomers falling right through them. The fact is many newcomers come to Canada in better health than the rest of the population. Yet, their health and wellness tend to rapidly decline during and after settlement. Some reasons for this could be due to not having secure housing, access to health care, and/or enough to eat. 

So, what is a solution to these problems? Two words: Integrated care.

Integrated care connects newcomers with a seamless suite of co-ordinated and holistic health and settlement services, including mental health care, employment services and access to food security. Existing integrated care programs offered by health agencies and community organizations, like WoodGreen Community Services’ Inter-Professional Care Program, offer solid proof that integrated care can improve systems of care for newcomers, predominantly in two ways. 

Firstly, integrated care can improve the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and sustainability of care systems by breaking down silos between health, settlement and other services. 

As a people-centred approach, integrated care organizes services around the needs and perspectives of newcomers. This improves continuity of care and allows newcomers to gain timely access to the services they need through any door, without the burden of system navigation. Integrated care also reduces the risk for duplication of work and may minimize high-cost services, such as hospital admissions, by diverting clients away from the emergency room and encouraging a shift to preventative care.

The second main (and particularly timely) benefit of integrated care is that it helps service providers feel less burned out.

Burnout is prevalent among care professionals, a factor which has been proven time and again throughout the course of this pandemic, and which is often linked to reduced patient satisfaction and health outcomes. Statistics Canada reported that, in early 2021, the health-care sector saw one of the largest annual increase in job vacancies compared to other sectors, with a particular increase in job postings for nurses.

By building and co-ordinating relationships and support between providers, integrated care has been found to combat burnout and improve job satisfaction and well-being.

To be clear, integrated care in Canada is not a new thing. The challenge is that an integrated approach to health care and settlement services is not being implemented at a scale that can successfully settle Canada’s incoming and recently settled migrants.

Policy-makers, in collaboration with settlement providers, community agencies, health-care organizations, and other stakeholders, can help to address this issue by:

  • Improving access to stable resources for settlement service providers and physicians to effectively implement integrated care;
  • Offering newcomers of all statuses access to services, including individuals with insecure legal status and people who have been in Canada for years; and
  • Requiring race-based and sociodemographic data collection to ensure organizations have the information they need to track health equity outcomes and evaluate program performance, among other recommendations.

If Canada hopes to achieve a successful and resilient COVID-19 recovery (where newcomers can contribute to the economy while maintaining their own socio-economic well-being), we must commit to better integrating our health and settlement care systems to ensure that newcomers don’t just come here to live — but to thrive.


IRCC’s immigrant settlement funding by province/territory for 2021-22

Not much new but useful to have this overview, which again highlights the disproportionate share allocated to Quebec:

…IRCC settlement funding by province and territory

The memo shows that Mendicino approved the following 2021-22 allocation by province and territory (except Quebec). Note that all figures are rounded and also include spending projections obtained from IRCC’s publicly available 2021-2022 departmental plan:

  • Ontario: $407.2 million
  • Alberta: $124.1 million
  • British Columbia: $119 million
  • Manitoba: $46.6 million
  • Saskatchewan: $41.3 million
  • Nova Scotia: $17.2 million
  • New Brunswick: $14.6 million
  • Prince Edward Island: $6.2 million
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: $5.2 million
  • Yukon: $1.3 million
  • Northwest Territories: $1.1 million
  • Nunavut: $608,000
  • Sub total: $784.4 million
  • Other allocations: $46 million
  • Dedicated IRCC Initiatives: $46.2 million
  • Quebec (Not included in the memo): $650.3 million via the separate annual grant it receives from IRCC
  • Resettlement services (Not included in the memo): $145.7 million
  • Grand total (Not included in the memo): $1,672.6 billion

Sources: IRCC memo and IRCC’s Departmental Plan 2021-22.

Screenshot 1: Settlement Funding Allocation (Click on image to enlarge):

ircc settlement funding allocation 2021-2022
Source: IRCC

IRCC’s settlement funding formula

One possible reason IRCC has stopped sharing this information publicly is due to the controversy it garners among provinces, territories, and the service provider organizations. These stakeholders are in constant negotiations with IRCC on identifying the most appropriate funding levels for their respective jurisdictions. IRCC acknowledges the controversial nature of this process in the memo.

The memo outlines that the allocation of funding by province and territory is based on a federal Cabinet approved National Settlement Funding Formula. The formula allocates funding for each jurisdiction based on the three-year average proportion of immigrant landings by jurisdiction. It also gives additional weight to refugees to account for their unique settlement needs (refugees tend to require more settlement services than economic and family class immigrants). Quebec is not subject to this formula since its grant is calculated based on the formula outlined in the Canada-Quebec Accord relating to Immigration and Temporary Admission of Aliens signed in 1991. Due to Quebec’s special status as Canada’s only French-speaking province, it has more authority than any other jurisdiction to select immigrants. It also receives more IRCC settlement funding than any jurisdiction and has more flexibility to use the funding.

Screenshot 2: The National Settlement Funding Formula (Click on image to enlarge):

ircc settlement funding formula

Source: IRCC.

Settlement funding per capita

As indicated in Screenshot 2, IRCC determined the 2021-22 allocations based on immigrant landings in each province and territory in 2017, 2018, and 2019. This results in the following settlement funding amounts per capita:

  • Nunavut: $16,432
  • Quebec: $13,541
  • Northwest Territories: $4,622
  • Yukon: $4,194
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: $3,428
  • New Brunswick: $3,072
  • Ontario: $3,033
  • Alberta: $2,913
  • Manitoba: $2,862
  • Nova Scotia: $2,857
  • Saskatchewan: $2,691
  • Prince Edward Island: $2,684
  • British Columbia: $2,671

Sources: IRCC; Author’s calculations. The methodology is: Allocations for each province and territory divided by annual average of each province/territory’s immigrant intake between 2017-2019.

IRCC’s memo states that smaller jurisdictions receive capacity building funding to allow them to increase the scale of their services. This may explain why jurisdictions with low newcomer intakes including Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick are at the top of the list. Ontario gets more than the provinces west of it due to it having the highest refugee intake in the country.

Quebec leads all provinces due to the generous settlement formula identified in the Canada-Quebec Accord. Among its provisions, the formula dictates the grant amount can only increase over time.

What does this all mean?

IRCC goes to great lengths to help immigrants succeed. This is demonstrated by its settlement program accounting for nearly half of the department’s annual $3.6 billion budget. Canada is the largest funder of immigrant settlement services in the world.

At the same time, IRCC has the difficult task of identifying how to distribute its settlement funding across the country in a manner that takes into consideration the needs of each jurisdiction. This results in an imperfect process that is subject to intense scrutiny and debate among Canada’s governments, settlement provider organizations, researchers, and the media.

Quebec enjoys the most funding in absolute terms as well as the second most per capita even though its provincial government was elected in 2018 on a mandate to reduce immigration. The province’s settlement funding formula was agreed to in 1991 based on the expectation that Quebec’s immigration levels would increase over time to help compensate for its aging population and low birth rate. However the election of the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) party in 2018 highlighted a flaw in the formula, as Quebec has since seen its annual grant from IRCC continue to rise as its newcomer intake declined by 22 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018.

Conversely, Alberta, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island (PEI) and the Northwest Territories have each seen their settlement allocations decline this federal fiscal year due to recent declines in their newcomer arrivals. Decreasing allocations to jurisdictions when their newcomer levels decline may seem fair, but it also creates operational challenges. Namely, lower IRCC funding to a province or territory could come at a time when that jurisdiction sees an increase in their newcomers (and hence, strains their ability to deliver settlement supports to newcomers). In addition, decreased funding means that service provider organizations may need to scale back their operations which sometimes entails laying off staff.

IRCC recognizes such challenges, which is why the memo notes that IRCC will make a one-time transfer to their Western Canada operations to top-up the funding provided to Alberta. The purpose of the top up is to ensure that Alberta can continue to provide high quality settlement supports to its newcomers.

Finally, IRCC recognizes that further investments will be needed to support future newcomers. The memo states the department anticipates more settlement funding to become available as it looks to welcome more newcomers through its Immigration Levels Plan. The 2021-2023 levels plan is the most ambitious in Canadian history as it seeks to welcome over 400,000 new immigrants per year. Since its founding in 1867, Canada has welcomed 400,000 immigrants in a year just once, in 1913. As such, the memo indicates an expectation the allocation for all provinces and territories (excluding Quebec) will increase by another $100 million for the 2023-24 federal fiscal year. This suggests the department’s total settlement spending will reach some $2 billion annually within the next few years.

Source: IRCC’s immigrant settlement funding by province/territory for 2021-22