Growing number of newcomers, refugees ending up homeless in Canada: studies

Given the tight housing market and prices in larger cities, not surprising:

A growing number of newcomers to Canada are ending up in shelters or are finding themselves homeless, newly released government figures show.

Two new reports released this week by Employment and Social Development Canada offer a glimpse into the extent of the homelessness problem across the country and reveal the populations that are most vulnerable.

The national shelter study, which looked at federal data on shelter users between 2005 and 2016, found an “observable increase” in refugees using shelters.

In 2016, there were 2,000 refugees sleeping in shelters, not counting those facilities designated specifically for refugees — an increase from 1,000 just two years earlier when the figures first began to be tracked.

Tim Richter, president of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, said he believes refugees are being forced to turn to homeless shelters because of a lack of housing capacity in areas where refugees are settling.

“Many of them are coming to Toronto in Ontario, and to Quebec, and in those communities, the rental market is just really tight and we just don’t have the capacity to house them,” Richter said.

“Homelessness is a function of housing affordability, availability and income. When you’re new to Canada, you generally won’t have the income to be able to buy a house, and there’s just not enough affordable housing options.”

Canada has been experiencing an influx of asylum seekers crossing into Canada “irregularly,” avoiding official checkpoints between the Canada-U.S. border in order to file for refugee protection without being turned away under Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. Over 46,000 irregular border-crossers have been intercepted by RCMP since early 2017.

Many of them have been staying in Toronto and Montreal to await the outcome of their refugee claims, which has put pressure on temporary housing capacity in those cities.

The city of Toronto estimated in late 2018 that about 40 per cent of people using its shelters identified as refugees or asylum claimants. Other Ontario cities have been asked to help relocate refugees in order to ease the burden on Toronto’s shelter system.

Meanwhile, a second study released this week by Ottawa that offers a “point-in-time” snapshot of homelessness in 61 communities also noted a trend of homelessness among newcomers.

It found 14 per cent of people who identified as homeless in 2018 were newcomers to Canada. Of that total, eight per cent indicated they were immigrants, three per cent identified as refugees and four per cent as refugee claimants.

The point-in-time study captures not only those using shelters, but also people sleeping on the streets, in transitional houses or staying with others. The 2018 study expanded its counts from 32 communities in 2016 to 61 in 2018.

Both studies also found Canada’s Indigenous Peoples remain vastly over-represented among the country’s homeless population. Almost one-third of shelter users and those counted in the point-in-time report identified as Indigenous, despite making up only about five per cent of the national population.

It’s a consequence of multi-generational trauma endured by Indigenous populations in Canada, as outlined in the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the recently concluded inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, Richter said.

“This will require specific focus and specific investment if we’re going to help these folks.”

For those who do find themselves without a home, either for short periods or for those who are chronically homeless, their realities are stark and can be deadly.

A memorial dedicated to homeless individuals who have died on the streets of Toronto currently lists close to 1,000 names. Many are identified only as “John Doe” with the date they died.

But Richter said he is hopeful that things will improvements for Canada’s homeless.

He pointed to figures in the national shelter study showing an decrease of nearly 20 per cent in the overall number of people who accessed shelters between 2005 and 2016. Occupancy rates have increased over that period of time, however, due to a rise in the length of time people were staying in homeless shelters.

But many jurisdictions have been taking the issue seriously and making significant improvements, Richter said, pointing to a decrease in chronic homeless numbers in places like the southern Ontario communities of Chatham-Kent, Guelph, Kawartha and Haliburton.

“We’re seeing that it is possible, and we know how to do it, it’s just a matter of getting on with it,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we are going to see, now, consistent and focused trends going in the opposite direction.”

Source: Growing number of newcomers, refugees ending up homeless in Canada: studies

‘Barbaric cultural practices’ tip line dead, but other snitch lines have continued

Interesting. More smoke than fire in terms of the number of leads followed up and acted upon:

A small team in a secretive government office in the nation’s capital stands ready, 24/7, to hear from Canadians who want to squeal on their neighbours.

Working in 12-hour shifts, between two and four Canada Border Service Agency employees are assigned every day to monitor the agency’s Border Watch Tip Line, a creation of the Paul Martin Liberal government that gives Canadians a chance to report “suspicious immigration activity” to the government around the clock, in either official language.

“No information, however trivial it may seem, is too small,” according to the CBSA webpage for the tip line.

Most of those tips end up being deleted or filed away in government archives, as do those made to two of the government’s other immigration-related tip lines, according to statistics provided to The Hill Times by the federal government.

Many of the communications via the tip lines have actually been questions about how to file paperwork for visas or other routine and unrelated matters. Some are reports of illegal activity that falls outside of the CBSA’s jurisdiction—for example, financial fraud. Others simply don’t include enough information, or do include information “not substantiated” by database searches of CBSA officials, the agency says.

Many of the tips come from members of the public who suspect a business is employing illegal workers, a neighbour may be in Canada with an expired visa, or someone they know might be perpetrating marriage fraud, according to records from earlier this year obtained by The Hill Times.

Others read like the plot from an immigration-themed soap opera.

“Tipster called to report that her friends [sic] husband has sponsored another woman,” reads the summary of one tip received by the Border Watch Tip Line in January.

“Subject is legally divorced in Canada…but she believes that she is still married to her husband [censored] and would like to know if that is legal and if divorce in Canada also means divorce in the original country of marriage.”

That tipster was “advised that [the Border Watch Line] does not offer advice or information” on such matters and told to contact the federal Immigration Department.

Round-the-clock monitoring

Calls to the Border Watch Tip Line—1-888-502-9060—are fielded by officials at the CBSA’s Warrant Response Centre, a “24/7 operation” of 34 full-time CBSA employees who help officers from the CBSA’s regional offices and other law enforcement partners “throughout North America” to execute immigration warrants or look for previously deported persons, according to CBSA spokesperson Line Guibert-Wolff.

The Warrant Response Centre is located on the first floor of a CBSA building in the southeastern corner of Ottawa, but is not open to the public and does not receive tips in-person. The CBSA only confirmed the location of the centre, which it originally declined to disclose and which draws a $2.6-million annual budget, when it was identified by The Hill Times.

The Border Watch Tip Line yielded about 12,000 tips in 2015, though the CBSA took no action in response to about 65 per cent of those tips, according to information obtained through an access-to-information request.

When asked why the agency did not take action on those tips, Ms. Guibert-Wolff wrote that the tip line receives calls “that do not contain sufficient information, calls which are not substantiated by database queries, calls that contain duplicate information that were already referred to the appropriate section, and calls not pertaining to legislation enforced by the CBSA.”

Useful tips are forwarded to regional Immigration Department or CBSA offices for further action, and the CBSA does not track the results, wrote Ms. Guibert-Wolff.

Those regional offices determine the best course of action, which can include further checks of government databases, or referral to other authorities for investigation, in which case “it may be several years” before any results are achieved, wrote Ms. Guibert-Wolff.

Different lines, same tips

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada each operate their own online tip-reporting systems; one is intended for suspected citizenship fraud and the other for misuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Of 457 tips emailed to IRCC’s citizenship fraud email address during the month of January 2016, 37 were forwarded to the CBSA or Immigration Department offices for further action, while 59 that were classified as spam or duplicates were deleted, and 355 were filed away with no action taken. The six remaining were still pending review as of May, according to information obtained through an access-to-information request. An access-to-information official did not respond to a follow-up question seeking information on why no action was taken on many of the emails.

The 37 tips that were forwarded for further action were split between the 18 government offices or departments, including the CBSA, immigration case processing centres and visa offices everywhere from Lima, Peru to Islamabad, Pakistan.

Subject lines of those emails—the only portion the department disclosed—suggested that tips to the citizenship fraud email address were very similar to those made through the Border Watch Tip Line, including suspicion of people working in Canada illegally, living in Canada illegally, marriage fraud, as well as a handful of emails unrelated to the purpose of the tip line.

“Person currently harbouring an alien immigrant/illegal temporary foreign worker,” reads one; “victim of fraud after marriage,” reads another.

Employment and Social Development Canada also operates a tip line and online fraud reporting tool for people who want to report suspected abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

A July, 2015 press release from ESDC said the department had received “thousands of complaints” at that point since the tip line and online reporting tool were launched in April and June 2014 respectively.

A sample of the TFWP tips received online during the months of October and November of 2015, acquired through an access-to-information request, shows that ESDC was acting on about 23 per cent of the tips it had received.

Source: ‘Barbaric cultural practices’ tip line dead, but other snitch lines have continued

Public servants scramble to fill data deficit on Liberals’ priorities

Understandable given difficult cut choices recommended by the public service and approved at the political level (with the previous government’s anti-evidence and anti-data bias), with predictable impact on the quality of analysis:

If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau really is a data geek, he couldn’t have been encouraged by what some federal departments had on hand.

Internal documents obtained by the Star suggest years of belt tightening has led to a data deficit in Ottawa, gaps that may “create challenges” in delivering on the Liberal government’s priorities.

Early childhood learning and child care, expanding parental leave, increasing youth employment, and expanding training for apprentices and post-secondary students all figured prominently in the Liberals’ election platform.

But as of November, the department responsible for making good on those promises was worried they didn’t have enough concrete data to deliver.

“Spending on surveys has been reduced over the last several fiscal years and has been concentrated on priority areas to help manage financial pressures,” read documents prepared for the senior public servant at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

The Liberals have made “evidence-based decision-making” a watchword for their early days in office, and senior staff in the Prime Minister’s Office are known for their attachment to data-driven strategy.

A spokesperson for Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the issue is government-wide, not isolated in their department.

“This is an issue that all ministers are facing right now. We do know that there are gaps in the data the government owns,” Mathieu Filion told the Star in an email.

“There are many discussions on the matter with different minister’s offices as to see what will be done to acquire more data.”

According to the November documents, Statistics Canada was largely preoccupied with the restoration of the long-form census, but had identified a number priority files.

Along with ESDC, StatsCan was looking to revive “longitudinal surveys” to fill in gaps. Longitudinal surveys are more expensive and time consuming than other methods of collecting data, but the documents suggest they can give greater insight into “the dynamics of life events” and have a greater payoff when continued over a number of years.

StatsCan’s wish list includes greater labour market information (specifically aboriginal participation, unpaid internships, temporary foreign workers, and worker mobility), better information on children’s physical and mental health development, and more data on Canada’s aging population and the resulting effect on the economy and the health-care system.

The agency says the digital economy remains largely in the dark, as well.

“The use of digital technologies is an important and growing phenomenon and stakeholders are increasingly demanding statistical products to address questions on the topic,” the documents read.

“While the agency has been doing some feasibility work on Internet use by children, the incidence of cybercrime amongst Canadian businesses, and has developed some questions for the inclusion in various surveys, there remain important data gaps.”

ESDC is also interested in learning more about Canadians’ “computer literacy” and use of the Internet.

Source: Public servants scramble to fill data deficit on Liberals’ priorities | Toronto Star