Unilateral Settlement Cuts rejects Humanitarian Spirit.


 By The National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada


Word of the federal governmentís decision to impose unilateral funding cuts to vital settlement services came like the sound of booming canons to providers of immigrant services across the country. We are disturbed because the social impact of those cuts would be disastrous.

  It is a tremendous shock to be facing such an enormous financial setback to your operations especially when there was no advance warning; no prior indication that it was in the pipeline. Ontarioís Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration has funding relationships with ten affected agencies. Five are funded through the Newcomer Settlement Programme that provides support to ethnic communities.

  The ministry has long-standing, valued-partner relationships with the others and they havenít identified any problems in terms of programme delivery or any other organization problems.

  There is tremendous mystery surrounding the reason or rationale for determining which agency has its funding maintained or which agency has had its funding cut. The financial discomfort for agencies ranges anywhere from ten percent up to 80% and we have heard there is one case where an agency almost faces closure with its budget being forced to contend with a 99% drop.

   These agencies that provide tremendous and vital service to individuals and families naturally have life altering impacts resulting from this federal government unilateral action. It is believed this act would result in tremendous job losses among settlement agencies. This is likely to be in the hundreds. Due to difficulty among new Canadians in securing opportunities when they arrive in this country, the settlement organizations provide necessary assistance in the dream of making this country truly diversified. These are, generally speaking, if not newcomers themselves, very talented individuals.

  During an emergency meeting with settlement agenciesí personnel following the shocking news was, no one could identify any rationale why their financial support was being assaulted. Many gave examples that they had just gone through an audit and it was a perfect audit. Others gave example that they were beating their targets in terms of their targets for delivery on their programmes. So there were other organizations that were the only organization in a specific geographic area.

  With this information then one must question the motive. Unfortunately it feels like political partisanship in operation here. After encouraging people to become a part of this Canadian fabric and then you decide to turn your back on them is a terrible signal. Canada has always been selling itself as a country steeped in humanitarian spirits. But this action certainly destroys that image. It could be seen as an anti-immigrant action that does not bode well for the future growth and development of this country that so many of us have adopted as their own.

    We understand considerably more than 10,000 Ontarioís newcomers will loose vital access to services. Whether itís a job search programme a mentorship or other support services and counselling including those that many of these agencies provide services in specific languages to specific communities and that is going to be lost.

  Specific language and cultural groups currently serve would by the agencies would be affected. One prime example is the South Asian Center, which deals with more than 14,000 vulnerable women a year. Replacing these services are certainly not a possibility in the short term.

   Overall, these cuts are seen, as chipping away at Ontarioís collective ability to make sure that the province is able to actively welcome and integrate newcomers as quickly and as effectively as possible.

   What is immensely disturbing to the community as a whole is the Conservative Government plan for ethnic communities visibly contains $44 million cuts to newcomer communities. It also includes a failure to deliver $207 million due under the first Canada Ontario Immigrant Assistance Agreement, which is a contractual agreement between the province and the federal government for newcomers. Mr. Jason Kenney, federal minister of immigration, is reported to have said recently that money is not coming. Shame! Shame! Shame!

   The only acceptable resolution to this unilateral development is for the federal government to honestly rescind this atrocious decision.

January 21, 2011