Multi-ethnic Group Of Students

Reflections on the Municipal Immigration Workshop 2015

Is it ironic that it was the province that invited and convened representatives from Ontario’s municipalities to discuss immigration programs that are largely driven by a federal agenda? 

Or does it signal a growing intention of the province to play a greater role in immigration affairs? 

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There is no doubt that Ontario’s place at the pinnacle of new immigrant arrivals in Canada has been challenged by the oil boom out west and the very successful implementation of Provincial Nominee Programs by Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

But Ontario has a long and rich history of immigrant reception, and a relatively small Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI) has led the way with initiatives such as

  • immigration portals,
  • an immigration strategy, and its more recent economic development-oriented funding stream called
  • “Innovative Immigration Initiatives” or I-cubed.

The portal program is entering its tenth year and is transitioning into a longer-term mandate of funding a series of connected projects that can be shared among municipalities.  Now with the incorporation of “International Trade” into its mandate, a revamped MCIIT is poised to tout the economic benefits of immigration to the province’s prosperity.

Municipal Immigration workshop

The various ways that these funds have been leveraged by municipalities across the province were recently on display at the Municipal Immigration Workshop held May 12 and 13 in Sudbury.

Municipalities of all sizes were in attendance, including

  • larger cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, and London, and
  • smaller communities such as Lambton, Simcoe, and Cornwall.

Simcoe County Library Link pilot project

Of particular interest to REAPontario are the initiatives in rural communities.  Simcoe County profiled its Library Link pilot project that was recently funded by MCIIT.  This project includes the acquisition of multilingual materials, signage and outreach materials targeting newcomers, and a four-day training that enabled 10 library staff to become “Immigrant Information Specialists”  following a “train the trainer” model.  The project coordinator will offer ongoing cultural competency training to all library staff.

In my next blog post, I will be profiling the very interesting newcomer initiative around food and cooking that is underway in Northumberland County.

In closing,

“immigration may be mostly federal with some provincial jurisdiction, but the immigrant experience is largely shaped at the community level.  As such, we need all levels of government to work together on “the immigration portfolio” in all its complexities.”

Sarah V Wayland

Sarah Wayland, Principal Investigator

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