The federal government plans to spend $35 million over the next three years to increase settlement services for newcomers, most of whom reside in small towns and rural communities.
On Wednesday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser announced details of the plan, which includes allocating $21 million to develop nine new chapters of the resettlement in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick.
An additional $14 million will be invested to improve case management services that help vulnerable migrants settle in new communities. This also includes a pilot project to strengthen Francophone case management in the Prairies.
“New Canadians who call Canada home play a crucial role in our economic success, our diversity, they help build the wealth of our communities and our future prosperity, especially as we seek to close the gaps in workforce and restore the health of our communities after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Fraser.
“Resettlement and settlement services have never been more essential than during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made building a new life in a new country an even more daunting process.”
The Resettlement Assistance Program supports government-assisted refugees and operates in all provinces outside of Quebec.
It provides a one-time start-up allowance and monthly income support, usually for up to one year. Essential services, including temporary accommodation, financial counseling and life skills training, begin within the first four to six weeks of a refugee’s arrival.
Case management services also apply to government-assisted refugees and other vulnerable immigrants to Canada who face unique barriers to entry. This is a needs and assets assessment, which leads to service referrals and regular follow-up.
“Case management assists newcomers who need significant intervention and support to build their ability to independently access and navigate settlement and mainstream services to facilitate integration and to encourage independence,” reads a government website.
RESETTLEMENT OF AFGHANS
Fraser took a moment to reflect on the government’s efforts to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban after the withdrawal of Western military forces.
“It’s already been a huge boost with almost 7,000 here today. But we know the work has only just begun,” he said, adding that Ottawa had received over a million requests for help.
Fraser called the circumstances “heartbreaking” and “tremendously challenging”.
“All these requests are not formal,” he said. “I’m sure a significant number aren’t. This would include people who have submitted applications, would include people who have contacted by email IRCC or Global Affairs to express interest in participating in Canada’s program. It is possible that some of these emails represent an individual case that may have been raised more than once.
Although Fraser said officials were working as quickly as possible to process applications, the government projected it could take up to two years to resettle all Afghans seeking homes in Canada. The minister said hundreds were arriving every week.
It’s not fast enough for those with family in the country, like a former Canadian Armed Forces interpreter whose 13 family members are still in Afghanistan. Now in Canada, he fears for their safety and is frustrated by the lack of support from the Canadian government.
“The Government of Canada, IRCC, is asking us to have the biometrics done within a month, which is impossible, it means they’re not serious about it,” he told CTV. News. “I don’t see any hope, I don’t see my family coming here as soon as I wanted to.”
As winter grips Afghanistan, basic necessities like food and fuel have become increasingly difficult to obtain for many. With the country still in disarray following the Taliban takeover, it may be impossible to obtain vital documents for Canadian immigration officials. The Canadian Embassy in Kabul also remains closed, further complicating matters for those trying to come to Canada. An estimated 3.5 million people are currently displaced in Afghanistan.
Fraser also noted that Ottawa remains on track to resettle 1.2 million immigrants over three years – a pledge made in October 2020.
“We are targeting 401,000 in calendar year 2021 of newcomers admitted to Canada. We have surpassed that number by over 4,000…we expect that if we stick to the current schedule, we will be able to meet or exceed the target of 411,000 for this year and 421,000 for the following year” , did he declare.