Ontario Communities Want You

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by Dale Sproule

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is always looking for the most effective ways to provide services for newcomers. Together with the Province of Ontario (through the Canada- Ontario Immigration Agreement), they launched an initiative in 2009, called Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) – a unique plan to provide ground-level funding to local and regional governments, based on an observation that they, better than anyone else, understand the needs of the communities they serve. Attracting immigrants is vital to the growth of all Ontario communities.

CIC Communications Advisor, Rejean Cantlon explains, “This initiative will identify gaps and provide clear direction so that communities can enhance their ability to help newcomers integrate. Communities that are organized, welcoming and committed to helping newcomers succeed have the best potential to attract and retain new immigrants.”

For each community, the process begins with the establishment of a Partnership Council.

These councils are comprised of representatives from local and regional governments, community organizations, immigrant serving agencies, language training providers, local associations, regional employment networks and economic development corporations.

Once the partnership has been created, one of the organizations or municipalities involved responds to a call for proposals (posted on Settlement.org) on behalf of their community’s partnership council. That single applicant may be the Municipality/Regional Government itself, or an established community organization endorsed by the Municipality/Regional Government.

Each proposal must entail a partnership of organizations, employers or other community stakeholders lead by or including the Municipality/Regional government. The proposal should show the support of those individuals who will develop a community-focused settlement strategy and a plan to implement the strategy. The goal of the partnership is to provide a community perspective on settlement needs and encourage a more effective allocation of resources from a range of funders currently supporting newcomer settlement. The more effectively the services are developed and provided, the more they will increase the potential for that community to attract new immigrants as a primary destination or through secondary migration.

When a proposal receives a positive recommendation from the evaluators, the funding will be received directly by the applicant.

Once the funding is received, its distribution is determined through in-depth research conducted by the Partnership Council on the needs of newcomers in their communities. By looking closely at programs currently in place, they can identify gaps in the currently provided services; and decide the direction to be taken so that communities can best integrate newcomers. The Settlement Strategies and Action Plans developed in this way will be tools that will help make these communities more desirable places for immigrants to live. The successes and lessons learned through this process will help guide funding as the program moves forward.

Cantlon says, “Local Immigration Partnerships provide a community “lens” on addressing newcomer integration needs and enhancing settlement services. The enhanced partnerships coordinate the delivery of integration services including settlement, language training and labour-market integration. Improving access to services that make the integration process easier will benefit not only newcomers but communities across the province.”

Thirty agreements are currently in place, and three are under various stages of negotiation. CIC funding for the Local Immigration Partnership initiative is estimated to be between 6 and 7 million dollars. This initiative supports the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement objective of fostering partnerships with, and encouraging the participation of, municipal governments and community stakeholders in addressing immigration issues and opportunities. LIP was jointly developed by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

CIC and MCI staff collaborated on the development and release of the invitation for – and evaluation of – proposals.

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