Table of Contents
Welcome from the Chair of the Board
Welcome to the Catholic Immigration Centre's first electronic newsletter. Our aim is to provide information about our activities and the issues that concern us to as wide an audience as possible -- news about the things we are doing, articles and commentaries about immigration policy issues, stories about the people we work with, stories about newcomer experiences, etc. By learning more about CIC and the role we play we hope you will consider becoming involved in our work either as a volunteer or as a donor.
For some time now the Catholic Immigration Centre has been examining its objectives and activities in order to reassess its priorities. Our goal is to make Ottawa the most welcoming city for immigrants in Canada. We want our building to be a Welcoming Centre that brings together newcomers and others in the community. To do this we need to work with other agencies serving immigrants and newcomers and other institutions in the city providing services that immigrants need. Your support and assistance is invaluable in this process. Work with us to achieve our goals and to create an environment where immigrants can succeed in establishing a new life for themselves and their families in one of the greatest countries in the world.
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Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has recently announced a series of grants to a number of communities in Ontario to help enhance their capacity to plan for immigrants' successful settlement and integration and to become valued contributors to their local community. Each funded community is to identify appropriate delivery models and develop a multi-stakeholder, collaborative settlement and integration strategy.
Leading up to these grants are processes that involved the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA), signed in 2005 and the creation in 2004 of the Municipal Immigration Committee (MIC) promoted by the Ontario Municipalities Association (OMA). The MIC enables municipalities to share information and consult with each other in the development of immigration and integration policies and programs within the COIA. Ontario municipalities have identified two key priorities:
- Attraction and retention of immigrants, particularly in smaller and northern municipalities;
- Effective and timely settlement and integration of immigrants,
Ottawa is one of the local communities undertaking the development of local a partnership and strategies. The Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership is lead by the City of Ottawa and the Local Agencies Serving Immigrants (LASI) and it is just now beginning its operations. The objectives set by the initial partners include:
- Improving access to, and the coordination of, effective services that facilitate immigrant settlement and integration;
- Improving immigrants' access to the local labour market;
- Strengthening local awareness and the capacity to integrate immigrants; and,
- Helping multiple stakeholders in planning, coordinating and delivering coordination services (including settlement, language training and labour market integration).
The Catholic Immigration Centre is the host agency for the project.
For more information about project plans and how to participate, please contact our Project Director, Hindia Mohamoud at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (613) 232-9634 ext. 397.
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International Medical Doctor Programs delivered by CIC
Healthcare continues to be one of the top issues concerning Canadians. One of the most important aspects of this issue is the doctor shortage. It is estimated that there are upwards of 4,000 International Medical Doctors (IMDs) in Ontario alone but barriers persist that prevent them from receiving medical licenses to practice in Canada.
To practice medicine in Canada an internationally licensed doctor must pass medical exams set out by the Medical Council of Canada and complete a residency. The whole process can easily take five or more years.
CIC offers two programs to help International Medical Doctors to improve their integration into the Canadian healthcare system: Career Transitions and the Medical License Bridging Program.
Career Transitions is a comprehensive employment preparation program for IMDs, which supports their entry into alternative and non-regulated health sector roles, where they may utilize their transferable skills. The workshop is a total of 30 hours over one month. In addition to the workshop, individual action plans are developed and ongoing career guidance and support is available.
Career Transitions is delivered in three centres; Ottawa in partnership with LASI World Skills; Hamilton in partnership with SISO; and, Toronto in partnership with Skills for Change. The program was originally funded in 2007 by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration of Ontario for a period of two years. Due to its outstanding success the program was recently renewed for an additional three years.
Medical License Bridging Program (MLBP), was developed to provide focused training to assist IMDs in passing the required medical exams and to better prepare them for residency. In addition to 60 hours of workshops, delivered intensively over one month, IMDs are also provided with a 10 day observership hosted by a Canadian licensed doctor.
The program is delivered in partnership with the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, the Centretown Community Health Centre and Sandy Hill Community Health Centre. It received funding in September 2008 for a period of two years from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
By improving the IMD success rate for acceptance into residency programs and increasing the number of IMDs licensed to practice medicine in Canada, the MLBP is playing an important role in decreasing the doctor shortage. The success rate of the 2008-2009 Residency Match tells the story: of 35 IMDs participated in the program prior to a Match, 24 were invited for residency interviews and 16 were offered Residency positions.
Career Transitions (Ottawa, Hamilton, Toronto)
IMDs who completed the program: 415
Jobs obtained: 204
Volunteer positions obtained or college/university admissions 259
Medical License Bridging Program (Ottawa)
2009 Residency Match
IMDs who completed the program (Oct 2008 to Feb 2009): 35
IMDs invited for Residency interviews: 24
IMDs who were matched for Residency positions: 16
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Developments in Canada's Refugee Policy
By Janet Dench
The last few months have been difficult ones for refugee rights in Canada. The doors have been closing on those seeking asylum in this country. At the same time, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has announced his intention of reforming the refugee system in ways that will make it less fair for some claimants. These developments have been accompanied by the most negative rhetoric heard from the government in many years. The aggressive comments from the Minister have been taken as an invitation by media commentators to publish ill-informed and mean-spirited opinion pieces attacking refugees.
The series of events began with the imposition of a visa requirement on Mexico and the Czech Republic. This in effect blocks refugees from those countries from fleeing to Canada. Most of the Czech claimants were Roma citizens who are experiencing high levels of racist violence and societal discrimination. Although some of the Mexican claimants are motivated by economic need, others are fleeing violence, especially from powerful organized crime groups.
The United Nations Refugee Agency was sufficiently disturbed by the visa imposition to publicly criticize the Canadian government, an unusual step for the traditionally diplomatic agency. As their representative in Canada, Abraham Abraham, said, "Restricting the arrival of people is in a way tantamount to excluding them from the possibility of being able to seek asylum. That to us is disturbing because the commitment of states to refugee protection is the core of the entire protection regime, and if that is diminished in any way, it can affect the protection of refugees at a much, much larger scale elsewhere." (Embassy Magazine, 19 August 2009)
A few weeks later the government introduced other measures further closing the door on potential claimants at the US-Canada border. These measures, combined with the new visas, bar the entry of 40% of claimants, based on 2008 figures.
In the meantime, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney has announced that the government will table legislation to change the refugee determination system. While there are many positive changes that could be introduced through legislative reform, some of the Minister's proposals are very worrying. Of particular concern is the suggested introduction of a two-tier system, whereby claimants who come from countries considered "safe liberal democracies" will have fewer procedural protections.
Such an approach contradicts a basic principle of refugee protection, according to which each case should be determined individually, on its own merits. Categorizing a claim as less deserving before the claimant has even started to tell their story denies them a fair and equal chance. Among the individuals most likely to be hurt are women fleeing gender-based violence and gays and lesbians persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation. These are forms of persecution that exist in many countries that may otherwise seem to be relatively peaceful.
Visit the CCR website (ccrweb.ca) for more information about the CCR's reactions to events, including an open letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to safeguard Canada's commitment to treating claimants with dignity and to providing a fair process to determine whether they need protection.
Janet Dench is the executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of refugees.
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Awa is a Somali woman in her mid-40s living in Ottawa. Her story begins in Somalia in the late 1980s.
As is now well known, the growing instability and violence in Somalia culminated in the collapse of the government in January 1991. Awa's husband came to Canada during this time and was recognized as a convention refugee. He settled in Ottawa and sponsored her resettlement in Canada under the family class of the Canadian immigration system. The rapidly deteriorating situation in Somalia required Awa to leave the country before her permanent residency application was completed. She applied for and received a minister's permit to enter Canada and arrived in Montreal in 1991.
Awa did not speak any English or French upon her arrival and her husband deceived her about her status in Canada. She was told that the minister's permit she received at the border was her landing document. She did not know that her application as a landed immigrant in the family class was abandoned by her husband.
Awa lived in Ottawa for three years, in an increasingly unstable and abusive marriage, before a member of her husband's family saw the document - which Awa treasured as evidence of her right to be in Canada - and told her that it was not a landing document. Awa had begun to develop mental health issues and continues to suffer from severe depression that requires medical treatment.
At this time Awa also began to have legal problems. In the mid 1990s she was convicted of two crimes and given probation and a suspended sentence. Awa's claim is that one of her children, running around out of control, burned themselves on a hot water tap. Her husband phoned the police and told a different story -- he accused her of having abused the child. While it is now too late to know all the facts of what might have happened, it is relevant that her husband's statement to the police, in English, led to her arrest. Awa was unable to communicate directly with the authorities due to the language barrier, barriers that had been hardened by being isolated from Canadian society in an abusive marriage.
Awa and her husband separated. Awa remained in Canada throughout the 1990's under a Minister's Permit for Humanitarian Reasons. The immigration establishment recognized that, in addition to having two Canadian children, Awa was from a country that was absolutely unsafe for anyone to return to.
Awa and the case workers at the Catholic Immigration Centre in Ottawa have been working very hard for the past ten years to clear the way for her to become landed and to integrate fully into Canadian society. Awa's situation was complicated. She was not eligible to apply for landed immigrant status during this time because of her criminal record. She was living on social assistance, caring for her children full-time and lacked the language resources to enter the workforce.
Lately, however, things seemed to be looking up for Awa. She was recognized as being of "reformed character" and issued a pardon, clearing her of her criminal record. Once her children were old enough to attend school and with the help of an agency assisting new Canadians with employment, she secured a cleaning job. Her application for permanent residency has been "approved in principle". With the help of her settlement worker, Awa is on the path to self-sufficient and responsible citizenship.
Despite the fact that Awa received a pardon and an approval "in principle" she still faces a crisis due to the many overlapping and sometimes contradictory bureaucracies she has to deal with. Awa's health insurance through OHIP has been terminated because at the discretion of an unknown immigration official, her Temporary Residence Permit case was changed from type 89 ("Family Class Immigrant awaiting the outcome of an application") to type 80 ("Inadmissible Person for Unspecified Reasons"). No one at Citizenship and Immigration Canada has taken responsibility for this or explained the reasoning why someone who has been working so diligently to meet the standards set by Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been assigned this status. In the meantime, Awa's medical issues are going without treatment, harming her ability to work and to take care of her children.
Awa also has to deal with a bureaucracy that frequently moves the goalposts. She applied for a new Temporary Residence Permit well before the required 30 days' notice, but the application has been delayed for months. She has been told that she needs to provide a passport, but there is no effective Somali authority that can issue passports and Canada does not recognize the Somali passport. This requirement was not appended to any of her former applications.
Awa's case needs to be brought to a just resolution. Three issues need to be resolved:
- Her health coverage must be reinstated, either through OHIP or the Interim Federal Health Program. It is the duty of the federal and provincial agencies involved in her case to communicate with one another in order to clear the confusion around her Health Coverage.
- Her Child Tax Benefit must not be interrupted. Every time Awa applies to extend her permit, there is a period of several months wherein she loses her Child Tax Benefit allowance, a critical component of household income for a family living in poverty.
- Her permanent residency must be approved with due haste. She has now been living in Canada for 19 years, and her commitment to establish herself, raise her children and work in Canada is obvious.
Note: At time of publication Awa's saga continues with various programs at CIC and other agencies advocating on her behalf - these issues are yet to be resolved.
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Making Ottawa Safer Together (MOST) is a new organization developing broad-based strategies to address issues of racism and discrimination towards immigrant and visible minority communities.
MOST encourages civic leadership programs and civic engagement across the diverse ethno-cultural communities of Ottawa. MOST began as a project of the Catholic Immigration Centre and is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
For more information, please contact the MOST Coordinator, Chelby Marie Daigle at 613-232-9634 ext. 381 or by E-mail at email@example.com
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The Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund
Honour Marion Dewar's Legacy: Invest in Our Future Leaders
To honour her lifelong commitment to the cause of immigrant integration, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) last year announced the creation of the Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund. The Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund will provide financial support and foster academic and leadership excellence among immigrant and refugee high school students in the National Capital Region by supplementing the tuition and supplies required for their post-secondary education. The Scholarship Fund is administered by the Community Foundation of Ottawa (CFO) and overseen by the Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund Committee composed of community leaders.
The late Marion Dewar, a former mayor of Ottawa, was a close friend and advocate of OCISO's work in the community. Ms. Dewar was closely tied to the beginnings of OCISO. Among her many achievements, she was instrumental in shaping the immigrant and refugee community in Ottawa. In 1979, Ms. Dewar led the city in a bold test of collective action with Project 4000. Residents of Ottawa joined together to sponsor 4,000 Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian refugees, offering them the opportunity of a new life in Ottawa. These Southeast Asian refugees were among OCISO's first clients.
Over the next 10 years Ottawa can anticipate receiving between 6,000 and 8,000 immigrants per year. Approximately 18% of Ottawa's youth aged 18-24 are immigrants. Many of these youth will have serious challenges in reaching their academic and leadership potential because of their parents' inability to support their children's dreams. Research indicates immigrants are disproportionately affected by poverty - 49 percent live with low income. Immigrant children and youth are more likely to live in lower-income households than people born in Canada (CCSD, 2000). Economic challenges related to immigrant parental unemployment and underemployment constitute serious financial obstacles for immigrant and refugee youth's ability to have full and equitable access to higher education.
Ensuring that these youth have an opportunity to reach their full potential and to help build a strong, caring, and inclusive community is our collective community responsibility. We encourage the community at large to invest in the future of Ottawa and honour Marion's legacy.
This year, OCISO will award four scholarships at its Annual General Meeting on November 18, 2009. The AGM will be held at the RA Centre, 2451 Riverside Drive. The Scholarship Fund application deadline is October 19, 2009. To apply for or learn more about the Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund, visit www.ociso.org. To donate online, visit www.cfo-fco.ca. Click on Donate Now, select Featured Funds and Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund.
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