Politics

Immigrant settlement money shuffled among provinces

Ontario's share of federal funds for services to help newcomers settle in Canada will drop next year, while money for every other province and territory will rise slightly.

Ontario's share cut while other provinces see increase

Immigrant settlement services are getting cut by $31.5 million in Ontario next year, CBC News has learned. But the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, led by Jason Kenney, is increasing money for every other province and territory. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The federal government will cut $31.5 million from immigrant settlement services in Ontario while boosting funds to every other province in 2012, the second year in a row Ontario's share of the money has declined.

The shuffle of funds means that, on balance, Ottawa will spend $6 million less on services to help immigrants find language-training, jobs and housing next year. That's despite the fact that the number of newcomers is now at an all-time high.

The government earmarked $583 million for settlement services across Canada for 2011-12, down from $622 million the year before.

For 2012-13, that total will fall to $577 million across Canada, according to ministry figures.

For the current year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada budgeted $346.5 million for Ontario, a decrease from $390 million the previous year. For 2012-13, it'll drop again to $314.9 million. A loss of $31.5 million.

The federal government argues it's adjusting its funding to fit changing migration patterns.

Marion Newrick, head of the Community Action Resource Centre, says she thinks everyone in the settlement community is worried. Newrick’s group helps immigrants learn English, get jobs, and integrate into Canadian society.

When Ottawa cut settlement funding to Ontario last year by more than $40 million, Newrick had to cut both staff and language services.

"The reality is that if you look at the numbers that are coming into Ontario, they're far greater than all the other provinces combined so it made no sense to suddenly without warning, without a plan, make these huge cuts on Ontario," she said.

Senior government sources say they're simply adapting the funding to the fact that fewer immigrants are going to Ontario as a proportion of the national total.

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland argues that the Ontario government is partly to blame, because it hasn't worked hard enough to bring in newcomers.

"Ontario has failed to select the number of immigrants provincially, relative to the size of the population of the province. How is it that smaller provinces than Ontario can select more immigrants provincially than Ontario?" he said.

Many immigrants going west

British Columbia is getting $109.8 million, a slight increase over $105.6 million for 2011-12.

Thomas Tam, head of a B.C. organization that helps immigrants integrate, says the federal government is making the right move by boosting funding to B.C. and other western provinces. Tam says migration patterns are changing dramatically.

"That's a very important additional resources for us. In the last couple of years, we've been seeing more and more immigrants into the province, particularly from Asia. There's a great demand for language training [and] labour market integration programs."

In fact, not only are immigrants increasingly going west, they're also going to smaller towns and cities. For example, Tam's organization is now expanding its services to the northern B.C. town of Fort St. John.

Kurland argues the funding is justified, as immigrants head to smaller communities in the west and the east, where settlement services are sparse.

"It's very good news for the recipients of settlement funding in Canada's hinterland, in western Canada, and of course the Maritimes, to include the idea of retaining immigration. The more settlement funding you can toss into the Maritimes the better chance you have of retaining immigrants in that region," he said.