Comparative study of provincial funding programs for refugees and immigrants in Canada

Project Researchers

Dominique Clement
Project Lead

Associate Professor at University of Alberta

Howard Ramos
Coordination & Operations Committee

Professor and Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Dalhousie University

Project Description

This project is a collaboration between the University of Alberta and the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC (AMSSA). It is a comparative study of provincial funding programs for refugees and immigrants in Canada. There is currently no information available on the extent of provincial and territorial matching funding for federal settlement programs. Recent government announcements suggest that there are vast disparities among regions. This disparity might have a profound impact on successful integration and settlement for refugee youth. The primary deliverables include a report, graduate student training, community outreach and a new community-university partnership.

The federal government provides funding to assist immigrants to settle in Canada. Some groups, however, including refugee claimants, are ineligible for federal settlement funding. As a result, provincial governments provide additional funding. The need for provincial funding has become especially acute in recent years as federal funding has declined. Funding for the federal government’s Settlement Program has steadily declined every year from $628,097,452 in 2011 to $585,511,768 in 2013 and $578,437,254 in 2016. Given the recent influx of refugees into Canada, this is an ideal moment to review domestic support systems for immigrants and refugees. This issue has implications for both federal and provincial policy. For example, in the case of Government-Assisted Refugees, a visa officer’s decision about which province to destine a family could significantly impact the course of their integration. Settlement service providers (SPOs) in provinces with minimal matching funding are especially vulnerable to reductions in federal funding programs.

Our primary objectives include identifying all provincial and territorial programs for immigrant and refugee settlement or language training, including targeted programming for refugee youth, where applicable. In addition to identifying disparities in funding across Canada, this review will also produce a list of existing programs and their mandates. Because resettled refugees have Permanent Resident status upon arrival in Canada – and will not always be differentiated as refugees in accessing services – this study will include all settlement and multicultural funding (e.g. language, employment, and other settlement supports) as well as examining targeted funding for refugees and refugee youth. It will provide a general overview of the resources available for immigrants and refugees, as well as policy priorities among governments.

Project Findings

This report is the product of a collaboration between the University of Alberta and the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC. It is a comparative study of provincial funding programs for refugees and immigrants in Canada. The report is divided into three sections: section one examines provincial government programs and their mandates; section two compares provincial funding patterns; and section three identifies patterns in funding from the federal Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The primary finding in this report is that most provincial budgets remained static between 2012 and 2017. However, the number of newcomers admitted to Canada continued to rise. The exception is Ontario, which has provided some additional funding through a new program. Meanwhile, Alberta has surpassed British Columbia in the number of immigrants, but funding has remained flat or stable. In other words, Alberta underfunds programs for immigrants and refugees. Federal funding for Settlement and Resettlement was declining for years until 2015-2017, albeit this might be a temporary increase attributable to the influx of Syrian refugees. The sharpest drop in funding has been in British Columbia. This is a result of a major policy change in 2014 wherein the federal government stopped transferring funds to the province to administer federal programs in this sector. It is unclear, however, if the federal government has provided the same level of funding in British Columbia since 2014. The Atlantic Provinces have an unusually high per capita funding ratio. Overall, however, Ontario still provides the most funding for immigration and settlement while receiving the highest amount of federal transfer payments.

This report also identifies provincial programs that are dedicated to assisting immigrants and refugees. The largest amount of money is allocated to settlement and integration services for newcomers. Most provinces also have substantial programs for economic and labour market integration. Language training is usually subsumed within labour market integration programs except in Alberta.

Project Publications