Immigrant and Refugee Settlement in Canada: Trends in Public Funding
Objective: This research compares provincial landing rates and federal funding distribution for settlement and integration. It also examines federal funding for immigrant Service Providing Organizations (SPOs).
Justification: The Government of Canada has produced multi-year immigration plans to accept higher numbers of immigrants and refugees over the next 10 years. Provincial governments, advocacy organizations and researchers assert that current funding is insufficient to support the increase in immigrants and refugees. Trends in government funding for settlement services is, therefore, a critical issue of public policy. Yet there is little scholarship or data on this topic. Funding for SPOs is an important, but largely neglected, aspect of federal funding for settlement services.
Practical goal: Study findings can provide a resource for creating policies, pursuing research opportunities and providing services focused on newcomer support.
Primary sources for this study include information secured through the Access to Information Act, reports produced by IRCC, the scholarship on settlement and integration in Canada, and interviews with individuals who are employed within the sector. Researchers and service provider partners worked together to develop the research questions. A request for information was submitted to IRCC to obtain information on;
• Total amount of settlement and resettlement funding per year (2000-2018) per province.
• The funding formula used to allocate resources per region and/or per province.
Quebec is not included in this report because it has a different funding model to other provinces.
As landing rates have increased, so has funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) since 2002, with a slight decline from 2010-2015 and then a jump between 2015 and 2017 (in response to arrival of the Syrian refugees).
Between 2005 and 2009, settlement funding rose by an average of $1.3 billion each year as a result of policy and program changes within IRCC. In 2018, IRCC earmarked 62% of its $3.95 billion budget to settlement support services
Allocations for each province differ depending on federal-provincial funding agreements and reporting requirements which can be complex and ambiguous. This results in discrepancies in the services available to newcomers across Canada. This in turn can potentially have an impact on the successful integration and settlement of newcomers, particularly government-assisted refugees who tend to have more complex needs (e.g., dealing with trauma), arrive with less familial or community support and depend on services for a longer period of time.
Overall, as landing rates increase across jurisdictions, so does federal funding through IRCC’s Settlement and Resettlement Programs. There are exceptions to this trend, notably in Ontario and British Columbia between 2005 and 2010.
Federal Funding for Service Provider Organizations (SPOs)
Transfer payments from IRCC to non-governmental organizations increased from $6 million in 1997 to $1.6 billion in 2017.
SPOs in Ontario receive the largest portion of federal funding followed by British Columbia and Alberta. Alberta accepts almost double the number of refugees and humanitarian classes of immigrants than British Columbia, but has fewer SPOs that receive federal funding for settlement and resettlement.
Most of the SPOs that receive larger amounts of federal funding are large, well-established organizations concentrated in urban centres, despite evidence showing that newcomers are now settling more in mid-sized cities, peri-urban and rural areas. This makes it hard for smaller organizations to compete for limited funding opportunities.
Overall, this study has shown that even though both the immigrant settlement rates and federal funding for the settlement sector has increased over the last 20 years, there are significant differences in amount of federal funding available in each province