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Integration Policy | Canada |

Integration Policy

Jennifer Elrick

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Facilitating access to citizenship is regarded as one of the most important components of Canada’s integration policy; beyond that, the federal government funds settlement services for permanent immigrants, which are designed and carried out by hundreds of immigrant-serving organizations (ISOs) across the country.

Elderly man at the Muslim Summer Festival 2011 in Ottawa/Canada. (© picture alliance / se6/

From 1996 to 2006, government spending on integration programs almost doubled, from $235.4 million to $445.0 million per year, and it has almost doubled again, reaching $966 million in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. In 2008-2009, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) introduced a new approach to integration policy, replacing its three main programs (the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program, the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada Program, and the Host Program) with one single Settlement Program which defines several core aims and means of carrying them out. It is the job of ISOs to conceptualize integration programs for their communities that make use of one or more means to meet one or more aims; proposals are then submitted to CIC for funding consideration. The five core aims of the Settlement Program are: orientation, language/skills, labor market access, welcoming communities (i.e. building social and professional networks), and policy and program development.

Changes in integration policy

As with immigration policy, integration policy in Canada has been undergoing a process of devolution over the past decade. While CIC pays for settlement services in all provinces and territories, Québec, Manitoba, and British Columbia are responsible for the design, delivery, and administration of those services. Co-management agreements are in place between the federal government and the provinces of Ontario and Alberta. Reliance within the Settlement Program on community organizations to design and carry out individual programs also means that responsibility for integrating immigrants is further devolved from the provincial/territorial level to local communities.

Due to this increasing devolution, it is difficult to map the scope and scale of integration-related programs across the country. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify some trends over the past decade. One is an emphasis on programs to facilitate the labor market integration of highly-skilled, internationally-trained immigrants. A lot of attention has been paid to the medical and engineering sectors, with multiple programs aimed at facilitating the recognition of qualifications and helping immigrants to acquire any necessary supplementary training. So-called career bridging programs, which involve placing internationally trained immigrants in paid internships in order to gain Canadian work experience in their field, have also become popular. Finally, several so-called employment councils – multi-stakeholder consortiums aimed at solving local labor-market barriers – have made efforts to link highly-skilled immigrants with small and medium-sized employers in their local regions. Another trend in settlement programming has been the increasing focus on very high-level and occupation-specific language training.

In addition to programs for individuals who have already arrived in Canada, CIC funds a range of in-person and online information programs overseas, to help newcomers prepare for their arrival in advance.

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Jennifer Elrick is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on family-related immigration policies in Canada and Germany since 1945. E-Mail Link: