Multicultural Liaison Officer (MLO) Program

Created in response to the emerging needs of immigrant, refugee, and ethnic minority school children and youth, along with their families, the MLO Program aims for the successful integration of its target population into the Ottawa school system. The program’s service delivery model is based on an original idea: taking settlement services to the schools and related places where the client population and other stakeholders are located. The model also has a built-in mechanism to incorporate parental perspectives into the education of children and youth.


The program has a partnership with the schools in Ottawa. The staff are placed in more than 60 schools in the city. The nature of this partnership allows for a seamless service delivery within the schools. In addition, all of the schools in the Ottawa area have access to the program on an on-call basis. Staff members speak the languages of their clientele. They are culturally proficient and, therefore, provide culturally appropriate services for their clients. In short, the program is accessible in terms of proximity to the client (it is where the clients are: the schools), language (staff speak the language the clients speak), and culture (MLOs are competent in the culture of the client). MLOs are recruited from among people with different cultural backgrounds.

Newcomer Involvement

The program uses community development approach, involving the clients in the identification and assessment of the challenges they are faced with. The clients are also involved in the planning for solutions. Youth and parents participate in agency activities by, among other things, volunteering in different committees. This way, they have input into the direction the agency is going in terms of service delivery. The clients are given opportunities for feedback after they access the services under the program.

Stakeholder Collaboration

The MLO Program is the first of its kind in Canada and, as such, has the distinction of a pioneer program. The partnership and collaboration with the school boards have endured over many years. The program has a steering committee that guides it. Members of the steering committee are from the funders, the schools, and OCISO as service provider organization.


The program is accountable to the funders and the public, as well as to the clients it serves. It reports to the funders on a monthly and annual basis. The program team holds bi-weekly meetings to discuss the program’s progress. The team is also subject to performance appraisals twice per year. Feedback from the clients is integrated into the program to ensure its future success and sustainability.

Positive Outcome

Over the years, the program has been instrumental in making sure that area schools are welcoming places for immigrant, refugee, and ethnic minority children/youth and their families. It has succeeded in creating a positive space in the schools for its target population. As a result, communication between this population and the school system has greatly improved over the years. On average, the program makes contacts with over 16,000 clients, directly or indirectly, per year. About 5,000 of this population are served on a one-on-one basis and 4,000 participate in program workshops and other events.


The transferability of the MLO Program is evident in the fact that it has spawned similar programs in the rest of Ontario and across Canada. Although named differently, these programs are all based on the original MLO model placing settlement workers in schools. The model has been transplanted even in other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.


Service Providers
Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO)
Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, and United Way of Ottawa-Carleton
Ottawa, Ontario
Year of Launch
Languages of Delivery
English, French, Arabic, Azeri, Cantonese, Creole, Dari, Farsi, Kicongo, Kurdish, Lingala, Mandarin, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese
Newcomer Groups Served
School children/youth and their families from immigrant, refugee, and ethnic minority communities
Expected Results
Information and Orientation (Newcomers make informed decisions about their settlement and understand life in Canada) Welcoming Communities (Newcomers receive help to establish social and professional networks so they are engaged and feel welcomed in their communities)

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