Evaluation of the Strategic Plan for Settlement and Language Training under the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA)

4. Conclusions and recommendations

This section of the report includes a series of conclusions and recommendations based on evaluation findings.

1. In the event that a new partnership arrangement is put in place in the future, it is recommended that the two orders of government assess current needs and determine priorities to develop a new joint plan to guide services to newcomers.

In a highly dynamic environment of shifting immigration trends, difficult economic conditions, and a significant increase in federal investment in settlement and language training programs since 2005/06, the Strategic Plan was largely successful in providing a strategic direction and overall parameters to guide the range of stakeholders providing support to newcomers in Ontario. Informed by extensive consultations with key stakeholders, the Strategic Plan also allowed for flexibility in the development and implementation of approaches to address newcomer needs. Five years after its introduction, while progress has been made, in cases where projects are just now entering their implementation phase, such as the LIPs, it is not entirely certain that progress is sustainable without a similar mechanism to guide and support future efforts. There is a strong rationale for developing a new joint plan founded on current needs, gaps and barriers that would provide timely and relevant direction and guidance in the event of a future partnership arrangement between the two levels of government.

2. During the development of any future joint plan, it is recommended that a more comprehensive and a whole of government approach is adopted by including both federal and provincial programming and by taking into account other relevant emerging broader policy frameworks.

Careful consideration should be given to the appropriate scope of a new Strategic Plan. The scope of the first Plan included only the federal programming. While the province of Ontario has taken into account the objectives of the Strategic Plan, its programming was not systematically integrated with the Plan. This has posed some challenges in understanding the full scope of the investment, programming and results in Ontario that flow from both federal and provincial initiatives. The scope of the Plan was also restricted due to limited direct involvement of relevant federal and provincial ministries (other than immigration) in program design and delivery. At the same time, any emerging relevant policy frameworks such as the Modernized Approach, which will drive settlement services, and the Canada-Ontario Labour Market Agreement, which will drive employment services, will need to be considered in determining the scope and content of any future Strategic Plan.

3. It is recommended that the governance structure of any future joint plan be streamlined and redesigned, reducing the number of committees, and establishing clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities.

The governance structure to guide the implementation of the Strategic Plan was established within the broader COIA structure. This was not as effective as originally hoped as it was considered to be too cumbersome by many provincial and federal government interviewees. While the Settlement and Language Training Working Groups that formed the core of the structure to deliver the Plan undertook a significant amount of work, many of the recommendations they made to the Steering Committee for Settlement and Language Training were not implemented.

4. It is recommended that any future joint plan, in addition to settlement and language training, include a separate strategic priority to address employment in a comprehensive and structured way, taking into account the roles played by various stakeholders in this area.

The Strategic Plan has contributed to addressing a number of gaps and barriers to the development of new and innovative services, and to increasing access to services. While employment needs were addressed through a variety of activities for newcomers and employers, labour market integration issues were understated in the design and directions provided by the Plan. Given the critical role of economic integration in ensuring successful settlement outcomes, and the wide range of stakeholders involved in ensuring successful economic integration, it is important to build on the partnerships currently in place, including those with other federal and provincial departments, Service Provider Organizations, potential employers, professional associations, and credentialing bodies, to facilitate the economic integration of newcomers.

5. As the two orders of government pursue the full implementation of the coordinated language assessment and referral system (CLARS), it is recommended that they investigate the feasibility of creating a harmonized language training system.

It is widely recognized that language skills are the foundation for the successful social and economic integration of newcomers. Progress has been made in implementing a coordinated language assessment and referral system (CLARS). While there is a strong rationale for having a standard assessment approach, the development of an increasingly harmonized approach to programming should be investigated to determine whether synergies, efficiencies and enhancements to the quality of instruction could be gained and client pathways improved. While there are differing eligibility requirements for newcomers under the two programs, an integrated system would ensure that the client will have a clear and seamless path to language training, irrespective of eligibility criteria.

6. It is recommended that any future joint plan include the development and implementation of a performance measurement strategy to guide on-going joint performance data collection activities and to ensure information is available to support future evaluation activities. As part of this strategy, a review of existing federal and provincial databases and systems should be undertaken, with a view to ensuring the availability of performance information to assess outcomes, while not over-burdening SPOs and others who will be tasked with providing data. The systems should also be supported by tools, guidance and training to ensure the reliability and validity of the data collected.

The collection of performance measurement data is the responsibility of program management and should be undertaken on an on-going basis. Generally speaking, the measurement of progress under the Strategic Plan was limited. While some data was collected on activities and outputs by program management, it was housed in different databases, making it extremely difficult to assess progress. For the purposes of this evaluation, information from a variety of existing databases was assembled by the evaluators to create a comprehensive picture of activities and clients, which allowed for the assessment of some outputs (projects, activities and partially, clients) and immediate outcomes.

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