Evaluation of the Welcoming Communities Initiative

1. Introduction

1.1. Background

1.1.1. Settlement and integration

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) Settlement Program plays a key role in setting the stage for the contribution of newcomers to Canada. One of CIC’s overall strategic objectives is the successful integration of newcomers to Canada in order to maximize the economic, social and cultural benefits of immigration.

Integration is characterized as a “two-way street” that requires accommodations and adjustments on both sides (i.e., both newcomers and Canadians). The “two-way street” principle involves helping immigrants learn about Canadian values and helping Canadians understand the diverse backgrounds of newcomers. This principle involves more than assisting newcomers to adapt to and understand Canadian values, customs, rights, and obligations; it also requires that Canadian society grow and evolve as it absorbs new people and cultures and adapts to their needs. Integration is therefore a two-way street that requires respect and tolerance on both sides.

This principle of mutual responsibility of Canadians and newcomers in the integration process was reflected more recently in Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), where one of the objectives is “to promote the successful integration of permanent residents into Canada, while recognizing that integration involves mutual obligations for new immigrants and Canadian society.”

In 2008, CIC modernized its approach to settlement with the intention to better respond to newcomer needs and support their improved settlement and longer-term integration. The modernized approach includes a set of revised Terms and Conditions for settlement funding, a structure for policy, program development and service delivery, and an accountability regime for achieving and reporting resultsFootnote 1.

Prior to the new approach, CIC had three main settlement programs including the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program, the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program (ISAP), and the Host Program. The modernized approach reorganized the CIC settlement programs under one single program with the following six themes:

  • Information and Orientation;
  • Language and Skills Development;
  • Labour Market Participation;
  • Community Connections;
  • Needs Assessments and Referrals; and
  • Support Services.

Although all of these themes have a focus on the services and supports provided to newcomers to assist them in their settlement. The Community Connections places more of an emphasis on communities and their contribution to the two-way street to integration.

1.1.2. Multiculturalism and CAPAR

In addition to settlement, CIC is responsible for Canada’s Multiculturalism Program. In October 2008, responsibility for administration of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was transferred to CIC from the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH). Under the Act, CIC promotes the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities in all aspects of Canadian society, and helps to eliminate barriers to that participationFootnote 2.

With this move came lead responsibility for A Canada for All: Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism (CAPAR). Launched in 2005, CAPAR is a horizontal effort that includes a series of initiatives and strategies across 20 federal departments and agencies, including nine new initiatives funded under the Action Plan.

CAPAR was developed as part of Canada’s preparation for, and in response to recommendations from, the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. CIC has been a partner since the development stages and proposal process for CAPAR, led by Canadian Heritage (PCH). CAPAR seeks to contribute to the elimination of racism and the achievement of equitable, socio-economic outcomes for all Canadians, with the goal to help ensure that:

  • All Canadians are included and have a role in the society and the economy regardless of background, race or ethnicity;
  • All barriers to full and active participation and opportunity are eliminated; and
  • The justice system is equipped to respond to overt manifestations of racism in societyFootnote 3.

The long-term and ultimate goals of CAPAR are to strengthen social cohesion and economic inclusion, enhance Canada’s legal frameworks and demonstrate federal leadership in the areas of diversity, human rights and the elimination of racism.

The Welcoming Communities Initiative

The Department has expressed a commitment to develop programs and initiatives that encourage Canadians’ support for and participation in integration, including contributions to anti-racism strategiesFootnote 4. The Welcoming Communities Initiative (WCI) is CIC’s contribution to CAPAR, and forms part of the Community Connections stream of the modernized approach to settlement.

WCI is a three-pronged approach that focuses on creating connections between newcomers and Canadians, eliminating barriers to integration by creating welcoming communities, and educating against racism. The long-term outcomes for WCI are:

  • Strengthened participation of newcomers in Canadian communities; and
  • More inclusive and welcoming communities for newcomers in Canada.

The Initiative supports on-going anti-racism activities, including awareness-raising, outreach, tools and resource development and direct services aimed at newcomers, youth and communities in CIC regions. It also supports anti-racism strategies and projects in provinces with Alternative Funding Agreements (British Columbia and Manitoba) and at the national levelFootnote 5.

1.1.3. Stakeholders involved in WCI

Jurisdiction over immigration matters is shared with the provinces. Under Section 8 of IRPA, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has the authority to sign agreements with the provinces and territories that facilitate the coordination and implementation of immigration policies and programs.

CIC currently administers settlement programs in the following regions:

  1. the Prairies and Northern Territories Region (Alberta, Saskatchewan, North West Territories, and Nunavut;
  2. Ontario Region;
  3. Atlantic Region (Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick); and
  4. Yukon Region.

However, different arrangements exist in Alberta and Ontario. In Alberta, CIC co-manages the settlement program with the provincial government, and in Ontario, CIC administers the program through a joint governance structure with the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. In the regions/provinces/territories where CIC administers settlement programs, CIC local offices have direct and on-going contact with the service provider organizations (SPOs) delivering settlement programs.

The Provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba administer their own settlement programs. The Canada-Quebec Accord, signed in 1991, outlines Quebec’s provincial responsibilities for immigration and settlement, and British Columbia and Manitoba have immigration agreements in place that outline their responsibilities for settlement.

1.2. Purpose of the evaluation

The objective of the evaluation was to provide an evidence-based assessment of the relevance, performance and design and delivery of the WCI as well as the early impacts of the Initiative. The evaluation focused on the period from April 2006 to March 2009. The period extends before and during implementation of the modernized approach, which reorganized the CIC settlement programs under one single program with various components.

The evaluation examined the delivery of the Initiative in all provinces and territories for which the federal government (CIC) has the sole or joint responsibility of management of settlement programs (e.g., Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and the Atlantic provinces). As Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia administer their own settlement programs, these provinces were excluded from this evaluation. The projects funded at the national level were also included in the study.

The following table presents the evaluation issues and questions (see Appendix A: for the WCI Evaluation Framework).

Table 1-1: Evaluation questions
  • Is there a continuing need for WCI or a similar initiative?
  • Is WCI aligned with the objectives and priorities of Government of Canada, CIC and CAPAR?
  • Is WCI consistent with federal roles and responsibilities?
  • Has Host and school-based settlement service delivery been enhanced by WCI?
  • Do the anti-racism activities funded by WCI help the settlement sector and receiving communities to understand and address issues of racism and discrimination?
  • Has CIC contributed to the horizontal, federal policy approach to combat racism and discrimination?
  • Do the services funded by WCI help clients to deal with racism and discrimination?
  • Have the settlement sector and receiving communities taken action to reduce racism and discrimination?
Design and delivery
  • Is the program guided by a clear mandate with specific roles, responsibilities and objectives for WCI?
  • Are communications, relationships and information-sharing among program stakeholders effective?
  • Is the management of WCI coordinated and supported by the tools, resources (human and financial) and mechanisms needed to effectively deliver the program?
  • Are the performance measurement, monitoring and reporting for WCI sufficient to ensure program accountability?
  • Recognizing that the WCI design encompasses a variety of activities in its program delivery, which activities have been the most useful/effective? Could these activities be organized to develop a more strategic/focused approach to WCI?

1.3. Structure of the report

The report is organized into four main sections. Following this introduction, Section II describes WCI in terms of its history, objectives, delivery, clients, services and budget, and Section III describes the methodology. Section IV of this report provides evaluation findings, and Section V presents the overall conclusions of this study.

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