Syrian refugee integration – One year after arrival

Our goal is for refugees to be self-sufficient and gainfully employed, but this is a long-term goal and requires the participation of all players, including government, businesses and civil society.

The transition resettled refugees go through one year after arrival in Canada is not new. What is new is the volume of arrivals and the speed at which the Syrian refugees have been resettled. Nevertheless, challenges remain, due to the number of very vulnerable new arrivals who have arrived after fleeing a conflict zone.

Income support

When resettled refugees first arrive in Canada, they do not receive provincial social assistance. Income support for most resettled refugees is provided for their first year in Canada by the federal governmentprivate sponsors or a mix of both. When income support from the government or private sponsors ends after 12 months, in most cases, it is a normal occurrence for some refugees to transition to provincial or territorial social assistance support.

The federal government works closely with our Resettlement Assistance Program service provider organizations to ensure that refugees who may require ongoing financial support beyond their first year are connected with appropriate provincial resources and are informed of the process to apply for social assistance. We have provided similar guidance to organizations that work with private sponsors to ensure that private sponsors are aware of what supports are available to the refugees they have sponsored and how to access resources.

Eligible refugee families also continue to receive the Canada child benefit credit beyond the 12-month mark. This federal benefit, combined with the federal goods and services tax rebate‎ and provincial tax rebates, will provide ongoing support to families with children of eligible age. In Ontario, this could equate to an annual maximum of $6,400 for each child under six and $5,400 for each child between six and 17. Rates are determined based on the level of income and the number and age of children. Rates vary across provinces and territories, and detailed estimates can be found on the Canada Revenue Agency website.

An evaluation of the resettlement programs in 2016 found that the immediate and essential needs of resettled refugees are generally being met, and refugees are receiving assistance in accessing services, including being referred to settlement services.

The evaluation did highlight areas that need improvement and the Department has developed a robust action plan to address the findings which included exploring options, within existing resources, to provide resettled refugees with adequate resources and services.

It is important to note that while income support ends after 12 months, other federal supports continue. For example, language training and employment-related support services continue to be available until refugees become Canadian citizens.

Employment

Every refugee’s journey is unique in terms of the opportunities and challenges they face as they work to make Canada their new home.

In addition to barriers that all newcomers may face (e.g., lack of official language skills, lack of knowledge of Canadian workplace culture, and lack of social connections), refugees may face additional barriers stemming from their experiences before arriving in Canada.

Like many previous refugee populations Canada has resettled, many of the recent wave of Syrian refugees have limited or no English or French language skills, lack literacy skills even in Arabic and have limited formal education. But many also come to Canada with years of experience in skilled trades and professions, and some get jobs quickly, even without completing English or French language training.

Statistics over the past decade show that 50 percent of privately sponsored refugees and 10 percent of government-assisted refugees had employment income in their first year. The results from the Rapid Impact Evaluation of the Syrian Refugee Initiative, which was conducted to assess the early outcomes of the 2015-2016 Syrian Refugee Initiative, is aligned with these figures.

Based on our recent evaluations, we know that both adult government-assisted refugees and privately sponsored refugees outside Quebec report a need to improve their language skills as a barrier to employment and to benefitting from settlement services including benefit employment-related services. Privately sponsored refugees outside Quebec also report difficulty having their education, employment and professional credentials recognized. We are working to address both of these challenges.

We continue to focus on developing new partnerships and reporting on innovative approaches to encourage workplace-based practices that ensure newcomers—all immigrants, including refugees—have access to the supports they need when accessing the Canadian labour market. We are also connecting with employers to encourage the use of existing provincial, territorial or federal employment support programs (e.g., provincial wage subsidies, Canada Job Grant).

It is important to note that while income support ends after 12 months, other federal supports continue. For example, language training and employment-related support services continue to be available until refugees become Canadian citizens.

Some Settlement SPOs have been creative in providing employment related services by creating Syrian specific initiatives, in developing working relationships with employers to develop employment fairs and connections. For example, MOSAIC in British Columbia provides employment services in both English and Arabic to provide employment information regarding training, compensation, regulations, breaks, etc.

While the integration process takes time, it is ultimately successful for refugees and benefits Canada. As with previous refugee arrivals, we expect the majority of Syrian refugees will ultimately succeed in our labour market and society.

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