In March of 2018, AAISA staff met with the Honorable Ahmed Hussen, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in Edmonton during a small roundtable organized by Indo-Canadian Women’s Association (ICWA) with some members of the Edmonton Settlement Sector Caucus and ICWA staff. AAISA staff had the opportunity to ask questions in regards healthcare, mental health, and the Survivors of Daesh.
Highlights from the Round-table:
- Minister Hussen described IRCC’s approach to the resettlement of the Survivors of Daesh refugees, which included background information on how they were welcomed, and that the IRCC was very strategic in their resettlement–which included finding regions to resettle refugees in locations that had extensive services available.
- The federal minister also outlined that a recent $11 billion investment from the federal government into mental health should include resources for newcomers, and suggested connecting with MPs in Edmonton for support in accessing funding (e.g. Randy Boissonnault and AmarjeetSohi).
- Participants in the round-table brought up discussion points that included the significant regional disparities in settlement, and how Alberta has not built services as fast as the increased immigration numbers. Minister Hussen relayed that IRCC is collecting data on this and should have more information during Spring 2018.
- Minister Hussen addressed barriers to employment for trained professionals and explained that the professional associations are under provincial jurisdiction and some of them (e.g. Pharmacy) are moving in the right direction, whereas others (e.g. Medicine) have yet to progress.
The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) later held a “fireside chat” with representatives from several settlement agencies and two Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classes. The following offers a brief summary of responses made by Minister Hussen following up to discussion topics brought forward during the event:
Incorporating The Truth and Reconciliation Calls (TRC) to Action into Settlement
- Incorporating TRC Calls to Action includes changing the oath of Canadian citizenship to add the acknowledgement of Indigenous treaties in the near future.
- IRCC is in the process of reviewing and updating the Canadian citizenship guide to more accurately reflect Canadian history.
- IRCC has no plan to remove travel loans, but recently made changes for a longer repayment period, easier processing to delay repayment, and easier processing to have repayment waived.
- The minister noted that these loans finance bringing more refugees to Canada.
Citizenship Application Fee
- Fee increased significantly by the last government; as governments are not allowed to make a profit off government services, the current fee reflects the cost of the program.
- Trudeau government has reduced processing times from 24 to 12 months.
- Canada has the lowest-cost citizenship fee among peer nations (UK, US, New Zealand, and Australia).
Long-term Displacement of Refugees
- In response to questions about Canadian involvement in the massive global concern regarding the alleviation of long waits in refugee camps, Minister Hussen responded that Canada’s involvement includes working on the ground to resettle refugees in their host nations, and involved in supporting integration efforts abroad.
- Additionally, Canada is working with other nations to share our expertise with the Private Sponsorship program and help nations pilot it, such as in the UK and Germany.
- Topic of concern brought up by participants centered on service gaps for newcomer youth. Youth need more support and internship opportunities, Minister Hussen recommended using innovation funding for these types of programs, and service gaps.