Making Rural Immigration Work: Settlement Services in Small and Rural Communities

The Conference Board of Canada, March 31, 2022
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The Conference Board of Canada looks at what it takes to make immigration work in Canada’s small and rural communities.

Document Highlights

To make a life in a new community, immigrants need job opportunities and infrastructure. We look at the challenges that small and rural communities face in attracting and, importantly, retaining immigrants. It includes recommendations on how to overcome those challenges.

Community leaders can:

  • Convene meetings with residents and local leaders to envision the future of their community.
  • Discuss why the community is recruiting immigrants.
  • Consider what resources will be dedicated to recruiting and supporting immigrants.

Municipalities can:

  • List information about local social services and settlement services on their website and/or in a welcome package.
  • Provide resources for stakeholder meetings, such as meeting space and a staff member to send invites and take minutes.
  • Offer space for a settlement service provider to meet clients until the agency has funding to obtain dedicated space.

Banks, schools, museums, libraries, and community centres can all play a role in making the community welcoming for immigrants:

  • Ensure that staff know how to register new immigrants as service users.
  • Partner with settlement services to hold events aimed at welcoming immigrants into local spaces such as libraries, museums, and community centres.
  • Advertise in a town “welcome package” so newcomers know what you offer and that you are welcoming to immigrants.
  • Settlement service provision in small and rural communities is challenging because service providers are expected to serve a wide range of settlement needs with limited funding and few opportunities to refer people to other local social service organizations.
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is a gold standard funder of settlement services for its high level of engagement with settlement service providers, the provision of long-term service agreements that offer organizational stability, and funding for a wide range of settlement service types.
  • IRCC is continuing to expand the reach of settlement services. There were nearly 100 communities where no services had been provided in 2019–20 but where five or more unique services were provided in 2020–21.
  • Settlement service providers need substantial resources and expertise to successfully apply for IRCC funding, making it difficult for organizations to emerge in small and rural communities that don’t already have settlement services.
  • While immigration policies aim to increase the distribution of immigrants across Canada, IRCC funding priorities for settlement services do not adequately support this goal.
  • Digital service provision can improve access to settlement services, especially among those for whom transportation or child care is a barrier. But digital service provision works best as a complement to in-person services, not a replacement.

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