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Resettlement and settlement services for Government-Assisted Refugees
The first few weeks in Canada
Various programs and services are available to Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs) to help them become participating members of Canadian society as quickly as possible. These services are provided by specialized Service Provider Organizations (SPOs). Support is provided to SPOs through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
These organizations are currently located in 27 communities across Canada, outside of Quebec. Quebec has its own program in 13 communities. RAP covers immediate and essential services, usually needed by the refugees in the first 4-6 weeks in Canada, with the focus on equipping GARs with the ability to live safely and independently here.
The organizations that offer RAP services provide a wide range of services in the first few days and weeks of the arrival for all GARs, including Syrian refugees. SPOs provide:
- port of entry services: helping get through the customs and immigration process, ensuring newcomers make their connecting flights, providing coats in winter, facilitating ground transportation to their temporary accommodation, coordinating an overnight stay if neededFootnote *;
- temporary accommodation: helping refugees to check into a reception house or hotel, usually for 14-21 days while they help refugees find permanent accommodations, and providing meals and a small amount of pocket money;
- general orientation: introduction to public transit, shopping, mail, emergency services, etc.;
- financial orientation: explaining Canadian currency, RAP income support, budgeting, opening a bank account, etc.;
- links to mandatory federal and provincial programs: linking refugees to where they can link into government services, such as getting a provincial health care card and applying for child tax credit;
- help locating and moving into permanent accommodation; and
- assessment and referral to other services, both IRCC and non-IRCC: such as IRCC’s settlement programs (language assessment) and registering children in school.
GARs are first destined to one of 36 cities across Canada where there are services specifically for refugees. But after their first few days or weeks, they may be subsequently resettled in a surrounding community.
Settling into life in Canada: the first year and beyond
Once refugees have settled into their new home and have had general orientation, settlement SPOs will provide support to them over the next year, or more. Settlement services are available to all newcomers, both refugees and other immigrants. This programming supports the full participation of newcomers in the economic, social, cultural and civic life of Canada. Those who provide these services include non-profit organizations, charities, ethnic community organizations, educational institutions (school boards, colleges, and universities), private sector, and businesses.
Among other services, settlement SPOs aim to provide newcomers with:
- information and orientation services that help newcomers settle in their community and integrate into Canadian society: delivering settlement information, counselling, information on gender equality, and orientation sessions on life in Canada;
- help in finding and retaining employment;
- language skills to achieve settlement and integration goals; and
- support to build networks in communities: build connections between newcomers and community members, public institutions, employers and community organizations; one-on-one and group mentoring with established immigrants and/or long-time Canadians; and child and youth leadership and peer support projects.
Settlement and integration in a new country is a lengthy process, and individuals face unique challenges over months and years as they adjust to their new life in a new country. Every Canadian can contribute in small ways, from donating furniture to participating in conversation circles to mentoring newcomers in a workplace. All these actions, together, will help settle and integrate these new Syrian refugees as well as the approximately 250,000 immigrants and refugees who settle in Canada every year and build new lives.
- Footnote *
Some of these services are provided by Government of Canada employees for Syrian refugees arriving on government-chartered flights.
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