Earlier today at Finance and Economic Development Committee, I presented an update on refugee resettlement.
In the Fall of 2015, Mayor Jim Watson committed the City of Ottawa as a facilitator of the community’s Syrian refugee resettlement and appointed me as the Special Liaison for Refugees. This decision was in line with our strategic priority of “supporting the community’s efforts to integrate refugees” in the City’s Municipal Immigration Strategy 2016-2018, approved by Council in April 2016. This was also a very important decision because research indicates, that the more support received by refugees in the first years of arrival, the more successful their integration is over time.
Between November 2015 and February 2018, Ottawa welcomed 2,740 Syrian refugees, which constitutes approximately 617 households, 63% of who came as government assisted refugees. 4,685 resettled refugees from all countries of origin arrived in Ottawa between January 2015 and February 2018.
The City supports refugees and immigrants through programs and services that are available to all eligible residents, but tailored to respond to unique population’s needs, such as immigrants/newcomers. These programs and services include: 311 language line which has translators available to converse in over 170 languages; building a workforce that is representative of the community it serves, including hiring newcomers; providing training to staff to help them better understand the needs of immigrants as well as recognize the skills, experiences and knowledge that immigrants bring to the community; systematically coordinating city services and strategic initiatives with partners such as post-secondary institutions; and providing funding and leadership.
Some examples of the City’s efforts over the past three years include:
- The Mayor’s Working Group on Refugee Resettlement and meetings with local MPs/MPPs;
- Hosting or co-hosting a variety of events including:
- the Mayor’s Public Forum on Refugee Resettlement (October 1, 2015),
- Welcome Event for Syrian Refugees (May 28, 2016),
- the Pathways to Employment Career Fair (June 16, 2016),
- and the World Refugee Day Event (June 20, 2016);
- Ottawa Public Health organized immunization and dental clinics, as well as assessments and other health services;
- Rec, Cultural & Facility Services staff worked with Refugee 613 to build a volunteer management system;
City staff continue to work in close partnership with community agencies to monitor trends and collectively address emerging issues such as mental health and employment. On behalf of the City, I would like thank everyone who played, and continues to play a role in helping newcomers settle and build a life here in Ottawa.