Ontario Silent on Whether Provincial Immigration Ministry will Return - New Canadian Media
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Ontario receives the largest number of immigrants. According to the 2016 Census, 47 per cent of Toronto's population are immigrants. Image from Canva.

Ontario Silent on Whether Provincial Immigration Ministry will Return

As the federal government increases immigration levels, questions hang in the air about whether it was wise for the new Ford government in Ontario to abandon the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration in 2018. The organization had originally been responsible for the province’s policy on citizenship and immigration issues. 

It may have escaped the public’s — and the media’s — notice when it happened. The provincial government of Doug Ford, fresh off of their election victory in the spring of 2018, dissolved the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI) when they formed their first cabinet.

However, Ontario’s Official Opposition, the New Democratic Party, believes that the MCI should be re-established, especially with the federal government’s recent announcement increasing immigration levels.

NCM approached Ford’s office to ask whether the ministry will be making a return in the wake of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new immigration policy. NCM’s inquiries were not returned. The questions were instead deferred to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS).

A spokesperson for the MCCSS, Palmer Lockridge, did not say one way or the other if reviving the ministry is an option even as the country looks at an immigration surge. He did say that “the OINP (Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program) will be a critical tool in supporting economic recovery efforts across the province by targeting sectors experiencing labour shortages and offering an immigration pathway for foreign nationals with the skills and experience critically needed in Ontario.”

Out of all the provinces, Ontario consistently receives the most immigrants than any other region in the country. In 2019, Ontario welcomed 153,000 newcomers and 137,000 the year before. Despite COVID-19 greatly reducing the number of immigrants coming into Canada and the province, Ontario still took in the most newcomers, about 72,000. The federal government increasing immigration levels to 400,000 per year, or 1.2 million by 2023, would only increase the amount coming into Ontario. 

“This year, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services is providing approximately $76 million in annual funding to more than 150 organizations across the province that deliver a range of services to help newcomers learn English or French, settle, integrate and find jobs,” added Lockridge.

“A bureaucratic nightmare”

Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo is the Ontario NDP critic for immigration. She mentioned to NCM that early in her career as critic, she and her colleagues had a review of the immigration ministry, even though it had been dismantled. They called to “have this ministry reestablished”. 

She believes dissolving the ministry created a bureaucratic nightmare for immigrants seeking resettlement services.

“When we had the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, part of the benefit was that all services were in one space,” MPP Lindo told NCM. “As a newcomer to the province, it is really difficult to navigate the kinds of supports that you need.” 

When Ford dismantled the ministry, several of the old ministry’s responsibilities were spread out over existing agencies and other Ministers. The OINP, a provincial nominee scheme that selects and invites immigrants based on their skills, is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

Many immigration-related policies are being handled by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services as well. Lindo believes these organizations are not geared to handle the immigration portfolio. “Those ministries don’t necessarily have the lens to think about the services that they provide through the lens of a newcomer to the province.”

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Mansoor Tanweer is New Canadian Media’s Local Journalism Initiative reporter on immigration policy. An immigrant himself, he has covered municipal affairs and the Brampton City Council in addition to issues relating to newcomers over several years.

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