Of all the cabinet ministers in the Federal Liberal government to come through Guelph in the last week, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen was the latest on Monday. Stopping at Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington for a lunch time meet-and-greet, Hussen brought a message of support for those working to resettle newcomers in Canada, and specifically the Guelph community.
“What struck me coming into this room and greeting all of you is just how many different players are involved in resettlement, and the integration of newcomers,” Hussen said.
“That’s exactly what I think is behind Canada’s secret to immigration success, because when you consider the challenges that we have with integration and settlement of newcomers, they pale in comparison with with how other countries struggle with this issue,” he added. “We are light years ahead. We are way ahead of many, many countries in the world in how we welcome and integrate people, and it’s because we invest in them.”
Considering it’s an election year, Hussen made the point that the Federal government has increased investment in settlement and integration services by 30 per cent in the last five years, “because we believe that giving newcomers the tools that they need to succeed is not only good for them, it’s also good for Canada,” Hussen said.
Hussen also addressed people who are “spreading fear and division and an anti-immigrant rhetoric.” He said these people are working against the natural interest of Canada.
“When you start to see groups like the party of Maxime Bernier and others emerging, or even our friends in the Conservative Party moving in this direction, then you start to wonder and you start to worry,” Hussen said afterward to Guelph Politico.
“What I’m saying is, and I was making a plea to Canadians, is that we should fight fear with facts, and that’s been my approach,” Hussen explained. “I strongly believe it’s better the more we share the facts, the benefits of immigration, not just to overall economy, but to communities like Guelph, and how immigrants and newcomers enrich the Canadian family.”
Hussen and Longfield also got to hear about the challenges of resettlement in Guelph including a local teacher who said there’s still a huge need for assistance to address the language gap with students from aboard, and how there’s not a lot of options in funding to close that gap.
The Minister said some help is coming on that, a request for proposals that will look for established and innovative programs or services to help immigrants settle in Canada. “There is some support towards organizations that will present a plan to engage students who are adapting to the Canadian education system, students who are refugees or newcomers,” he said
“There will also be some support for innovation in language training in the workplace, and some support for mental health,” Hussen added.
There was also a question about recruiting new Canadians to work in rural areas like Wellington County. Longfield said that a pilot program in progress now, which is based on the Atlantic Immigration Pilot that was used to help settle new immigrants in the four Atlantic provinces.
“We’re doing the same program, scaling it in Northern Ontario, then into the rest of Canada, so we’re one step away, but we’re having to do it one step at a time,” he explained.
On affordable housing, Hassen said that “We have committed $14 billion for a National Housing strategy to address exactly this [issue], but how it’s going to flow and through what is the big sticking point,” still has to be resolved.
“There’s a 10-year plan that [Wellington] County has been executing on, they’re five years into it, but we need more,” Longfield added. “So what we’re looking at is how do we increase capacity within houses that have rental units, or opportunities for rental? How do we open up the mid-market by changing maybe some of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing rules? So there’s there’s a few nuances through the whole continuum.”
With Kristy Duncan, Bill Morneau, and Navdeep Baines all appearing in Guelph over the last week, it might make you wonder about why all visits from the Federal cabinet, but Hussen told Guelph Politico it’s just part of the job.
“I travel across the country from coast to coast to coast, consulting Canadians, listening to employers, listening to settlement service providers, like where we are now,” he explained. “Lloyd is a friend, he works very hard for his community, he’s a strong voice for Guelph, and I came to see firsthand some of the things that we’re doing in Ottawa, how they’re working on the ground and getting feedback.”