Funding for Settlement Services

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and is also in relation to Toronto-based immigrant services agencies.

Could the minister shed any light on a mysterious memo that appeared after Christmas, when these cuts were made and while Parliament was not in session?

Honourable senators, this memo was sent to the groups, and they had planned to have a meeting to talk about the cuts, or proposed cuts, or moving the money around, but they were horrified to receive this memo from a federal settlement officer from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Part of the memo reads:

I don’t believe that CIC settlement funding is a topic for the . . . meeting and therefore it should not be an agenda item.

This was a meeting that was supposed to provide a fuller picture of the extent of the cuts and how they would impact services. It sounds like a gag order to me.

Why is the government bullying community organizations trying to help newcomers to Canada?

An Hon. Senator: PMO, sticking your nose into it again.

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I do not have any knowledge of the memo to which Senator Munson refers. I have no idea what the honourable senator is talking about, but what I do know is our government tripled funding for settlement services for newcomers across Canada. Our government tripled the funding after the government that the senator opposite was so intimately involved with froze that funding for over a decade.

Senator Munson: Honourable senators, for the record, the federal settlement officer’s name is Nina Serrano. We would like to know who vets these kinds of memos?

Honourable senators, the minister talked about wanting to go where the need is and I suggest we look at west downtown Toronto. That area has 30,000 immigrants that is to say one of every six people is a recent arrival. In that area, 7 per cent of the residents and 11 per cent of the immigrants do not speak English and 80 per cent are identified as visible minorities. Unemployment for visible minorities stands at 11 per cent, with 7 per cent for the average citizen. Honourable senators, 9 per cent of visible minorities in the area say they have experienced racial discrimination in housing.

Some of the agencies that have been cut in the west end are Bloor Information and Life Skills Centre, Community Action Resource Centre, Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Centre, and the list goes on.

Does the leader not think there is still a need?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, again, there are other agencies in Toronto and Ontario where immigrants are settling. I do not have the list before me, but I am certain it is extensive. This government is providing immigrant settlement services and funds in those areas. There is nothing complicated about it. We have increased the amount of money significantly. Obviously, when we are dealing with newcomers to Canada we want to provide the best services, but we should provide them to agencies in the communities where the newcomers are actually settling. I think that is what the government is doing.

Honourable senators, at any given time with funding, no matter what the funding envelope is, there are always adjustments made to provide funds to those organizations dealing with the greatest need.