What settlement services can newcomers access when they arrive in Canada

This year Canada aims to welcome 465,000 immigrants into the country—an annual influx of people that is crucial for the economy and demography of the world’s second largest nation.

2023’s immigration target is ambitious—however Canada has created a functional system of immigration and integration of newcomers—in order to meet the nation’s social, economic, cultural and humanitarian needs.

So how does Canada successfully settle newcomers into the country? One of the key factors in the country’s success has been its settlement services for newcomers. These free services are managed at the municipal, provincial, and federal level. Covering everything from needs assessments, information, and orientation services, to language training, employment help, and community connection services—these programs exist to ensure newcomers are enabled to live their best lives in the country, while also aiding their ability to contribute economically, socially and culturally.

Note that because Quebec operates its own immigration programs—settlement services for new immigrants to the province are also handled separately. In addition, the Canadian government runs a separate program for refugees known as the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP).

Settlement services in Canada are only available to permanent residents, protected persons, and some temporary residents of Canada.

What services am I eligible for as a new Canadian permanent resident?

All settlement services can broadly be broken down into:

  • Help with daily life;
  • Help finding a job;
  • Help preparing for the citizenship test;
  • Finding a mentor as a newcomer / Becoming a mentor for a newcomer;
  • Language assessments and general language training;
  • Job-specific language training;
  • Specific services for: refugees, women, seniors, youth, and 2SLGBTQi+ individuals; and
  • Other services.

How can I access settlement services as a newcomer?

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has compiled these services into a useful tool, with a filtered search by postal code to find the closest available services. The tool also covers specific settlement programs for women, seniors, youth, and 2SLBTQi+ individuals.

In addition, IRCC funded websites like Compass to Connect also provides easy-to-search directories of settlement services, also delivering announcements on upcoming events and workshops for newcomers.

If one is unsure what services apply to them, and what they need, they can look at settlement counselling and referrals, which will connect them with a settlement counsellor who can better determine what services may be of use.

Newcomers can also directly contact their municipal or provincial settlement service providers to inquire about available services. One of the easiest ways to do so is simply to search for settlement services in your province or neighborhood.

How effective are these services for newcomers?

The Canadian government spends some $2 billion CAD a year on settlement services.

Settlement services represent a huge investment for the federal government every year—but what is their actual efficacy in helping newcomers?

In 2021 IRCC conducted the first study into newcomer outcomes through settlement programs. The study found that:

  • Among clients who were referred to settlement services, 85% reported being able to access services without difficulty;
  • The majority of newcomers (95%) who received settlement services said that they were useful;
  • In terms of language training, an average of 89.5% of newcomers self-reported improvements across reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in both English and French;
  • 78% of those who received employment-related services reported that settlement services helped them acquire knowledge, skills and connections that helped prepare them for the Canadian labour market; and
  • 61% of newcomers who availed community connection settlement services felt that those services helped them meet people they now consider close friends. Further, 92% of newcomers agreed that their community was welcoming of newcomers, with 90% having a strong sense of belonging to Canada.

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