TORONTO, Feb. 24 /CNW/ - The Ontario Public School Boards' Association
(OPSBA) is hard pressed to understand the decisions made by the federal
government with respect to cuts in funding to Ontario's settlement
sector. As the provincial organization representing more than 1.2
million students and their families, these drastic cuts compromise and
destabilize our capacity to respond to the needs of newcomers.
The largest share of the announced federal spending reduction — an
estimated $43 million — is targeted in Ontario. School boards consider
that the collaboration with the federal government that facilitated the
establishment of strong and effective services has been undermined.
"There seems to be no correlation between the funding decisions and the
efficacy of the programs that are working well for the success of
newcomers as they integrate and become major contributors to Canadian
society," said OPSBA president Catherine Fife. "We are seeking greater
transparency in the process used to make these decisions since they
have such a profound effect on the capacity of our system to serve
newcomer children and their families."
A welcoming community and school are necessary for recent immigrants to
begin the integration process into their newly chosen home. The cuts in
funding mean cuts in the services provided by Settlement Workers who
offer a vital first contact and referral point and provide the cultural
liaison between newcomer families and schools.
"For years, our boards have delivered and maintained highly successful
settlement programs that help recent immigrants navigate the school
system and support them in their access to other services in the
community," said OPSBA president Catherine Fife. "The evidence has
shown that these programs and services make a measurable difference to
students, their adjustment to and success in Canadian schools."
A network and infrastructure to support newcomer families has been built
over many years and it will be needed to serve the numbers of families
and students who continue to come to Ontario each year. A family's
needs related to settlement and integration continue for some time
after their arrival in Canada. This makes it particularly distressing
that funding cuts will undermine vital services such as the Settlement
Workers in Schools (SWIS) program, Refugee Assistance Programs,
Reception Centres, Cultural Interpretative Services, and other related
programs. School boards are facing the elimination of key programs that
have proven to be very effective and reductions in funding to other
programs that represent cuts of from 15 to 40 per cent.
There is a particular concern about the impact on government assisted
refugees who require long-term assistance with settlement and
integration. Consequences include disruption for families and students
already struggling to find consistent access to services and supports,
loss of interpretation services, loss of language assessment services
and access to language classes, and availability of experienced
settlement staff who provide a familiar face in an environment where so
much is unfamiliar.
The casualties are the families who chose Canada as their new home. This
is a loss of potential for Canada.
SOURCE Ontario Public School Boards' Association
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