With more than 30,000 Syrian refugees facing serious barriers to employment and integration in Canada, the federal government is searching for fresh ideas to help newcomers join their communities and the labor force.
Documents posted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Thursday morning show the department is planning to spend as much as $250,000 for new studies on how best to integrate Syrian refugees into their new community.
“It is well document that newcomers face a number of barriers in finding employment that is commensurate with their skills and experience. Refugees, in particular, may have more difficulty integrating into the Canadian labour market when compared to other categories of immigrants,” the documents read.
“Refugees face many employment barriers such as lack of Canadian or other relevant work experience, lack of professional networks and unfamiliarity with Canadian workplace culture.”
Canada had accepted 30,000 Syrian refugees by the end of July, with more expected to arrive by the end of the year.
While the Liberal government received praise for rapidly bringing in more refugees, there is growing concern that providing services and support for newcomers will be as big a logistical challenge.
Over the summer, the Senate’s committee on human rights warned of urgent needs facing newcomers — for language training, for mental health support after fleeing a warzone, and the financial burdens refugees face upon arrival in their new country.
“Canadians are justly proud that more than 28,000 Syrian refugees have arrived here to date,” wrote Senators Jim Munson and Salma Ataullahjan in July.
“While our committee shares in this pride we also note the challenge has barely begun.”
In the documents released Thursday, the department acknowledged some of those concerns, particularly around supporting Syrian youth make a new life in Canada.
Those youth will be specifically targeted for new programs, with the government looking at how best to integrate children into a new school environment, or even a mobile app to advertise services and resources.
“Syrian refugees, like many newcomers to Canada, experience barriers to information, services and supports to help with their settlement process, and a lower-barrier, mobile digital tool is an effective solution,” the documents read.
“Establishment newcomers and Canadians are an important source of information about local services and supports, and can offer helpful information via a mobile digital tool.”
The documents suggest that the government also wants to address social integration into Canada. One study will look into how best to broach discussions with Syrian families on issues like domestic violence, gender equality, and LGBTQ rights.
The department is also interested in examining “pay for performance” models, where Ottawa would pay for independent language or workplace training based on agreed upon goals or milestones.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada could not immediately respond to questions when contacted by the Star Thursday.