Letter concerning CIC settlement funding cuts
23 June 2015
The Honourable Chris Alexander, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
365 Laurier Street West
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 1L1
I am writing on behalf of the many settlement sector member organizations of the Canadian Council for Refugees regarding the recent communication and implementation of settlement funding allocations for 2015-16.
While we understand that allocations will fluctuate by year and by region, we believe the government can and should manage the allocations in a manner that is respectful of the organizations providing services and sensitive to the impact on the newcomers served.
Unfortunately, many of our members report being given little or no advance notice about significant budget cuts, and being expected to implement these cuts within weeks. Meanwhile, some others had received up to a year’s notice, underlining marked inconsistencies.
We are particularly disappointed about the negative experiences of many organizations because of the Department’s recent promises of improved communication and more meaningful partnership with the sector.
Some Ontario members reported that there was no advance communication, let alone consultation, about cuts ranging up to 25%. Some were required to close LINC classes for the summer, or to completely terminate certain CIC funded settlement programs. Colleagues in the Atlantic were left scrambling when they were given less than a month to implement a 17% budget reduction.
The last minute announcements indicated a lack of understanding of the realities of running an agency, and left organizations feeling that there was no consideration for the impact on agency managers, affected staff, and especially clients. The way the cuts were administered contradicts CIC’s message of collaboration with the sector, and many organizations that consider themselves government partners felt disrespected. In this regard, we note the recommendation to government of the 2006 Blue Ribbon report on Grant and Contribution programs to: “Respect the recipients—they are partners in a shared public purpose.”
Practically speaking, the lack of timely communication prevents organizations from planning, and creates crises with respect to human resources and the organization’s legal and financial obligations. A last minute announcement of cuts makes it extremely difficult to ensure that staff severance, leases and other legal obligations can be met.
Most importantly, the failure to provide SPOs with enough notice about funding reductions has significant impacts on newcomers who depend on the affected organizations for services. One organization reported receiving 30 days’ notice that they would receive no more funding, and would need to terminate service provision, at a time when they had over 100 open cases, including many involving refugees with mental health needs.
We believe that service providers working with government funding should be treated with respect, be given adequate warning of impending changes or cuts, and be given information in a timely way so that they can plan responsibly for their clients and other obligations.
The CCR recommends that CIC refer back to the Blue Ribbon report and adhere to the recommended practices in order to avoid such problems as those recently experienced by the sector.
Thank you for considering our concerns.
cc: Corinne Prince St-Amand, Director General, Integration Branch, CIC