On the Front Lines

PUBLISHED: July 2006
AUTHORS: Community Social Planning Council of Toronto and Family Services Toronto
REPORT DOWNLOADS: Community Service Sector Report [PDF] and Immigrant-Refugee Serving Sector Report [PDF]


On the Front Lines: Improving Working Conditions and Ensuring Quality Community Services is a joint research initiative of Family Service Toronto and the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto. This one-year project was funded through the United Way of Greater Toronto’s Social Research Grants Initiative. The project goals were to examine working conditions, experiences and perspectives of Toronto’s community sector staff; identify and build support for organizational practices and social policy responses to improve working conditions and sector capacity; and engage key decision-makers to build support for project recommendations. The project involved focus groups with community sector front-line and managerial staff, roundtable discussions with key stakeholders, a review of collective agreements and a survey of Toronto immigrant- and refugee-serving sector staff.


From the introduction of On the Front Lines of Toronto's Immigrant and Refugee Serving Sector:

Working on the front lines in the country’s largest immigrant reception centre, Toronto’s immigrant- and refugee-serving sector plays a central role in supporting the vast numbers of individuals and families crossing the globe to make a new home in Canada. Among immigrants arriving between 1996 and 2001, 280,000 or 29% of all recent immigrants to Canada settled in the City of Toronto (Statistics Canada, 2001). Taking into account growth patterns in immigration, Statistics Canada has projected that the immigrant population in Canada will increase from 5.4 million people in 2001 to between 7 million and 9.3 million people by 2017, with the majority settling in large urban centres (Statistics Canada, 2005). The already crucial role of Toronto’s immigrant- and refugee-serving sector in facilitating the transition of newcomers to Canada will only grow in importance in the years to come.

Newcomers, particularly members of racialized groups, disproportionately struggle with high rates of poverty, unemployment, underemployment, and barriers to accessing affordable housing and other vital services (Chiu & Tran, 2003; Murdie, 2005; Ornstein, 2006). As service providers to newcomer communities, sector workers are deeply engaged in supporting and advocating with and on behalf of marginalized communities. This work is critical to individual newcomers and to achieving equity goals that will result in the redistribution of resources and decision-making power within Canadian society. 

In order for the sector to meet the challenges of providing high quality services to newcomer communities and facilitating civic participation within these growing communities, the sector must provide healthy, supportive working environments and stable, living wage employment. Good working conditions are essential to attracting and retaining a highly skilled workforce that can deliver these vital services. Family Service Association of Toronto (FSA) and the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto (CSPC-T) launched this survey to explore working conditions within Toronto’s immigrant- and refugee-serving sector, identify issues that enable or impede the development of good working conditions, and relay sector workers’ recommendations for improving working conditions.

The Survey of the Toronto Immigrant- and Refugee-Serving Sector was conducted as part of the On the Front Lines project, a joint FSA and CSPC-T initiative. The Front Lines project examined the working conditions of Toronto’s community sector with an aim of developing practical proposals to improve working conditions and ensure the delivery of high quality services to communities. The On the Front Lines of Toronto’s Community Service Sector report highlights the findings and recommendations of the full project, including results of focus groups, roundtable discussions, review of collective agreements and summary of the Survey of the Toronto Immigrant- and Refugee-Serving Sector. The On the Front Lines of Toronto’s Immigrant- and Refugee-Serving Sector report focuses exclusively on the outcome of the sector staff survey. An additional report focusing on equity-seeking groups working within the immigrant- and refugee-serving sector will follow.

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