Social Planning Toronto has launched its new report, Accessing Community Programs and Services for Non-Status Immigrants in Toronto: Organizational Challenges and Responses.
Since community organizations are on the front line of providing much needed services and support for Toronto’s non-status community, it’s important that organizations work to ensure service-user safety and reduce the fear and hesitancy this population may have in seeking help.
1) Inability to provide appropriate referrals, because of uncertainty whether undocumented residents could access services
2) Lack of organizational resources to serve the broader community
The report was developed using survey data collected from more than 100 community agencies and organizations across the City of Toronto to:
1) Document how organizations interact with non-status immigrant service-users
2) Better understand how status information may impact service delivery and identify some of the key barriers staff face to provide services to non-status residents.
Highlights of the report findings
• Over 1/3 of organizations inquire into a person’s immigration status and often request identification or immigration documents from individuals. While this info may simply be used to better assess a service user’s needs and identify appropriate referral locations, many non-status residents may be apprehensive to provide information if privacy and confidentiality are not stressed, or if residents are uncertain how it will be used.
Sharing status info externally
• Over 1/3 of respondents stated that under no circumstance would they share someone’s immigration status information to an external agency or group
• Only a small number of agencies would share an individual’s immigration status if a person was issued a deportation order, or if they were in violation of a deportation order
• 30% of respondents said they would share a service user’s immigration status information with the police or Citizenship and Immigration Canada, depending on the circumstance
Legal rights and policies
• Over 1/3 of respondents did not know or were uncertain of their legal rights and obligations if law or immigration enforcement asked for information about a client
• Over 50% of organizations had no formal organizational policy on providing services to non-status immigrants and any info collected, yet many expressed interest in developing one
• Nearly 1/3 of survey respondents said government funding restrictions were a major barrier in the development and adoption of a policy supporting non-status residents. Many government funders set strict criteria as to which groups can access services.
Said SPT Researcher Navjeet Sidhu, “Many community organizations and workers are doing their best to serve non-status residents. However, organizational policies – or lack thereof – surrounding I.D. requirements, immigration status inquiry, or sharing of status information, creates barriers for non-residents who may be hesitant to seek out the services that they need. Developing formal organizational policies and providing staff-training on non-status issues can improve accessibility and help create safe spaces for non-status residents.
In February 2013, City Council re-affirmed its commitment to provide access to municipal services without fear by non-status and precarious status residents. As City Hall works to improve accessibility to City and City-funded services, this research can be a tool for non-profit organizations to reflect on ways to improve internal policies and protocols, eliminate barriers and create safe spaces across the City and beyond for this population.