Open communities: my take on immigration policy

One of my leadership roles with the Green Party of Ontario is as Immigration critic. That means I get to hold the government to account for funding (or not funding) programs for, and supporting (or not supporting), new Ontarians.

In my role, I get to think a lot about how we can open Ontario communities to those who come to our province. Open in a way that promotes social and economic justice. And while I think about these things, I naturally think about those brave individuals who move here — usually from overseas, sometimes from war torn countries.

If you’ve moved, you know that it can be a tiring, stressful ordeal. For most people, moves happen across the same city, province or country. These experiences are significant. But they are almost nothing compared to moving here from a different country, especially if fleeing conflict and persecution.

(Want a small sense of what the journey of a refugee is like? I invite you to watch this short video. It’s unlike any I’ve seen and it’s worth the watch.)

The people who make these big moves need our support; yet, on the low end, thousands of immigrants may only access $11/year in provincial settlement services. Of course, some may not need more support, others access much more than that and there are federal programs that can help too.

Either way, I am committed to increasing services for immigrant settlement, so those who need more support can get it. That’s social justice. It’s also economic justice. Why? Because one of the areas of greatest need is helping qualified immigrants get jobs in what they’re trained to do.

We all benefit when this happens.

You’ve probably heard the story of a doctor who’s immigrated to Ontario, but they’re not practicing medicine, they’re doing something else, even though we need more doctors! Spoiler alert: it’s not their fault!

The government tried to do something about this. Yet, of the 100,000 immigrants who come to Ontario each year, only five to six per cent access the appropriate supports to help bridge their qualifications.

At Queen’s Park, I will work with other elected Greens to at least double the number of people who get into skills-matching programs. So people who immigrate can actually work in the fields they are qualified for, where they are needed.

That way, people who come to Ontario can freely contribute to our communities as they choose. It’s a win-win as Ontario benefits from their training and knowledge. This is one of many ways to be open and welcoming to those who make this province home and make Ontario a better place to live for all of us.