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Settlement Sector

Our repository includes 21 reports on the settlement sector published on-line, highlighting trends, priorities, and histories of settlement. To contextualize this information, we also collected 22 reports on the population of refugees and immigrants in Canada, including data published by Stats Can as well as smaller-scale studies of specific ethno-cultural and regional populations.

These are the selected resources found in the Environmental Scan that may be useful to service providers, refugee sponsors and other community members. 

GBV Settlement Sector.jpg

●  Defining settlement: While there is some disagreement and debate on how we define settlement, we found a few definitions that are widely cited (Calience 2019).

The United Nations Economic and Social Council defines settlement as “a “gradual process by which new residents become active participants in the economic, social, civic, cultural and spiritual affairs of a new homeland” OCASI’s definition is also widely cited: “settlement is a long-term, dynamic, two-way process through which, ideally, immigrants would achieve full equality and freedom of participation in society, and society would gain access to the full human resource potential in its immigrant communities”

●  Who does settlement? There are a lot of groups and individuals involved in settlement. We can distinguish between formal settlement agencies (e.g. funded by IRCC ~ 500) and the range of organizations involved in settlement activities (e.g. libraries, recreation centres, faith-based groups etc.)
Among formal settlement agencies, there is also diversity in terms of the type of organization. For example, a 2017 survey of direct service IRCC-funded settlement service providing organization (SPO) found:
-  51% identified as providing primarily social services to individuals and families
-  29% were an educational institution
-  8% provided primarily employment-related services
-  7% identified as a community, ethnic, fraternal, civic and social organization
-  3% were health-care focused

Gendered workers and racial hierarchies: We know that settlement workers are predominantly female (although the data we found is mostly for Ontario). There is also some evidence of racial hierarchies between management and front-line workers. As noted in a 2018 profile of the sector published by Kolternmann & Scott (Calience Consulting):
“A 2006 study by the Social Planning Council of Toronto and the Family Service Association reported that over 86 percent of workers in Toronto’s immigrant and refugee seeking sector are women, that 75 percent immigrated to Canada and 63 percent are racialized, addressing the dual phenomena of over representation of women in the sector and the racialization of the settlement sector (Wilson, 2006). An earlier survey of settlement workers across Ontario conducted by the provincial government also found that practitioners are predominantly female (75.9 percent), immigrants (68.7 percent) and university educated (62.7 percent). The majority are bi- or multi-lingual. This description of frontline workers is in contrast to managerial positions that tend to be dominated by white women. A 2009 study by The Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations and York University found that among 240 organizations 91 percent of executive directors were white” (Koltermann & Scott 2018, p. 15-16).

●  Who uses settlement services? IRCC has published data on service users. According to iCARE administrative data, key characteristics of all Settlement Program clients who received at least one settlement service in FY 2016/17 include the following:

- Overall unique clients: 412,392 unique clients received at least one Settlement service, compared to 362,661 unique clients in FY 2014/15, and 401,446 in FY 2015/16.


- Immigration category (top 3): Refugees (28%), Economic Spouses and Dependents (SD) (26%), and sponsored family (24%).


- Gender: 57% of unique clients were female.


- Age: 40% were 30-44 years of age, 23% were 15-29 years of age, 18% were 45-60 years of age, 14% were 0-15 years of age, 6% were 60-74 years of age, and 2% were 75 years of age or older or not stated.


- Year of admission (top 5): 2016 (27%), 2015 (15%), 2014 (10%), 2013 (9%), 2012 (9%).


- Self-declared Knowledge of Official Language: 53% English, 40% Neither, 2% Both English and French, 2% French and 2% not stated.

- Education Qualification: 35% had Secondary or less, 17% had a Bachelor’s degree, 16% had no formal education.


- Country of Citizenship (top 5): China (16%), India (11%), Philippines (9%), Syria (9%), Iran (4%).


- Intended province of destination (top 5): Ontario (48%), British Columbia (15%), Alberta (13%), Manitoba (8%), and Quebec (5%).


- Language spoken (top 5): Arabic (12%), Mandarin (10%), Tagalog (8%), Punjabi (5%), and Spanish (5%).

Source: IRCC 2017

●  Lack of GBA+ analysis in broad-based settlement literature: In broad-based literature on settlement, we found that there is relatively little attention to GBA+ or gender-based violence. When GBV does come up, it’s more of a specialized topic (versus being more centred in any discussion of settlement using a GBA+ perspective). One exception that we did find was a 2019 IRCC-funded knowledge synthesis report authored by Bhuyan and Schmidt, which uses a feminist intersectional framework to analyze immigrant women’s settlement experiences, including experiences of GBV.
For example, in the settlement literature, there is a strong emphasis on language training, employment, and more recently mental health. But we know that each of these issues are intersectional, and there are barriers to accessing services in these areas that are shaped by one’s social location across gender, race, class and many other axes of difference. s For example, in one survey, lack of affordable childcare was identified as a major barrier to language training. But the report stopped short of using a gender-based analysis (GBA+ in WAGE terms) in its discussion of settlement priorities.

●  We know that settlement is a gendered, racialized ++ process: Many of the broad-based priorities of the settlement sector are nevertheless gendered and racialized processes that intersect across multiple social identities.

Case example: Systemic Factors

GBV VAW Case Study

The VAW Learning Network identified a number of factors that contribute to vulnerabilities associated with IPV among immigrant and refugee communities (Tabibi et al 2018). We have included an illustration of these factors from the report. Read More

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