Chapter 1: The History of Settlement Services in Canada

Perspectives on the Value of Settlement Services

Specific Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to

  1. Identify the different social perspectives about immigration and settlement services throughout the milestones of immigration
  2. Research how settlement services are perceived in the media today
  3. Identify what immigrants and refugees say about their experiences with settlement services

Settlement services have gone from the kitchen table to the strip mall storefront or downtown office tower. In the 1970s, there was minimal funding, so services were carried out by volunteers with small local civic grants to support their grassroots operations. The early practice of kitchen table advice was a volunteer endeavour. As the settlement sector became more organized and professional, the availability funds from the private sector and from government expanded the resources available to both service providers and clients.

The additional resources brought more stability into the settlement services sector and created opportunities to develop needs-specific programs. Trained settlement workers were hired who had specializations in education, job training, counselling, interpreting services, family parenting, literacy, childcare services, legal services, and financial literacy. Immigrant settlement service providers became sources of employment for immigrants who had successfully navigated the immigrant experience and wanted to mentor and support new immigrants through their settlement journey.

Innovation in service delivery is now a critical focus of some of the large and established immigrant organizations that started out as grassroots, volunteer-driven organizations working out of community-based premises such as church basements. Service provider organizations (SPOs) such as Calgary Catholic Immigration Services, the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), and Immigrant Services Calgary developed best practices over the years that improved service delivery and led to better outcomes for their immigrant clients. Click here to view a newspaper article and video from the Calgary Herald that shows how Immigrant Services Calgary has changed its delivery model to better meet the evolving needs of immigrants.

The innovation that Immigrant Services Calgary (ISC) (Babych, 2020) has embraced is an integrated services model (Community Development Council Durham, 2010), a type of one-stop shop where a range of services is housed in one location in addition to having partnerships with services outside the organization that can’t be provided in-house. For example, although many SPOs offer childcare services, in-house they often don’t have internal expertise to work with children with disabilities, so diagnostic services are accessed through formal or informal partnerships with organizations such as Pace Kids and Alberta Children’s Services.

Learning Activity 9: The Value of Settlement Services

Watch the following video and reflect on the following questions:

  1. What is the benefit of having settlement services housed within one organization?
  2. Would it be better to have privately owned immigration services or government-supported immigrant settlement services?
  3. Is it the responsibility of the immigrant to pay for a private service or should it be the responsibility of the government to provide free settlement and integration services to immigrants and refugees? Scepticism about government-supported free services is expressed in the video.
  4. What concerns are expressed about settlement services? Summarize the concerns.
  5. What is the case for immigrants to not using settlement services?
  6. What is your rebuttal? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Write your reflections in your chapter journal.

Canadian Immigration Channel. (2017, May 28). Do not use settlement services. Immigration to Canada. LP Group [Video]. YouTube.


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Canadian Settlement in Action: History and Future Copyright © 2021 by NorQuest College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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