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Ontario's Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario's Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration

Ontario continues to collaborate with the federal government, municipal governments, community partners and across ministries to support the settlement and integration of refugees.

Ontario is taking action to welcome and settle refugees, including:

Government-wide Coordination 

  • A Ministers' Ad Hoc Committee on Refugees is coordinating a cross-government response to ensure smooth delivery of essential supports for settlement and integration.
  • Ontario's Special Advisory Table on Refugees is providing executive leadership, strategic guidance, sector collaboration and information sharing on issues concerning refugees' arrival and integration.
  • Four stakeholder groups are working with ministries to identify needs at the community level in areas such as settlement, housing, municipal supports, health, education, literacy, training and employment.
  • The government has prepared a summary of provincial government services for inclusion in about 2,500 refugee welcome kits in multiple languages - including settlement services, health care, employment and educational information.
  • The province is encouraging Ontarians to post or find volunteer opportunities to help welcome refugees at SPARK Ontario on its webpage on Welcoming Syrian Refugees.  Ontarians can also find out other ways to help on the government's website.

Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade 

  • Allocated over $6 million to enhance sponsorship supports and resettlement services in the six Ontario communities expected to receive the majority of refugees.    
  • Working with the federal government, Newcomer Settlement Program agencies and school boards that are delivering adult English and French as a second language instruction to scale up settlement services and ensure readiness and local service coordination.
  • Working with community partners to develop education and awareness resources and training for settlement workers. 

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care 

  • Developed the toll-free, multi-lingual Refugee HealthLine to connect refugees to health care providers for transitional health care and services.
  • Developed and distributed a Health System Action Plan: Syrian Refugees to provide guidance to the health system to support seamless and coordinated operations.
  • Working with stakeholders to ensure that refugees have access to appropriate health services, such as urgent medical assistance and immunizations. A small Emergency Medical Assistance Team continues to meet flights at the In-Field terminal at Pearson to provide primary care services.
  • Working with various partners to identify and develop education and awareness activities for health care providers who will be working with refugees. 

Ministry of Education 

  • Working with school boards on settlement plans for students, the development of resources, the needs of the boards and various training opportunities available to board staff.
  • Trained a group of educators who are ready to support district school boards with the assessment of Syrian newcomer children and youth in literacy and math to ensure appropriate school placement.
  • Working with School Mental Health ASSIST to support school boards in their efforts to promote mental health and respond to any social emotional needs of refugee students and their families. 

Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities 

  • Increased funding to the World University Service of Canada Student Refugee Program. These funds are used to help sponsored refugee students with postsecondary academic expenses such as tuition, books and school supplies, as well as other expenses such as accommodations, meals and clothing.
  • Working on options to ease the Ontario Student Assistance Program application process for this group of refugees.  For example, the process for verifying income is being assessed to ensure it does not act as a barrier, since many refugees may not have proof of their income for the past year given their circumstances. 

Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services 

  • The Ministry of and Community Safety and Correctional Services continues to monitor activities through the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.

Office of Francophone Affairs 

  • Helping ensure that Syrian refugees who are more at ease in French, and/ or those interested in integrating into the Franco-Ontarian community, have access to French-language services.

Ministry of Children and Youth Services 

  • Together with the Ministry of Community and Social Services, have established a single point of contact in regional offices who will work with settlement agencies that are the initial contact for arriving refugees and have identified existing community agencies with capacity such as culturally appropriate services and experience in Arabic.
  • Expanding the Youth Outreach Workers Program, where workers can build trusting relationships with refugee youth.
  • Providing standardized assessments for children and youth experiencing significant mental health issues through the ministry's Child and Parent Resource Institute.
  • Providing a specialized team led by Peel Children's Aid Society that will act as the provincial resource to other children's aid societies that may be providing services to Syrian children and youth.



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