Spirit and Solidarity

A Message from the President and the Executive Director

It was a year unlike any other as the global pandemic ravaged economies and devastated communities. OCASI member agencies acted with extraordinary determination and creativity to ensure refugees and immigrants were not left behind.

Immigrant and refugee settlement services were deemed essential in early April 2020. Our sector grappled with many challenges in moving to virtual service delivery. The pandemic revealed stark inequalities in our society as well as in the sector. Among these - a technology gap that disproportionately disadvantaged racialized refugees and immigrants, as well as sector agencies and workers. We called for targeted investments and policy remedies to address these and other inequalities in our submissions to governments and dialogue with funders.

OCASI used every opportunity to advocate for a progressive immigration and refugee policy, including keeping the borders open for refugee claimants and a regularization program for people without immigration status. The response from the government was insufficient. These concerns will continue to be priorities for the Council. We called for strong and sustained investment in settlement and integration. We called for an explicit anti-racism and anti-oppression framework for federal and provincial actions and plans on gender equity, poverty and housing.

The pandemic produced a few small but important gains. The provincial government temporarily suspended the 3-month wait for provincial healthcare coverage for new residents and extended certain healthcare services for everyone regardless of immigration status. Access to healthcare is a basic right. These temporary policy measures must be made broader in scope, and made permanent even beyond the pandemic.

We echoed the collective pain and rage of communities in Canada and across North America at the targeting of Black lives. We joined solidarity efforts to challenge rising levels of anti-Asian xenophobia and racism and anti-Muslim hate. Countering racism and hate, and fostering an anti-racist sector are OCASI priorities. As is our commitment to honour the treaties and centre First peoples as we learn from the painful legacy of residential schools. Our new five-year strategic plan will be informed by an anti-racism and anti-oppression framework and a collective commitment to disrupt ongoing settler-colonialism. As always, we will continue to advocate as a Council for a society that respects the basic rights and dignity of all residents regardless of immigration status.

Our member agencies energize, inspire and guide us. Our collective is strong.

Janet Madume, President

Debbie Douglas, Executive Director