Advancing equity

Positive Spaces Initiative

OCASI’s Positive Spaces Initiative (PSI) is dedicated to increasing organizational capacity across the immigrant and refugee-serving sector to more effectively serve LGBTQIA+ immigrants and refugees.

In this year of the pandemic, we smoothly transitioned to an online platform for all our training and engagement activities.

We recruited 12 Regional Champions from across Ontario, to lead regional online and offline activities consistent with public health guidelines. We organized 5 Regional Networks that include Regional Champions, partners and advisory group members. Virtual meetings and events were a great opportunity to connect with Champions on a more frequent basis.

We developed a comprehensive and ongoing evaluation strategy for PSI with the support of an external evaluation service. This will strengthen program quality and help to improve outcomes for organizations.

We updated our online course modules to reflect legislative changes and the impact on LGBTQIA+ people. We expect to launch a new level 2 course next year that will include a detailed discussion on intersectionality, addressing biases, implementing LGBTQIA+ inclusive practices in the immigrant and refugee-serving sector.

Plans for next year include deeper engagement with selected OCASI member agencies to support their efforts to build LGBTQIA+ positive space in their organizations, and launch of the Positive Spaces Initiative (PSI) newsletter.

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Accessibility Initiative

AI-IA logo

The Accessibility Initiative (AI), launched in 2011, supports immigrant and refugee-serving sector practitioners to enhance their knowledge and skills so they are better equipped to serve immigrants and refugees with in/visible disabilities.

This year we went national with AI in partnership with sector organizations across Canada. Our Advisory Committee is composed of people with lived experience and knowledgeable practitioners from both disability and immigrant and refugee-serving sectors. We developed a new bilingual national accessibility training course for online self-directed learning. The course has a focus on national legislation and best practices from across Canada in working with immigrants and refugees with in/visible disabilities. AI now has a new bilingual logo and a bilingual strategy for Twitter.

Next year we plan to recruit Allies in Accessibility from across Canada to promote our AI tools and resources. Allies will raise awareness around accessibility and the additional barriers faced by im/migrants and refugees within their own communities, as well as, nationally.

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Mental Health Promotion

OCASI’s Mental Health initiative builds capacity among immigrant and refugee serving organizations to support mental health and promote well-being among immigrants and refugees, and increase responsiveness to mental health issues.

In this final year of the project we piloted an innovative mental health promotion service delivery model with The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO) and Mennonite New Life Centre. Pilot activities included Virtual Peer Support Groups, Staff Wellness Initiatives, Capacity Building and Collaboration.

We made a smooth transition to online delivery of all our activities. We provided virtual sessions to service providers and their leadership on a range of mental health related topics including mental health promotion, self-care, trauma-informed care, addressing stigma and crisis intervention. The sessions were well received with the majority indicating they were likely to implement learnings in their workplace.

“This group kept me going. Because of the stress due to pandemic and personal stress this group was so welcome”

“Thank you for providing such a wonderful training which is very useful for me as a frontline staff as the need is so high for individuals facing mental health concerns”

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Immigrant Refugee Communities - Neighbours, Friends and Families Campaign

The Immigrant and Refugee Communities – Neighbours, Friends and Families (IRCNFF) campaign builds community capacity for bystander intervention in situations of domestic violence within immigrant and refugee communities. We have been effective in raising awareness about the warning signs of abuse and promoting bystander intervention in communities across Ontario.

This year we recruited 18 Peer Champions, an increase over last year. The shift to virtual training allowed us to extend training sessions, increasing the total number of training hours by forty-four percent. We created 8 new resources and made materials available in 12 languages.

We adapted educational materials to social media formats, enabling Peer Champions to disseminate them through their own social media channels. Five communities across Ontario participated in the Campaign and more than 1,000 people were engaged. Our collaboration with Peer Champions resulted in the distribution of materials to over twenty Chinese senior and student groups in Ontario through the WeChat platform.

“The participant told me that it’s their first time to know that oppression and abuse cause domestic violence.”

“Sometimes signs of violence are not evident”

“There is a way to put one’s heart into helping another without putting both victim and helper into more danger.”

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Building Leadership Capacity to Address Gender-Based Violence against Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women across Canada

This national initiative is an OCASI-led partnership with non-profit organizations from across Canada to build leadership capacity of women with precarious immigration status in addressing gender-based violence.

This year we hosted a series of national and regional roundtables to discuss the intersectional impact of COVID-19 against non-status, refugee and immigrant women and the unique issues, needs and challenges they face. We hosted the first annual conference of the initiative, “Building a Blueprint to Address Gender-Based Violence Against Non-Status Immigrant and Refugee Women Across Canada”. Over 85 participants attended the two-day event. We engaged with over 75 stakeholders, service providers, survivors and community advocates in 5 engagement sessions to help inform Canada’s first ever National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence. The 15 Peer Champions recruited from across Canada and trained for the national project, went on to organize solidarity groups grounded in arts-based activities and storytelling across communities.

Graphic mural on leadership

Graphic mural on groundwork


  • Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
  • Islamic Family and Social Services Association
  • Immigrant Women Services of Ottawa
  • The Migrant Mothers Project
  • New Brunswick Multicultural Association
  • Rights of Non-Status Women Network
  • Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton