Ontario Immigration Ministry Funds Provincial Bridging Programs

The Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI) has been largely silent on immigration issues since Minister Charles Sousa took office last fall, so the Monday, June 25th announcement at the University of Toronto confirming the province’s commitment to bridging programs came as a welcome relief to those concerned with the state of immigration in Ontario.

While it’s true that recent cuts in federal funding for immigration programs have made progress difficult for the province in the settlement sector, it is vital that MCI continue to support its most successful initiatives.

Few initiatives have offered a better success rate than the 300 bridging projects offered in Ontario since 2003. They have helped more than 50,000 skilled immigrants bridge their qualifications and find work in their professional fields.

While the announcement didn’t break much new ground – it did affirm the Ontario government’s investment of $35 million for 70 “new and renewed” bridging programs over the next two years, with the Government of Canada contributing “up to $22 million” during the same period. The 70 current projects will provide 11,000 newcomers in more than 20 different professions with needed support to continue their professional careers in Canada, in fields including green energy, IT, healthcare, engineering, law, and business. Projects will be funded in the GTA, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, York Region, Niagara, London, Kingston , Ottawa and Thunder Bay.

Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism Chungsen Leung spoke briefly, saying that prospective immigrants to Canada will soon have their qualifications pre-assessed when they apply, to “filter out applicants who do not have the application credentials needed to find a job in their field, as well as those who have no equivalency to a Canadian degree, diploma, or certificate.”

Speaking to the press after the conference, Minister Sousa said that a thirteen-member panel has been established to address Ontario’s need for immigration in order to support its economy. “We’ve always relied on the Federal Skilled Workers Program in order to support our increase of new immigrants to provide for those jobs,” said “but we’ve got to do better than that. … We need to ensure that we initiate a proper strategy to protect and encourage proper skills and immigration in the Province of Ontario. …This is an investment in our workforce, and in our new Canadians.”

Further announcements supporting immigration and the needs of newcomers in Ontario will surely be greeted warmly by all newcomers and stakeholders in the settlement sector.