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Key informant perspectives on the government of Canada's modernized approach to immigrant settlement.


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) funds community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide services such as official language training, job placement, and community engagement in a decentralized model of immigrant service provision. This approach to settlement services has been simultaneously praised as a model of best practice and criticized for inefficiency (Acheson and Laforest 2013; Levasseur and Phillips 2004; Phillips et al. 2008; Richmond and Shields 2005; Shields, Drolet, and Valenzuela 2016; Shpaizman 2007).

Partly in response to claims of inefficiency, in 2008 IRCC implemented the Modernized Approach to Settlement Services, a management strategy that maintains the department's decentralized approach to funding settlement service provision but introduces several important changes. First, the Modernized Approach consolidates settlement services into a single Settlement Program to streamline the application process. Second, with a view toward increasing efficiency, the Modernized Approach enhances accountability monitoring by focusing on project outcomes rather than just measuring inputs and outputs. And third, the Modernized Approach creates avenues for grassroots organizations to have a voice in the governance of the Settlement Program.

While a few studies have discussed the Modernized Approach as a promising way forward, this is the first article to examine its impact empirically. Using key informant perspectives as a guide, this article provides an overview of where the Modernized Approach has created improvements in efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability over IRCC's previous approach to settlement services and indicates further room for improvement.

The article begins by describing the institutional context for Settlement Services in Canada. Then it describes the Modernized Approach, which IRCC uses to govern the entire sector. After a review of methodology, the article then outlines key informant perspectives on the Modernized Approach, noting consensus views on its strengths and weaknesses. Key informants agreed that the Modernized Approach had improved the efficiency, effectiveness, and oversight of settlement services in Canada, but they also agreed that it could benefit from further improvements.

The Settlement Context

IRCC formally describes its activities as: facilitating the arrival of immigrants, providing protection to refugees, offering programming to help newcomers settle in Canada, granting citizenship, issuing travel documents, and promoting multiculturalism (IRCC 2016). Demonstrating an increasing emphasis on newcomers and integration, in 2006 the federal government increased its annual investment in newcomer settlement by $1.4 billion over the next five years (IRCC 2008). Approximately $1 billion of IRCC's 2014-15 budget of $2.3 billion was used for immigrant settlement, much of which is distributed under contribution agreements to immigrant-serving voluntary organizations (TBS 2006, TBS 2013). The exception is Quebec where, pursuant to the Canada-Quebec Immigration Accord, that province is responsible for settlement and a grant is transferred directly to the province. This amounted to $340 million in 2014-15, leaving about $660 million for the rest of the country.

Community-based organizations in the settlement sub-sector are diverse, but these organizations are becoming an increasingly organized network of service delivery agents. Provincial umbrella organizations are beginning to coordinate communication, enable collective action, and provide leadership. Some umbrella organizations, like the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) are well established. Others are just starting to develop the capacity to coordinate activities within their jurisdictions (Table 1). Umbrella organizations from smaller provinces have collaborated to form regional organizations like the Western Region Working Group and the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance. These regional bodies provide a counter-voice to OCASI at the national table, although they still are much smaller than OCASI. In addition to the provincial umbrella organizations, a national organization gives the sector a more unified voice. The National Settlement Council (NSC) is a joint table where high-level representatives of the sector, including the heads of large service-provision organizations from across Canada, meet with assistant deputy ministers and directors-general from IRCC twice each year (Transcripts 11 and 12).

Although IRCC now has jurisdiction over settlement services in all of Canada outside of Quebec, this was not always the case. As noted above, a federal-provincial agreement gives sole jurisdiction over settlement services in Quebec to the provincial government. Until recently, the Canada-BC Immigration Agreement (Canada 2010) also gave the Government of British Columbia authority over "the design, administration and delivery of federally funded settlement and integration services in British Columbia." The Canada-Manitoba Immigration Agreement contained similar provisions. However, in 2012, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration cancelled the agreements with Manitoba and British Columbia. Accordingly settlement programming in Manitoba returned to the federal government in 2013 and in BC the following year. According to one key informant who experienced the transition, voluntary organizations in Manitoba were not used to having regular dialogue with their provincial government, while organizations in BC were accustomed to less stringent financial reporting requirements. Organizations in both provinces were allowed an adjustment period before falling under the same terms and conditions for settlement services delivery as the rest of Canada (Transcript 11).

The Modernized Approach: IRCC's Goals and Objectives

Since 2008, the entirety of this complex sub-sector has been administered under the Modernized Approach to Settlement Services, a strategic approach to management with a renewed and consolidated Settlement Program as its central feature (CIC 2008, 2009). When funding for settlement services began to increase after 2006, the Modernized Approach was developed as a way to channel IRCC's growth efficiently, effectively, and with accountability, and the Settlement Program was developed to be fully consistent with this Modernized Approach to management.

IRCC formerly delivered settlement services under three programs: Host, Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC), and the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program (ISAP). Reviews of these programs in 2004 revealed several problems (CIC 2004a, 2004b, and 2004c), all of which were meant to be corrected under the Modernized Approach. First, program reviews indicated that too much attention was paid to outputs at the expense of measuring outcomes. The Modernized Approach recognized that performance measurement should be attentive to what outcomes are actually being achieved, rather than just measuring outputs like the number of clients served. Through the Modernized Approach, IRCC envisioned an accountability regime that combined the measurement of outputs, outcomes, and financial resources to ensure that the activities of organizations were achieving results efficiently. Second, the Modernized Approach acknowledged the fragmented nature of settlement services. Different aspects of settlement were administered under different programs, but organizations were often drawing contributions from each of these programs. In response, the Modernized Approach envisioned a single program for settlement services where organizations could harmonize activities under a single agreement. Third, in recognition that settlement needs vary in different regions and over time, the Modernized Approach envisioned collaborative planning and prioritization, with all stakeholders playing a part in coordinating and carrying out programming collaboratively (CIC 2008, 2009). The Settlement Program is the practical outworking of the management principles articulated in the Modernized Approach. As such, the Settlement Program gives substance to the principles of program consolidation, outcomes-based measurement, and collaborative governance in the pursuit of efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.

In keeping with IRCC's vision as expressed in the Modernized Approach, the Settlement Program consolidates the services provided under LINC, ISAP, and Host into a single program (Table 4.2). Consolidation reduces the burden of accountability for larger organizations by reducing the number of reports for multi-purpose organizations, although reports tend to be longer. The Settlement Program also allows organizations to allocate 15% of funds for administrative purposes without any itemized reporting.

Under the Modernized Approach, calls for proposals (CFPs) happen only every third year, rather than annually, reducing transaction costs and encouraging stability through multi-year contribution agreements. Program consolidation also reduces transaction costs, in keeping with the Modernized Approach's broad thrust toward greater efficiency. Furthermore, the Settlement Program includes a Funding Risk-Assessment Model (FRAM) that increases efficiency by reducing the burden of reporting for low-risk organizations (CIC 2014).

As articulated in IRCC's Modernized Approach, the Settlement Program is designed with outcomes measurement as the basis of accountability in addition to financial inputs and outputs. To this end, the Settlement Program's logic model (Annex 1) articulates a set of outcomes that can indicate successful service provision. Each of these specific outcomes is intended to contribute to the more general or ultimate outcome, namely that "newcomers and citizens participate in fostering a more integrated society." Organizations receive funding if they can contribute to this final outcome by demonstrating that newcomers are aware of services in their area, that newcomers progress in official language training, that they find employment, or that communities provide a welcoming environment for newcomers. Organizations can also receive funding to deliver indirect outcomes like evidence gathering, tool development, or consultation.

Just as IRCC's Modernized Approach calls for, the new Settlement Program implements a more collaborative form of local governance. Organizations are expected to collaborate with all stakeholders in their communities, devising strategic plans that avoid the duplication of services and respond to regional needs in joint proposals (CIC 2009). As one avenue for encouraging collaborative planning, IRCC has chosen to encourage the establishment of Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) in communities. LIPs create a place for all local players, voluntary organizations, employers, governments, and others, to coordinate their efforts and develop a strategy for improving immigrant and refugee settlement in their communities. As another avenue for horizontal coordination, IRCC has also encouraged the provincial umbrella organizations to foster increased coordination and cooperation among settlement service providers.

Still, vestiges of a more top-down approach to coordination remain. Some funding priorities are predetermined by the terms and conditions of the Settlement Program, which are dictated by the Treasury Board and cannot be violated. For example, the Settlement Program prioritizes direct service provision by allocating 90% of its funds for direct services, leaving only 10% for the indirect services associated with horizontal governance and capacity building. Similarly, the Modernized Approach includes a commitment to a standard, equitable level of service provision Canada-wide. These funding rules guarantee that some projects will be privileged over others, even if they produce inferior outcomes.


The Modernized Approach was designed with good intentions for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of settlement service delivery, and its accountability to parliament. Key informant perspectives offer the best window into whether the positive results envisioned by the designers of this approach had actually become a reality seven years after implementation.

Data to answer this question comes from semi-structured interviews with twelve key informants from IRCC and the voluntary organizations it manages under the Settlement Program. Interviewees were encouraged to talk about what they thought was important, but follow-up questions were sometimes necessary for clarification or to relate discussion back to the topic at hand. Participants were selected based on willingness to participate, their status within their organizations, and geographical concentration. All but one of the informants were either upper-level managers or field program officers responsible for providing key liaison between the two sectors.

Seven interviews were conducted with managers from the voluntary sector. Leaders from a mix of small and large organizations participated in the study, and their organizations were active in a wide variety of activities, ranging from language classes to anti-racism advocacy. Apart from the umbrella organizations, the group of organizations includes four small agencies and one large agency. Table 2 provides indicators of the average size, number of employees and standard deviation within the sample (this data excludes umbrella organizations, which are more dependent on the resources of their members and often do not have a large number of employees or large revenues in their own right; cf. Table 1). The large standard deviations draw attention to capacity differences between small and large organizations in this sector.

The analysis is based primarily on the consensus views of respondents in either the governmental or non-governmental sector. Consensus views were defined as those opinions that were not in clear disagreement with the opinions of any other participant from within the same sector. Nevertheless, where important differences existed in the views of respondents in the same sector on any particular matter, those differences are noted and explained. The choice of which consensus positions among participants to include was made at the author's discretion. Thankfully, there were few significant differences among informants' views.

In keeping with the principle of confidential interviews, special effort has been made to protect the identities of participants by numbering the transcripts of the interviews rather than identifying the name or position of the person with whom they were conducted.

Findings: The Modernized Approach Improves Immigrant Settlement

Key informants from both sectors agreed that the Modernized Approach and the new Settlement Program have helped to reduce the costs of immigrant settlement, allowing their organizations to take a more client-focused approach to service-provision. They found that reduced administrative reporting and the consolidation of the three previous stand-alone programs had made monitoring and accountability mechanisms more efficient. The use of outcomes monitoring and risk-based reporting were also expected to reduce costs further in the future. Consolidated programming and longer-term contribution agreements had also reduced the time spent haggling over funding agreements. The strengthening of inter- and intra-sectoral dialogue, part of a generally more collaborative approach, provided opportunities to see a grassroots understanding of immigrant settlement reflected in the program's governance, and further improvements to governance are expected as umbrella organizations and LIPs are strengthened over time. Still, key informants recommended further improvements in each of these areas.

Improvements to Accountability and Monitoring

CBO sector informants were quick to praise the creation of a general administrative budget that reduced reporting and allowed organizations to manage their funds with much more flexibility. But CBO sector leaders suggested that they would still benefit from further flexibility. Hard barriers between budgetary line-items prevent savings in one line-item from being passed on to another in programming budgets, just like under ISAP, LINC, and HOST. CBO sector leaders believe that allowing easier transfers from one budgetary line to another would improve flexibility without having a negative impact on accountability. Informants from IRCC believed that more flexibility was consistent with the Modernized Approach, and with the terms and conditions for the program mandated by the Federal Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), but implementing greater flexibility had proved elusive in some cases. One IRCC informant commented, "We tried to simplify stuff, and then it would be a struggle to get it implemented. There's a divide between policy and implementation at IRCC" (Transcripts 6, 8, 9 and 11).

CBO leaders and IRCC officials pointed to the now-defunct British Columbia model of financial monitoring as a possible alternative to what is used in the Settlement Program. The BC program had more frequent CFPs, but financial monitoring was not required unless an organization failed to achieve 80% of the outcomes stipulated in its contribution agreement. The federal government has now resumed responsibility for the administration of settlement services in BC, but the BC program was still cited both by CBO leaders and IRCC officials as a possible example of how to improve flexibility for service-provision organizations while maintaining an appropriate level of accountability (Transcripts 11 and 12).

CBO sector leaders expressed frustration over financial audits and inputs reporting. Nonetheless, informants from both sectors anticipated better management of this accountability tool in the future. Such informants believed that program officers sometimes exercised an unreasonable level of oversight and control, bordering on micromanagement. One CBO leader told an anecdote about how an IRCC representative had gone about counting the number of chairs that were eligible for use in a program. Another told of how IRCC was willing to withhold all of a program's funds in a conflict over a few hundred dollars. An effective dispute resolution process does exist, and extreme oversight and control is not considered typical of program officers. One IRCC official explained, "we tried hard from the policy side to limit the audits," but believed that the message might not have made its way to program officers in the field. More positively, all parties agreed that audits should be based on dialogue: once a problem with service delivery has been identified, the focus should be on finding a way to fix it rather than finding reasons to impose sanctions. Whereas the former approach is essentially remedial, the latter is essentially punitive (Transcripts 1, 3, 4, 9, 10, and 11).

Several respondents addressed the issue of the audit system. IRCC uses a Funding Risk Assessment Model (FRAM), which allows for less monitoring, rather than auditing, for lower risk programs. The flexibility or discretion in monitoring versus auditing is derived from TBS, which mandates risk-based monitoring as a means to reduce the burden of audits on all service-providers. Several respondents indicated that larger established organizations were less likely to complain about audits than their smaller, less established counterparts. IRCC's risk-management strategy makes audits a lesser problem for the larger and more established organizations both because they have a greater organizational capacity to deal with them when they occur, and also because many of them have developed better financial management and control systems over the many years of partnership through contribution agreements with IRCC (Transcripts 6, 9, 10, and 11).

Still, as accountability systems have moved toward the measurement of outcomes, both larger and smaller CBOs have struggled with the transition. Evaluation and evidence gathering needed for measuring outcomes present major challenges to organizations that have never developed the capacity for such activities. Furthermore, there is a discomfort that goes with any sort of measurement because there is a tendency for managers to associate it with auditing. Nonetheless, as organizations discover the rewards that come with reporting on positive outcomes, evaluations are undertaken with increasing enthusiasm. "I would do it again in a heartbeat," explained one leader after the completion of his organization's first program evaluation. CBOs are learning the value of being able to present evidence about their successes and struggles. Learning the value of performance measurement, and developing the capacity to capitalize on IRCC's new focus on outcomes measurement for efficiency improvements has been a slow process that is only beginning to bear fruit (Transcripts 2, 6, and 7).

Consolidated Programming and Longer-term Agreements

The transition to three-year CFPs and three-year contribution agreements was viewed by all parties as a positive change that promotes organizational stability and reduces the cost of negotiating new agreements and writing proposals. Three-year CFPs were not considered overly restrictive, since organizations were able to renegotiate contribution agreements if they found themselves unable to meet their commitments. (Informants did not discuss the possibility of revising their agreements to allow for larger commitments.) In the same vein, both voluntary sector informants and leaders from IRCC viewed program consolidation as a step in the right direction when it comes to reducing transaction costs. Nonetheless, there was some concern from small organizations that filling out the consolidated application forms was overly labour intensive (Transcripts 1, 4, 9, and 12). Clearly, there is a shared recognition of trade-offs that occur as part of program reform, and also a shared hope that the net benefit calculation is positive.

Improvements to Coordination and Collaboration

Interviewees also believed that the Settlement Program has resulted in better coordination for the sector by taking a more collaborative approach to governance that gives grassroots organizations a say in how programs are implemented. Toward this end, IRCC provides incentives for organizations to collaborate in planning and service delivery, while promoting ongoing dialogue between the voluntary sector and the state and among community-based organizations. In general, informants believed that this approach to coordination had been more effective than the top-down approach employed before the implementation of the Modernized Approach, but some challenges remain, particularly for organizations with less capacity.

Creating Dialogue

The focal point of collaborative governance between the voluntary sector and IRCC is the NSC. Although the NSC enables regular, high-level dialogue, some public-sector informants noted the disadvantages of this type of consultation. One described the NSC as an "elite-brokerage model," where certain individuals and groups receive privileged positions in representation of the larger sector. Policy makers justified the approach on the basis that a representative group enables more consistent dialogue with the sector; "We can't go to 5,000 organizations. We'd have a nervous breakdown," an informant explained. While an elite brokerage model of consultation is bound to create winners and losers, voluntary-sector leaders generally seemed pleased with the quality and quantity of dialogue between the sector and the state, and even key informants from smaller organizations expressed a high general level of satisfaction. Some key informants from the voluntary sector expressed concern that the terms of the Settlement Program itself had been merely "presented" rather than developed in dialogue with the sector, but even these individuals seemed pleased with the dialogue that had been achieved since then. These organizations are satisfied with the level of dialogue because consultation has not been limited to the activities of the National Settlement Council; neither does dialogue begin or end with CFPs and negotiation of agreements. It has been an ongoing process. IRCC organizes Regional Integration Summits and a National Settlement Conference in the period between CFPs, where a broader swath of representatives from the sector meet to discuss best practices, to network, and to present their concerns. More importantly, the accountability and procurement processes assume that dialogue will occur around contribution agreements when issues arise. Where this dialogue is well implemented, organizations felt that consultation had been effective (Transcripts 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, and 12).

Umbrella organizations are the keystone that balances elite brokerage with grassroots input. Formerly, "IRCC understood umbrella organizations as advocacy groups," the leader of one umbrella organization explained. Now public administrators see umbrella organizations as partners in coordinating communication and engagement, in sharing resources, and in managing expectations. Key informants from IRCC expressed concern over how to "engage and nurture these organizations," especially when "they don't have the capacity to represent smaller organizations effectively." There is recognition from umbrella organizations that IRCC is investing in their development, and some, including those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, have increased their operational capacity since the transition to the Modernized Approach. Still, the provincial and regional umbrella organizations are not only diverse in capacity, but in self-perception, in management style, and in governance arrangements. Due to these differences, some are able to represent their members more effectively than others (Cf. Table 1) (Transcripts 4, 5, and 7).

Collaborative Planning

IRCC prioritizes collaborative programs in its CFPs. All stakeholders view collaboration as a way to improve outcomes for newcomers, but anecdotal evidence suggests that organizations have struggled to build the necessary trust to enable large-scale collaboration. Collaborative programs are being developed, but there is competition and mistrust over the power positions in these programs. For example, several Saskatchewan voluntary organizations recently collaborated to develop the Settlement Workers in Schools Program, a province-wide initiative to provide services to the school-age children of immigrants. Initially there was some dispute over where the program's coordinator should be based, whether in Saskatoon or Regina. While this decision was resolved without conflict, decisions about governance rights in future collaborative programs have the potential to break down trust between organizations; likewise, the selection of delegates to umbrella organizations like the National Settlement Council can cause friction between privileged and nonprivileged organizations. In many cases, collaboration is based on trust between individual leaders; as a new generation takes the reins within the sector, the opportunity exists to increase collaborative programming, but, at the same time, collaborative relationships between new leaders will need to be rebuilt from the ground floor. Voluntary-sector leaders need positive experiences of collaboration before they will be willing to devote significant resources toward collaborative projects. This suggests that it is imperative for governments to provide incentives, resources and guidance for fostering positive partnerships that will yield readily visible, positive results to organizations and clients (Transcripts 3 and 11).

The experience of successful collaboration is creating a more positive outlook. IRCC administrators explained that collaborative projects mitigate risk for the funder and reduce complexity for newcomers, and that collaborative administration can also reduce the cost of service delivery because it encourages stability and economies of scale. Furthermore, one voluntary-sector leader explained that collaboration with other organizations can allow an organization to provide services beyond what IRCC chooses to fund. CBOs' missions differed from the priorities articulated by IRCC to varying degrees. For example, organizations might have the mandate to provide antiracist education or to create additional opportunities for immigrant women. Nearly all CBO leaders admitted that they provided services to ineligible clients like refugee claimants from time to time. Collaboration with community organizations (such as local governments or foundations) helps voluntary organizations to provide services that IRCC does not have the mandate to fund. By going beyond what IRCC will fund, collaboration can also spur innovation. If CBOs can present evidence that innovative programs have been successful in meeting the outcomes mandated under the Modernized Approach, even without federal funding, they may receive funding in the next call for proposals. Thus, there is ample reason for IRCC to encourage and service providers to seek collaboration (Transcripts 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8).

Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) are one way that IRCC has chosen to stimulate the sector's collaborative capacity. A policy maker from IRCC explained, "LIPS are a way of building community capacity without working to drive that capacity." Again, this strategy fits with the logic of contribution agreements, which are intended to empower organizations without being overly directive, balancing the authority of the funder to determine outcomes with the autonomy of organizations to execute their own affairs. Stressing IRCC's commitment to encouraging collaboration, this informant boasted, "Not one application for LIPs has been rejected." Although this strategy is still in its infancy outside of Ontario, several quotes demonstrated that voluntary-sector leaders are excited about the possibility of creating collaborative capacity in their communities: "We had been arguing for something like this for fifteen years," one said. Another individual elaborated, "LIPs are a great idea because they start a conversation about the best interests of the client." Still, one individual from IRCC hinted that the benefits of LIPS might not be visible for several years after implementation, and the leader of a voluntary-sector umbrella organization agreed that it "will take time and commitment" to see the fruits of LIPs. In the meantime, there is a definite optimism regarding the future of collaboration in the sector (Transcripts 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 10; cf. CIC 2015).

Capacity Building

Despite the growing importance of indirect service-providers like umbrella organizations, the terms and conditions of the Settlement Program prioritize direct service provision. Only 10% of funding is dedicated to funding indirect service provision. According to one IRCC informant, this division of funds means that of approximately $600 million for settlement services outside of Quebec, only about $60 million is available for all professional development activities, conferences, umbrella organizations, consultations, and intra-sectoral coordination. Likewise, only 15% of program funds can be used for administration. The leader of one small voluntary organization said the disproportionate prioritization of direct services in funding formulas "creates a struggle to survive," because of the inability to create economies of scale. Another voluntary-sector informant claimed that organizations will try to take on too many programs in search of more administrative funding. Directors are incentivized to pursue larger contribution agreements in order to increase the salaries of central administrators and hire more administrative assistants. IRCC did show flexibility in some cases, for example by allowing the director of a small organization to split time between administration and direct service delivery in order to gain a more appropriate salary. Another voluntary-sector leader suggested that putting more resources toward capacity building activities would improve the benefits of the programs his organization already delivered. Such frustrations are the result of the unilateral decision from IRCC to limit funding for indirect services, including capacity building, to 10% of the national settlement budget. Voluntary-sector informants believed that marginally larger allocations for indirect services would be more appropriate. Conflicts over administrative funding sometimes result from what remains of hierarchical decision-making in a decentralized network that is sometimes unresponsive to needs observed at the ground floor (Transcripts 2, 6, and 7).

More than one IRCC employee echoed the idea that service-providers are expected to "hit the ground running." Informants from both sectors used almost identical language to explain that "[IRCC is] purchasing services from these organizations for delivery to newcomers," not building capacity. Policy makers explained that where capacity is lacking, collaboration is expected to fill in the gaps. Here IRCC has tried to play a coordinating role, for example, by connecting younger leaders with mentor organizations or by prioritizing collaborative projects in CFPs (Transcripts 4 and 7).

Remaining Elements of Top-Down Governance

Despite the emphasis within the Modernized Approach on enhanced collaborative governance and coordination, vestiges of hierarchical governance and coordination still exist as IRCC's Ottawa headquarters still exercises considerable directions and control within the system. Furthermore, some of IRCC's priorities are dictated by the TBS's terms and conditions for grants and contributions programs.

While a continuing degree of centralized governance and coordination is concerning for CBOs and to some extent also for IRCC officials, the greater concern is that the direction and guidelines from national headquarters that each of them receives is not entirely symmetrical. Informants suggested that information asymmetries existed, where one party has different or better information than the other about how a program should operate. For example, the online system for reporting, iCare, is intended to assist service-provision organizations with reporting, but it does not inform the work of program officers. One voluntary-sector leader linked this particular asymmetry to the conflicts his organization had experienced with a program officer over program spending (Transcripts 3 and 4).

Even when IRCC imposes its priorities on CBOs unilaterally, it is not insensitive to the unique challenges that some organizations face. IRCC recognizes that a commitment to standardized service delivery requires extra attention to the needs of weaker organizations. One policy maker explained, "Consistency means that we're like Tim Horton's: the same everywhere." Yet this individual recognized that the goal of providing standardized outcomes might require diverse inputs in different jurisdictions. For example, IRCC recognizes the need to be less stringent with francophone settlement organizations, "which tend to be fledgling," an informant explained. Likewise, organizations based in rural and northern communities may require additional support to achieve similar outcomes. Some regions have higher costs of living, while others may have underdeveloped public transit or few opportunities for cultural education. Small organizations too may lack the capacity to fulfill reporting requirements that can easily be met by larger organizations with dedicated administrative staff. Locally based program officers should give IRCC a better understanding of the needs that voluntary organizations can see on the ground. Most organizations were able to find a way to present evidence about their unique needs to program officers, whether that be through a formal report or some other form of dialogue, and special needs were sometimes allowed for in funding and in audits (Transcript 4).


In general, the Modernized Approach has received a positive evaluation from leaders in the voluntary sector and IRCC officials. Clear improvements have been achieved in inputs monitoring, program consolidation, and grassroots consultation. Further improvements are anticipated in outcomes measurement, attitudes toward auditing, capacity for reporting and evaluation, and capacity for collaborative governance. Labour intensive applications, conflict between service-provision organizations, lack of administrative funding for small organizations, and information asymmetry between program officers and CBOs still present problems, indicating that while the Modernized Approach has improved settlement service provision, some additional improvements are needed. Consequently, the initiatives of the past eight years may not be the final iteration of IRCC's efforts to improve the settlement service provision system.

Key informant perspectives provided in this article on the Modernized Approach affirm the perspectives of both those who criticize and those who praise IRCC's current version of the decentralized approach to service provision. They also affirm that with good program design, CBOs can be guided or directed toward the creation of broad public benefits. But those perspectives also indicate that good program design requires ongoing attention to actual results and an attitude of continuous improvement. The Modernized Approach demonstrates that the continued reform of decentralized service provision can generate positive results as voluntary organizations and government employees learn to work together for the benefit of newcomers seeking a better life in Canada.


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This research was made possible thanks to a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Grant and funding from the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

ERIC G. NEUDORF is a Policy Analyst with Employment and Social Development Canada. Eric received his Masters of Public Policy from the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School at the University of Saskatchewan. Before he studied Public Policy, Eric worked as a public school teacher in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He has completed undergraduate degrees in Education (University of Saskatchewan) and Biblical Studies (Briercrest), and he continues to have broad research interests, ranging from co-operative studies and behavioural economics to church history and textual criticism.

Caption: ANNEX 1. The Settlement Program Logic Model as of April 1, 2013
TABLE 1. Umbrella Organizations of Varying Capacity

Organization                          AMSSA            SAISIA

Province                         British Columbia   Saskatchewan

Organization Founded                   1977             1987
Full Member Organizations (a)           67               10
Personnel Expenditures (a)           $629,368         $75,671
New Permanent Residents in            36,210           10,679
  Province, 2013 (b)

Organization                      MIRSSA      OCASI

Province                         Manitoba    Ontario

Organization Founded                --         1978
Full Member Organizations (a)       46         236
Personnel Expenditures (a)       $50,577    $2,374,384
New Permanent Residents in        13,100     103,494
  Province, 2013 (b)

(a) Based on each organization's 2014 annual report.

(b) CIC 2015.

TABLE 2. Voluntary Sector Sample

                     Total Revenues   Number of Employees

Average                $2,363,568            58.6
Standard Deviation     $2,613,293            45.6
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Author:Neudorf, Eric G.
Publication:Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 22, 2016
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