News / Toronto

Foreign governments looking to Toronto for its success in refugee integration

City's Newcomer Office now being modeled in Montreal, following recent success in welcoming and integrating Syrians.

A Syrian refugee family, sponsored by a local group called Ripple Refugee Project, pose for photos as they arrive at Pearson Airport last December. Toronto has become a world model on refugee integration.

Torstar News Service file

A Syrian refugee family, sponsored by a local group called Ripple Refugee Project, pose for photos as they arrive at Pearson Airport last December. Toronto has become a world model on refugee integration.

Toronto has become a teacher for countries around the world grappling with newcomer integration.

A Dutch government delegation, which visited the city this week, is the latest in a string of foreign dignitaries making their way here to learn about welcoming and successfully integrating immigrants and refugees.

The city started attracting interest early this year when private sponsors brought in thousands of Syrian refugees, complementing government-led efforts as the world tried to get a grip on the Syrian refugee crisis, said Toronto Newcomer Office manager Vera Dodic.

Since then, hundreds of researchers, policymakers and social service providers from a variety of countries, including Britain, Sweden and even the U.S., have visited to learn about the resettlement system. A group from Italy is coming in the next few weeks. The city of Montreal is in the process of launching its own newcomer office, modeled after Toronto’s.

Toronto has been at the epicenter of Canada’s bid to help Syrians with 5,074 coming into the city as of Oct. 14 — that’s 17 per cent of all arrivals to the country.

People from outside are impressed, Dodic said, because “refugees generally succeed here.”

In the case of Syrians, they become permanent residents upon arrival, giving them more equal opportunities for work and education.

“That gives them quicker access to integration and building their life,” Dodic said. “They become part of the society quickly.”

The newcomer office has recently opened two new kiosks – one at City Hall and the other at Housing Connections, 176 Elm St. – so people can access resources and information inside city facilities. More will soon be opened at various civic centres across the city, said Dodic.

Coun. Joe Mihevc said most of the countries visiting have been plagued with “anti-immigrant sentiments,” and it’s encouraging that Toronto remains a “city of hope even in the middle of all the Trumpism.”

“We’ve created a culture of diversity that doesn’t make anyone an outsider,” he said.

More on Metronews.ca