In its 2015 budget, the Saskatchewan government is focused on enabling people to participate in its growing economy, but it's not aggressive on the long-term elements. The new immigrant settlement program funding has no increase or decrease in this budget.
“We are going to get the same commitment this year in terms of immigrant settlement programs,” said Jeremy Harrison, minister immigration, jobs, skills and training.
The success of Saskatchewan’s immigration strategy is dependent on the province’s ability to retain new immigrants and help them get a good start in Saskatchewan.
Last year’s budget saw an increase of $1.5 million, for a total of $8.9 million. This year, there is no increase and the budget will remain $8.9 million.
Agencies supporting Saskatchewan newcomers were authorized for every fiscal year through the Saskatchewan Immigration Settlement Assistance Grant program, Harrison said.
The funds will help the Regina Open Door Society, the Saskatoon Open Door Society, the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council Inc., the Prince Albert Multicultural Council and the Saskatchewan Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies Inc. deliver integral immigration settlement and support services in the province.
“We really appreciate settlement agencies. Immigrants and refugees can access the services they need to make the transition to life in Saskatchewan both easy and comfortable,” Harrison said.
The Saskatchewan government has granted annual funding to these agencies for more than 20 years.
Saskatchewan’s settlement programs complement other services and programs offered, such as career and employment services, adult basic education, quick skills training, and post-secondary training.
But new immigrants are not always getting fast, quality service.
“We are new in Saskatchewan. As a newcomer, the first couple of weeks we did not get support as we expected,” said Saskatchewan newcomer Shabaz Akter.
He also said his family has to spend all of its money in the first couple of weeks of arrival because no help was offered.
But Harrison said the government put more money in this sector then any other previous government did.
The SINP program province received 11,000 new immigrants last year, and will continue to increase. Last year the federal government allowed Saskatchewan only 4,550 families, but this will increase to 5,500 families in 2015-16.
Part of the government’s Plan for Growth is to support the labour market with a supply of skilled employees, attracting new immigrants to the province and encouraging them to make Saskatchewan home according to Harrison.
“Stay tuned, there maybe some additional good news on the way, particularly for immigrant settlement programs,” Harrison said.