The Mission of the Advocacy Committee is to advocate on behalf of ATESL on issues which affect the members and their learners.
What’s Up With the Revised Citizenship Guide?
Last summer, the Advocacy Committee wrote to the IRCC team heading up the development of the new Citizenship Guide, to request information on its roll-out, and to offer help if they needed assistance to make it more readable than the Discover Canada 2010 version. IRCC took us up on our offer, and for several weeks in November and December, one of our members spent a lot of time going through the guide, to simplify wording and to make content suggestions.
IRCC had consulted with over 100 individuals and departments, so needless to say, the new guide is not going to be any shorter than the old guide, and it still has a lot of information that is not really necessary to become a citizen. You know what they say about too many cooks!
However, the new version is less partisan than the current guide, and at last look, it was much better written. However, Parliamentarians have been asked to provide more feedback on content for the guide, so another draft will be written by late April – and an ATESL Advocacy Committee member will review the latest draft at that time. Once the text is finished, photos, charts and tables can be added and, fingers crossed, we’ll see the new version before the end of the year.
Thank you for your signatures!!
In the early months of last year, the ATESL Advocacy Committee and the ATESL Board urged our membership to sign a petition to eliminate the refugee transportation loans. The Advocacy Committee also wrote to our provincial and territorial counterparts, urging them to do the same. In addition, we wrote to several leading Cabinet Ministers, the Prime Minister and, of course, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Many of you signed the petition – and your voices were heard!
Although the loan program has not been withdrawn, the government clearly recognizes that it has been a barrier to settlement for many newcomers. To lessen the stress of refugees after arrival, several changes have been made to the program. These changes are not ideal, but they will definitely help newcomers and sponsors by giving more flexibility. Here is the official announcement:
Ottawa, February 21, 2018 — Changes came into effect today to the Immigration Loans Program which will ease the loan repayment process and give resettled refugees more time to repay their immigration loan, which will aid with their integration by giving them more time to focus on improving their language skills and making use of the settlement services available to help them to become part of Canadian society faster.
Immigration loans were first introduced in 1951 to assist people displaced by the Second World War who were travelling to Canada to start a new life.
Immigration loans provide eligible immigrants, who are mainly refugees selected for resettlement to Canada, with access to funding that would otherwise not be available. Loans are used to cover a number of expenses, including travel to Canada and other costs associated with resettlement.
To make loan repayment easier:
repayment begins 1 year after arrival in Canada (previously it was 30 days);
new loans are interest free;
existing loans will have no further accumulation of interest; and
the repayment period has been extended by 2 years, to reduce the size of monthly installments.
These changes will also keep loans fixed at the amount that was originally borrowed. For more information, visit:
LGBTQ Advocacy and Awareness
As members of the Advocacy Committee of ATESL, we seek to advocate for the needs of newcomer groups, as well as teachers of English as a Second Language. In this newsletter, we would like to take this opportunity to provide a brief overview of some recent research on one such newcomer group – individuals who identify as LGBTQ - and share a few resources for both teachers and for students in your classes who may wish to connect with these resources.
A recent influx of LGBTQ newcomers has led to an increase in awareness and services for this population, in particular, refugee claimants seeking asylum because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. A 2016 report entitled “Provisioning Settlement Services for LGBTQ Newcomers to Edmonton” prepared for the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) offers some insight for individuals working with LGBTQ newcomers:
- Confidentiality is critical for LGBTQ newcomers because of the homophobia that exists within many newcomer communities (p.4)
- Settlement agencies may have a role to play in connecting LGBTQ newcomers to their co-national communities and combating homophobia in these communities to make LGBTQ individuals feel safer.
- LGBTQ individuals may need to be referred to counselling and supports to help them navigate their new life in Canada, including the homophobia that they may encounter, as well as the re-traumatization that they may face as they go through the refugee process.
The full 85-page report can be found at http://refugeealberta.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Provisioning-Settlement-Services-for-LGBTQ-Newcomers.pdf.
For newcomers, there are several new supports available to help them find their way in Edmonton.
- In September 2017, EMCN hired Basel Abou Hamrah to work as an LGBTQ settlement practitioner. His role at the centre is to assist refugee claimants with their refugee applications, and to help them find housing, medical care, and social connections.
- Basel and another colleague from EMCN, Sara Buczynski, also started up an LGBTQ newcomers group to encourage them to support each other and socialize together. Interested individuals can contact Basel at EMCN for details about when the group meets. The group can also be found on Facebook by searching “LGBTQ + Newcomers Edmonton.” Allies (individuals who are supportive but do not identify as LGBTQ) are also welcome to attend weekly events and offer connection.
For teachers or other interested allies, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) offers a free LGBTQ+ Positive Space Webinar Series that provides some general training on LGBTQ topics. Go to OCASI.org to sign up for these free webinars or search for other useful resources on their site. Additionally, teachers may wish to find information on the following websites:
- International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ilga.org)
- Egale Canada (Canada’s LGBT Human Rights Organization (egale.ca)
- The Pride Centre of Edmonton
- Calgary Outlink: Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (calgaryoutline.ca)
Please see links here for curriculum plans to assist in addressing LGBTQ in the ESL/LINC Classroom: