A Manitoba organization that provides settlement services for refugees and newcomers says it’s losing the federal funding it uses to support government-sponsored refugees.
Welcome Place learned last Friday the money it normally gets from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada earmarked for their work with the particular refugee group will end in April.
Rita Chahal, the executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, also known as Welcome Place, says the federal funding makes up about one-third of the budget and will impact staffing.
“There will be cuts because there is a whole program that will not be running now out of Welcome Place. We have to adjust our staffing,” she said.
These changes could affect long-time staff members, many who were previously refugees themselves, she said.
It also means a big change for a long-standing program.
“As an organization that’s been providing resettlement services for government-assisted refugees arriving in Manitoba for the last 40 years, it is a new reality we have to work with,” Chahal said.
In 2018, Welcome Place received about $750,000 from the federal government toward its resettlement assistance program. The previous year it received more than double that number.
CBC News reached out to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to understand more about this funding cut but didn’t immediately hear back.
Welcome Place’s settlement department served 3,469 new and existing clients in 2017 and 2018. Among them were 626 new privately-sponsored refugees primarily from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia and 209 new government-assisted refugees primarily from Iraq, Eritrea and Congo.
The previous year, Welcome Place supported 552 government-assisted refugees and 990 the year before that.
The program offers settlement services, temporary housing and volunteer matching, among other things.
Chahal said the work that’s been done over the past decades is valuable and she hopes they can use it to move forward in other ways.
“There’s a lot of collective experience and expertise that exists within our staff and what we’ve built. We want to make sure that isn’t lost. We want to build on that to continue to serve our current clients,” Chahal said.
Welcome Place received provincial funding this past spring for refugee claimants and privately-sponsored refugees.
Refugee claimants are different than government-assisted refugees because they are seeking protection under Canadian law, rather than being referred to Canada by the United Nations Refugee Agency for assistance, she explains
“We’re very committed to continuing to serve our current clients and we look forward to serving new ones,” Chahal said.