Hundreds urge feds to undo ‘despicable’ settlement agency funding cuts

Toronto Liberal MPs launched the Fair Start campaign at city hall Thursday to urge the federal government to restore funding for settlement agencies in the GTA.

In December, Citizenship and Immigration Canada notified more than a dozen Toronto agencies, including Scarborough’s Tropicana Community Services, that it would not renew their funding contracts.

“Newcomers won’t be served even by that big organization,” MP Gerard Kennedy said. “Nobody wins in this scenario.”

MP Carolyn Bennett called the cuts “absolutely despicable.”

“This is like closing a hospital without knowing where the patients will go,” she said.

The cuts come at a time when immigration levels and the unemployment rate are going up in Toronto, Kennedy said.

“This is not really a problem for new Canadians: it’s a problem for all Canadians,” he said. “What we want to do is make sure that this remains a federal issue and doesn’t end up becoming something that city council is forced to deal with because of the problems it creates for the City of Toronto.”

Hundreds of people attended the launch of the Fair Start campaign, including many directly affected by the cuts.

About 81 per cent of the national $53-million funding cut will be in Ontario.

The MPs urged Torontonians to petition their local representatives to speak against the government’s decision.