$1B in federal funding for immigrants gathering dust

By TOM GODFREY, TORONTO SUN

Almost $1 billion pledged last year by Ottawa to help resettle Ontario immigrants is still sitting in federal coffers as thousands of newcomers wait for the much-needed help.

"The money is coming as slow as molasses," Ontario citizenship and immigration minister Mike Colle said yesterday. "It's taking longer than molasses running uphill."

The long-awaited $920-million immigration agreement was inked last November by then-minister Joe Volpe. The funds, to be paid over five years, will help newcomers integrate, learn English and job training skills so they
could move up the social ladder.

By the end of the deal, Ontario will receive $3,400 per immigrant, up from $900 per immigrant in federal funds they receive.

Colle said he's frustrated the funds haven't arrived to help those in need. He said the money will be distributed to non-government agencies across Ontario.

"I don't think the federal government understands our sense of urgency," Colle said. "These services are what are needed for immigrants to succeed."

Pema Lhalungpa, a spokesman for immigration minister Monte Solberg, said yesterday she was looking into the matter.

NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow has been closely monitoring the millions, which she said is in a government account.

"This is outrageous and very unfair to immigrants," Chow said yesterday. "The local agencies are the ones really crying out for the money."

Joanne Lau, of the Metro Toronto Chinese and South East Asian Legal Clinic, said new immigrants are the ones suffering the most.

"Many can't get a job or move up until they learn English," Lau said yesterday. "Language and job skills are very important for these people to move ahead."

Ontario gets about 140,000 immigrants a year.