COSTI and the Community

COSTI’s work in the community continues to be a high priority.

COSTI’s over-arching goal is to contribute to creating conditions that enable immigrants and vulnerable populations to contribute and engage in their communities. Through active participation in local, provincial and national committees, advisory groups and ad hoc coalitions, we have represented the voice of immigrants and the immigrant-serving sector in planning, service development, coordination, research, public policy and education. COSTI’s leadership team works to promote public policies that facilitate the integration of immigrants and support their communities to build internal leadership and capacity. In 2020/21, COSTI continued to foster a collaborative approach to service delivery by developing programming and partnerships that support new delivery models. Over 20 new partnerships were developed with community health organizations, grassroots community groups, faith-based organizations, settlement agencies and educational institutions.

COSTI’s Stakeholder and Community Engagement Office continued to work with existing and new partners to deliver services to government-sponsored refugees and refugee claimants that support their integration: activities, community events and workshops that engaged children and parents; help with introducing them to services available in their local community; and donations of food, clothing and household items.

While many shifted entirely to virtual services during the pandemic, children, youth and adult newcomers continued to participate and enjoy on-site activities: story-telling circles led by the Toronto Public Library; movie nights; English conversation circles; legal information sessions; positive parenting workshops conducted by Children Aid Society; the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) reading clubs; nutrition sessions and vaccine clinics administered by Toronto Public Health; and music and art therapy programing organized by several partners: Connect City, CultureLink, Music for Hope, Muse Arts, Rainbow Songs Foundation, and YMCA Toronto.

The family-matching initiative, where Canadian host families paired with refugee families continued in 2020/21 with the Together Project in a virtual setting. Host families provided invaluable support and assistance to refugee newcomers – from the day they move from temporary housing to their new home. They provide support in receiving furniture; setting up their households; shopping for essential items such as food, bedding, etc.; escorting families to local financial institutions, parks and community centres; exploring nearby public transportation routes, and help in registering children in school.

COSTI supported the continued development of local community groups, such as the South Asian Women’s Rights Organization serving Bangladeshi women in Scarborough. COSTI worked with hundreds of partner organizations throughout Ontario to coordinate the International Student Connect program, Gambling, Gaming and Technology Use services and the Orientation to Ontario program as well as the Welcome Centre Immigrant Services network in York Region. Collaborative and innovative approaches to service delivery allows COSTI and key partners the opportunity to meet the needs of underserved communities and also develop internal capacity to build, enhance and sustain services.