Executive Director’s Message

It is with mixed feelings that I write my 36th and final Annual Report as Executive Director of COSTI Immigrant Services. After 35 years at COSTI, I have decided to retire. It is probably a good time to depart as the past year has been exceptional, seeing unprecedented growth in our services and solid operational continuity in a pandemic. It was the second full year of working remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clients successfully accessed our services virtually, from Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) English classes to settlement counselling to employment counselling. By the end of the fiscal year, we had begun in-person services with staff on a rotation schedule to manage the number of people in the office. Currently, all of COSTI’s offices are accessible in person.

Of course, during this period our hostel and refugee residential services continued to be fully offered in person. It is remarkable that these services at the Ralph Chiodo Family Immigrant Reception Centre and at three hotels were offered safely at a time of vigorous growth. In August 2021, Canada started receiving significant numbers of Afghan refugees. COSTI was responsible for resettling those destined for Toronto. By March 2022, we had received and housed close to 2,000 government-assisted refugees. These services were enhanced by volunteer and support services from the community to provide children’s activities and supports to families at the hotels. 

At the same time, the City of Toronto shelters department requested additional capacity for their services to the homeless. This necessitated further expansion of COSTI’s hostel services. Between the growth in refugee services and hostel services, 102 additional employees were hired. This managed growth was made possible because of learnings and measures taken subsequent to COSTI’s work in resettling 2,200 Syrian refugees six years ago.

This expansion of services to the community and the adoption by our Board of a very compelling Strategic Plan, makes me very reluctant to retire. I will miss this work because if one wants to make a difference in peoples’ lives and in the quality of life in our community, COSTI is the place to be. This work is inherently rewarding. It is inspiring to experience the courage of newcomers as they start over in a new country, with all the challenges that entails. I will miss the passion and dedication of COSTI’s employees. There are many examples of employees who have gone beyond their duty to support an ill client who has no family here or to deliver a food hamper to an isolated senior during the pandemic lockdown. It has been gratifying to work with government partners and community organizations who collectively strive to make life livable for the most marginalized in our society. 

Our Board is an amazing group of talented people from diverse walks of life. They have stayed focused on our mission while giving me and our management team the flexibility to make things happen. And those things have happened because they have asked the right questions and provided expert support. Thank you, Pina and friends, for your leadership and support.

Finally, we have an experienced and talented new CEO in Samina Sami. She will provide the leadership needed to navigate the organization through exciting times. Her knowledge of the settlement sector and work with immigrants and refugees will prove to be invaluable. I am very confident in what COSTI will achieve for newcomers as it transitions to new possibilities.

Mario J. Calla
Executive Director