Evaluation of the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program (ISAP)

1.0  Introduction

1.1 Context for the Evaluation

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC’s) mission is to build a stronger Canada by:

  • enabling the migration of temporary and permanent residents to meet the social, economic and cultural needs of communities across Canada;
  • contributing to the management of international migration, including refugee protection;
  • screening newcomers to help protect the health, safety and security of Canadians;
  • supporting the successful integration of newcomers; and
  • promoting Canadian citizenship.

In supporting the successful integration of newcomers, CIC funds and administers three settlement programs (targeted to immigrants and refugees), and one resettlement program (solely targeted to refugees). These programs and their objectives are:

  • Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program (ISAP)ISAP assists immigrant settlement and integration through funding to service providers in order to deliver direct services to immigrants such as reception, orientation, translation, interpretation, referral to community resources, solution-focused counselling, general information and employment-related services, and to provide indirect services that aim to improve the delivery of settlement services. These could include workshops, research projects or staff training programs.
  • Host Program – The Host program helps immigrants overcome the stress of moving to a new country. Volunteers familiar with Canadian ways help newcomers learn about available services and how to use them, practice English and French, get contacts in their field of work and participate in the community. At the same time, host Canadians learn about new cultures, other lands and different languages; they make new friends and they strengthen community life.
  • Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) – LINC facilitates the social, cultural and economic integration of immigrants and refugees into Canada. In addition, the LINC curriculum includes information that helps to orient newcomers to the Canadian way of life. This, in turn, helps them to become participating members of Canadian society as soon as possible. Other components of LINC are the indirect services provided through LINC Delivery Assistance that aim to improve the delivery of the program (including curriculum development, workshops and the development of tools for program delivery).
  • Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) – RAP has two main components of program delivery: 1) income support to government assisted refugees (GARs) for up to 12 months (administered and delivered by CIC); and 2) services to GARs in the first four to six weeks, including reception at the port of entry, temporary accommodation, orientation and information, assistance finding permanent accommodation and applying for mandatory government programs, assessment and referrals. These services are delivered by service provider organizations (SPOs).

Actual spending for the 2003–04 fiscal year for the four programs was as follows [note1]:

  • $36.7 million for ISAP,
  • $2.9 million for Host Program,
  • $92.7 million for LINC, and,
  • $40.4 million for RAP.

CIC directly manages these settlement programs through its national headquarters (NHQ) and regional offices in seven provinces and the territories. Funding is provided to SPOs, which deliver the services at the community level. CIC also provides funds for projects aimed at improving the way settlement services are delivered through ISAP Stream B funding (e.g., research projects, pilot projects, conferences, program tools). In Quebec (under the Canada-Quebec Accord of 1991) and in Manitoba and British Columbia (under Immigration Agreements), the provincial governments receive transfer payments from CIC to manage and deliver comparable settlement programming. Resettlement programming is administered by CIC and delivered in SPOs in all provinces, except Quebec.

1.2 ISAP Program Description

The activities carried out in the ISAP program generally comprise six services delivered directly to individual clients, as well as two activities that build the capacity of the agency or the service system. Not all of the following activities will be provided to every client or by every service provider.

  • Direct service delivery to clients, including:
    • Needs assessment: This service involves determining eligibility for services and assessing newcomers’ needs, resources, strengths and barriers. It often includes assisting newcomers to set goals, priorities and develop realistic plans. Assessments may be carried out several times depending on the phase of settlement. Initial assessments may focus on immediate settlement needs such as housing, while six months later clients may request a vocational assessment.
    • Referrals to community services: To a large extent, settlement services function as a mediator between newcomers and the general community. A core component of ISAP involves referring newcomers to resources in the community related to the client’s immediate settlement needs, such as job-search services, health care, legal services, recreation and education.
    • Information and orientation: This service provides guidance and information to newcomers regarding the skills required to meet everyday needs, including housing, banking, shopping, access to social and health services, and their rights and obligations in Canada. The service may be carried out overseas through the Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) initiative.
    • Interpretation and translation: This service provides oral interpretation or written translation related to essential or immediate settlement needs for newcomers with a limited capacity to speak English or French.
    • Solution-focused counselling: This service assists newcomers in problem solving by helping them to define their problems and identifying the resources available to them. It is not psychotherapy, and it typically requires between one to five sessions. It might include helping newcomers and their families to articulate their problems clearly enough to search out appropriate referrals, or to mobilize their informal networks, or to clarify some of the common issues relating to settlement and family reunification.
    • Employment-related services: According to newcomers themselves, employment is the single most important aspect of settlement, and their greatest need. Employment-related services can include a variety of activities, such as professional networking, résumé writing, interview skills, and even enhanced occupation-specific language training. The extent to which formal employment-related services are provided through ISAP varies widely across the country. For example, Ontario Region funds Job Search Workshops, a structured program that teaches newcomers how to prepare résumés and search for jobs. In other provinces, ISAP services may be restricted to referrals or a brief explanation of the local labour market.
  • Capacity building activities, including
    • Service bridging: This activity involves assisting non-settlement services and the broader community to understand and serve newcomers. For example, a service provider might join a committee at a local hospital to improve the admitting procedures for newcomers. Service bridging may be undertaken on a one-to-one basis, (e.g., with landlords), or in a group (e.g., with police officers or health care workers). It does not include any form of political advocacy. Ontario Region’s Settlement Workers in Schools is a program that incorporates service bridging with information and referral services targeted at newcomers and their families who are involved with the school system.
    • Program support and monitoring: Finally, service providers carry out a range of activities to support program delivery and meet the requirements of their funders, including CIC. Program Support and Monitoring includes client data collection and reporting; tracking, monitoring and improving programs; providing training to staff; carrying out research or program assessments; planning and community needs assessments, and working with other service providers or funders to build the capacity of the agency or settlement service system. For example, consultations with minority language communities are included under this activity, as is the Immigration Contribution Accountability Measurement System (iCAMS) data entry. Settlement.org, a website that serves settlement workers, is an example of a program that would be mainly covered under Program Support and Monitoring. In fact, most ISAP B projects would be included under this activity.

1.3 Scope and Objectives of the Evaluation

This evaluation was undertaken as part of the implementation of the evaluation component of the Contribution Accountability Framework for Settlement and Resettlement Programs. To date, the RAP and LINC evaluations have been completed. The objective of the current assignment is to carry out the evaluation of ISAP. A separate evaluation of the Host Program was undertaken at the same time to minimize the burden on potential respondents.

The ISAP evaluation focused exclusively on services managed directly by CIC. The agreements signed between the federal government and some provinces (i.e., Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia) for the delivery of settlement services were not included. As well, the ISAP COA initiative will be evaluated separately.

The objective of the ISAP evaluation was to provide evidence to answer questions related to four main evaluation issues:

  • Program Rationale – To what extent does the program remain relevant to the priorities of the Government of Canada and to the needs of newcomers?
  • Program Delivery – Are the design and delivery of the program appropriate?
  • Effectiveness and Efficiency – To what extent does the program use the most appropriate, efficient and cost-effective methods to meet its objectives?
  • Success – To what extent has the program been successful in achieving its desired outcomes?

1.4 Methodology Overview and Caveats

A more detailed presentation of the methodology can be found in Appendix A and collection instruments are available under separate cover. The data collection for this evaluation spanned about six weeks, from July 19 to August 31, 2004. Over this time period, Goss Gilroy Inc. (GGI) conducted the following:

  • Data and document review – GGI reviewed available reports, websites and data reports generated from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) and the Immigrant Database (IMDB).
  • Twenty-one key informant interviews with CIC representatives – GGI conducted interviews with six individuals at headquarters and 15 individuals at the regional or local level.
  • Nine key informant interviews with SPO representatives – These service providers were invited to participate in an interview that probed more deeply into issues of program relevance, design, overall success and alternatives.
  • Two key informant interviews with stakeholders – Stakeholders were considered representatives from umbrella organizations representing the agencies that provide services to newcomers. They were asked to comment on the overall relevance, design, success and alternatives to the program.
  • Six focus groups with 54 ISAP clients were held in Edmonton (n=1), Toronto (n=3), Ottawa (n=1) and Moncton (n=1) – The group in Moncton was conducted in French. Up to two SPOs in each city were asked to recruit the participants. Participants represented a range of demographic characteristics, ethnic backgrounds and languages. Up to 10 participants were recruited for each group and participants were paid an honorarium of $50.
  • A telephone survey of 84 SPOs delivering ISAP settlement services (representing a response rate of 70 percent) – All service providers that received ISAP funding in the 2004–05 fiscal year were first contacted with a letter and subsequently called and invited to participate in a telephone interview. Participants were offered the choice to complete the survey in either official language. All potential respondents were called up to five times before being considered a non-response. Interviews lasted, on average, between 40 and 50 minutes.
  • Three innovative practice case studies – Job Search Workshops, Newcomer Information Centres and the School Support Program. These case studies explored the factors that make the project/case study an innovative practice and how it might be applicable to a wider context and in different jurisdictions. For each case study, GGI conducted up to two interviews and a document review (where available).

The names of key informants and focus group details are presented in Appendix B. Findings for the innovative practice cases studies are available in Appendix C and are interwoven throughout the report, as appropriate.

The findings in this report should be interpreted with the following in mind:

  • No data was made available to the consultant (to support or explain findings suggested by key informants or the survey respondents) with respect to the number of newcomers accessing programs, what kinds of newcomers access programs, what programs are accessed most often and for how long. This seriously limits the extent to which the evaluation can draw conclusions and make recommendations, since most of the findings are opinion-based and not placed in the context of actual service delivery figures.
  • Findings related to the outcomes of clients are limited to those gleaned from focus groups. As well, service providers were asked their opinions as to client outcomes. The evaluation design did not include a survey of clients due to funding and time constraints. Thus, while findings related to outcomes are reported, the extent to which they are representative of the ISAP client base is unclear.
  • While a telephone survey response rate of 70 percent is generally considered quite good, it likely could have been improved if the evaluation had taken place at some time other than during the summer.
  • Any evaluation of one of CIC’s national settlement programs must acknowledge the different roles of headquarters and the regions in the delivery of the programs. Since the evaluation was national in scope and did not include evaluation issues/questions pertaining to how regions allocate their funds, how regions and local offices interact with service providers, or how regions make decisions regarding the delivery of their programs, recommendations for the national evaluation will not address these matters.

1.5 Organization of the Report

Rather than a traditional evaluation report organized around the main evaluation issues, we have chosen to take a more strategic approach. This approach presents the evaluation results by theme, or main finding. It is the expectation that not only will this approach offer a more concise and direct report, but that the themes will better lend themselves to decision making for the program. As well, it is believed that a presentation by main theme will make the transition to the recommendations smoother. The themes of this report include the:

  • appropriateness of the Current Delivery Model;
  • overall Success of the Program; and,
  • adequacy of Capacity and Service Gaps.

To ensure comprehensive coverage of the evaluation issues, however, Section 5 presents a Summary of Findings by Evaluation Issue. This section is organized around the traditional four evaluation issues. Challenges are presented in Section 6 and Recommendations are presented in Section 7. Should the reader wish to view the evaluation issues and questions, they are presented in Appendix D.


1. From CIC Departmental Performance Report (DPR) for the period ending March 31, 2004.

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