Hi Everyone,

As Ontario slowly re-opens and most of us are excited about enjoying the summer with friends and family, the anticipation of having our lives go back to some sort of normalcy is tempered with the recent tragic events of Indigenous children’s remains found in unmarked, unreported graves at former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

While we are all aware of the unprecedented events, we feel the need to address our sadness in our communique today. Over 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and put into residential schools where they were abused and prohibited from speaking their languages or expressing their culture. Many never returned home, and those who did suffered or continue to suffer from unimaginable emotional and physical trauma. The first residential school opened in 1863 and grew to over 150 schools across Canada. The last one closed very recently in 1996.

We cannot change the past, but we should aim to do better than our history by starting and fostering these important conversations in our homes, workplaces, and communities. It is also important to continue to educate ourselves. Reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and enrolling for the Indigenous Canada free course offered by the University of Alberta's Faculty of Native Studies is a good place to start. 
It is crucial to understand the plight of Indigenous peoples in our society today and this includes educating newcomers and international students about recognizing our role as a predominantly non-Indigenous group, and collectively as a settler-colony nation, to work towards reconciliation. We are working on revisiting the current resources relating to Indigenous peoples and are looking forward to developing new tools to share with you in near future.

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066. A 24-hour national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has also been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling at 1-866-925-4419.
The O2O and ISC Team

O2O and ISC Updates

The Orientation to Ontario (O2O) workshops and International Student Connect (ISC) sessions continue to being delivered online via web-conferencing platforms. We also provide tools, resources, and professional development opportunities to all partner organizations to serve their clients virtually and seamlessly across the province. Last year, we served 30,985 newcomers and 13,919 international students via online, in-person and hybrid services.

What's more, the O2O Bilingual Chatbot is now also available on WhatsApp and Telegram. Newcomers can now access standardized information about settling in Ontario 24/7 from their mobile phones. It is also a great tool for front-line staff at Service Delivery Agencies (SDAs) serving newcomers remotely. The chatbot connects users to local settlement service providers across the province and 211 Ontario. It can also be accessed at any time on the O2O website and ISC website via a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

We appreciate the hard work and dedication of all our partners providing settlement services to newcomers and international students. We are here for you to help you serve them. 

Racism and Antiracism

Source: Ontario's Anti-Racism Directorate
Racial discrimination and racism persist in Ontario and Canada. This fact must be acknowledged as a starting point to effectively address racism and racial discrimination.

The O2O and ISC Team is committed to advancing a more inclusive Ontario, and to ensure all people are served and treated equitably. With this goal in mind, we have developed a new factsheet about anti-racism and will continue to add tools and resources to help the settlement sector staff and clients experience true inclusion and build workplaces and communities that work for all.

To read the new Anti-racism factsheet, please click here.

Life and Work in the Post-Pandemic World

How will life and work look like once the pandemic is finally over and all restrictions are lifted? Although is tough to predict the future, experts interviewed on the McKinsey Global Survey agree on one thing: COVID-19 pushed countries, governments, companies, and organizations over the technology tipping point, transforming the way we work and speeding the adoption of digital technologies by several years. Furthermore, these changes are expected to be long-lasting. 

According to the Digital Infrastructure for the Post-Pandemic World report by the Future Skills Centre, when lockdowns hit in March 2020, many working lives went from in-person to online: "A total of 4.7 million Canadians started working from home. As of December 2020, nearly a third of Canada’s workforce was still working from home, including 2.8 million people who would not normally do so". 

However, restricted internet access blocked this arrangement for many. In Canada, digital transformation has been experienced unevenly and has served to deepen some inequalities rather than ease them. To succeed in the post-pandemic world, Canada’s skills strategies must address skills for innovation across sectors. The report The Mother of Invention: Skills for Innovation in the Post-Pandemic World explains that innovation includes not only changes within organizations, whether in terms of new production processes or technology adoption, but also in the process of elevating an organization’s overall capacity to innovate.

Digital Transformation and Hybrid Service Delivery in the Immigrant & Refugee-Serving Sector in Canada

COVID-19 affected the settlement sector like the rest of the society and offered a unique experiment in digital service delivery and a pivot point to embrace innovation and collaboration more formally while working towards a hybrid service delivery model.

The Settlement Sector and Technology Task Group coordinated by the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC (AMSSA) was tasked by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to discover, examine, and learn about the Settlement sector’s needs to successfully implement digital services. The report From Silos to Solutions: Toward Sustainable and Equitable Hybrid Service Delivery in the Immigrant & Refugee-Serving Sector in Canada presents findings and insights generated through a comprehensive exploration of hybrid service delivery over 6 months in the immigrant settlement sector in Canada.

According to the publication, people, not technology, should be at the centre of the digital transformation: “Designing digital services should incorporate human-centred design, ensure security and privacy, have curated, authenticated, and collaborative information-gathering and provision, be accessible to clients, be sustainable, involve newcomers in design and iteration, and be aligned with organizational service goals and mission. Organizations should not rely on anyone specific technology, but create multi-platform, multi-channel communications strategies rooted in the actual use of technology by clients”.

Here’s a summary of their recommendations:
  1. Develop a roadmap to support organizational digital transformation
  2. Establish a common and sector-wide vision for digital literacy
  3. Establish a hybrid service delivery lead at IRCC
  4. Establish baseline sector competencies
  5. Establish a national sector capacity-building approach
  6. Ensure sector nuances are taken into account
To read AMSSA’s full report, please click here.

NEW WEBINAR: Creating Inclusive
Environments for LGBTQ+ Communities

Canada is a diverse society where people strive to cooperate with each other, learn from each other, and create a culture of openness. Ontario’s population includes people from many different cultural and religious backgrounds, with many different abilities, different sexual orientations and differences of all kinds.
It is our responsibility to be inclusive and to create a accessible and inclusive environments where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

Watch this webinar to learn about how to create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ communities, and the history of their evolving rights in Canada. This resource also demonstrates the use of gender-neutral pronouns and the protected characteristics under the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC).

Click below to watch it today!

PUBLIC FORUM: Ottawa, is there a problem? International student numbers, job experiences and pathways to permanent residency

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided opportunities for policymakers, educational institutions, settlement agencies, and immigrant and ethnic communities to recognize the unique circumstances and vulnerabilities of international students in Canada.

According to the Building Migrant Resilience in Cities / Immigration et résilience en milieu urb ain (BMRC-IRMU) Partnership, the growing number of international students that wish to become Permanent Residents and/or Canadian Citizens present urgent challenges concerning the admission of skilled workers and the provision of settlement services in the country.

These challenges were discussed in the public forum Ottawa, is there a problem? International student numbers, job experiences and pathways to permanent residency organized by BMRC-IRMU on March 9, 2021.

Click the video below to watch the full recording of this event.

New exemptions for fully vaccinated travellers
who meet specific conditions

To limit the further spread of coronavirus in Canada, travel restrictions are in place across all border crossings. Since July 5, there are some exemptions for people who are allowed to enter Canada and who also meet specific conditions for fully vaccinated travellers. 

To qualify travellers must:

Those who meet the requirements may be exempt from:

  • quarantine
  • hotel stopover (for air travellers)
  • day-8 testing requirement
To learn more, visit

What is Orientation to Ontario (O2O)?

Orientation to Ontario (O2O) is a bilingual program designed to ease the transition of newcomers by providing access to standardized information about settling in Ontario. It is coordinated by COSTI, and funded by IRCC and the Government of Ontario.
Information is provided through customized workshops at over 30 Service Delivery Agencies (SDAs) across the province. O2O offers helpful online resources: a workbook, webinars, fact sheets on various settlement topics, and a chatbot.

Check out the O2O Workbook in English and French, and learn more about the program here.

What is International Student Connect (ISC)?

International Student Connect (ISC) is a bilingual project that provides settlement support and orientation to international students pursuing post-secondary education in Ontario. It is coordinated by COSTI and funded by the Government of Ontario.

Our goal is to help international students integrate successfully should they choose to settle in Ontario after graduation. Information is provided through one to two hours Let’s Connect sessions or One-on-One sessions at Colleges and Universities.

Check out the ISC Handbook and learn more about the project here.

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COSTI Immigrant Services
2301 Keele Street, Unit 102
Toronto, ON
M6N 3Z9

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International Student Connect · 2301 Keele Street · Unit 102 · Toronto, On M6N 3Z9 · Canada

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