Hundreds Protest Cuts to Immigration Services

Tom Godfrey, Toronto Sun, January 27, 2011

being laid off or affected by funding cuts to 24 GTA organizations that help newcomers and immigrants.

Zhong was emotional at Toronto City Hall on Thursday as he voiced his anger against a federal immigration $40,000 cut to the budget of Toronto Community and Culture Centre that he operates.

“We don’t know what to do,” Zhong told hundreds of immigrant aid workers at a meeting. “We have all these people and don’t have the money to help them.”

He and about 300 others, including some high-profile politicians, urged immigration minister Jason Kenney to stop the $53 million cuts, of which $43 million is aimed at the Toronto area.

Tibetan monk Nawang Choedon said hundreds of young people from his community will be left out in the cold if the programs are axed.

“We have hundreds of young people in our community who are receiving assistance,” Choedon said. “The newcomers of our community are the ones who will suffer the most.”

Members of the Afghan Association of Ontario said most of their funding was cut and they won’t be training interpreters.

Kibrom Debru, of the Eritrean Canadian Community Centre, said his group will lose seven of its eight workers with $300,000 sliced from its budget.

Kripa Sekhar, of the South Asia Women’s Centre, said her group will lose in March almost $570,000 and will have to cut programs.

“We will have to cut back on many services since most of our funding comes from the government,” Sekhar said. “We have helped hundreds of women and their families and this is not fair.”

Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy said about 1,000 staffers may lose their jobs and will affect 78,000 people from 33 organizations that are slated to lose all or partial funding across the country.

About 28 of the agencies are in the GTA.

“This is not a problem for new Canadians but for all Canadians,” Kennedy told workers. “There is a 23% increase in new immigration arriving in the GTA.”

Kenney has said the programs will remain untouched because immigrants are resettling in other cities other than Toronto.

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