As per the requirements under the Financial Administration Act, an evaluation of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) initiative was required in fiscal year 2011/12. COA is one of three in-person pre-departure orientation initiatives funded by the department and CIC is in the process of establishing an overseas orientation strategy to frame immigrants’ orientation needs and its programming priorities regarding pre-departure services. Therefore, the evaluation was expanded to include all three of CIC’s pre-departure orientation initiatives.
COA was first introduced in 1998 and provides pre-departure orientation to assist individuals who have been accepted for immigration to Canada in preparing for their move to Canada and to facilitate their integration into Canadian society. COA is currently delivered on behalf of CIC by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), under a contribution agreement. The management of the contribution agreement is the responsibility of the Integration Program Management Branch (IPMB), Operations Sector, while program and policy support is provided by Integration and Refugees Affairs Branches, Strategic and Program Policy (SPP). The objectives of COA are to:
- provide pre-departure orientation to Canada-bound refugees and immigrants;
- enhance their knowledge about Canada prior to arrival;
- determine participants’ perceptions of Canada and, as necessary, dispel rumours, misconceptions, and unrealistic expectations;
- have participants reflect on specific issues that relate to their settlement and integration to Canada;
- inform participants of their rights and freedoms, as well as their responsibilities and obligations as permanent residents and future citizens of Canada;
- make participants aware of difficulties they may encounter during their first few months in Canada; and
- help participants gain a sense of control over their new lives so that they arrive in Canada self-confident and aware of what to expect and what is expected from them.
COA sessions are offered to all categories of immigrants who have been selected for permanent resident status; however, priority is given to resettled refugees. Over a six-year period, COA provided pre-departure orientation to over 82,000 individuals (Table 1-1), with the largest proportion of clients served being FSWs (35.8%).