Catholic Centre for Immigrants – Ottawa

The Catholic Centre for Immigrants (CCI Ottawa):

  • promotes and facilitates the reception of newcomers to Canada
  • sensitizes the community to address newcomers’ needs and invites it to respond
  • assists newcomers to realize their full potential in Canadian Society


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Free Interpretation Services for Healthcare Providers

Free Interpretation Services for Healthcare Providers

One of the key challenges when serving newcomers is communicating with them in their own language. Refugees, in particular, usually have a limited knowledge of English or French.  Ottawa Language Access (OLA) – a program of Somerset West Community Health Centre’s Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre – exists to fill this gap by providing free interpretation services to support service providers in Ottawa who have refugees and immigrants as patients or clients.

Launched in July 2015, OLA provides guaranteed interpretation services on request in over 150 languages, either in-person or over the phone. By providing health information that is accurately and safely conveyed, professional interpreters contribute to improved client safety and better quality of care. They are trained to be professional, accurate, and impartial at all times, and are bound by a code of ethics and strict standards of practice. Like any member of a healthcare team, professional interpreters maintain client confidentiality.

To find out more  |  Call 613-691-0192 ext. 6007 or visit

Picnic on the beach

Picnic on the beach

CCI Ottawa’s Community Connections Team organized a Potluck picnic at Petrie Island with clients, volunteers and friends.  It was a perfect day to make new friends, share some food and mark the end of the summer. Thanks to everyone who joined us to enjoy a picnic on the beach!

The Community Connections Program encourages social, cultural and professional interactions between newcomers and the established community. It assists immigrants and refugees to become engaged and feel at home in Ottawa. The Community connections program offers group activities to help newly arrived immigrants and refugees practice English and French, meet people and learn about Canadian and other cultures.

Private sponsors given choice of swapping delayed Syrian refugees for others

Private sponsors given choice of swapping delayed Syrian refugees for others

Jennifer Chevalier · CBC News 

Ottawa is offering certain private sponsors of Syrian refugees whose entry to Canada has been delayed to get replacement families.

“It’s a difficult choice,” said Don Smith, chair of the refugee working group for the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa.

“Sponsorship ends up being a personal commitment between people here and people there. If you know the people, you’re not going to give up on them.”

The government has been under increasing pressure to respond to the complaints of private sponsors still waiting for refugees to arrive.

The current offer only applies to a small section of privately sponsored Syrian refugees — those on the government’s Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) list — for which the government and private sponsors split the costs.

Since March, about 140 Syrian BVOR cases have been delayed.

The government made non-travel-ready cases available to sponsorship groups to meet the “overwhelming interest in BVOR sponsorship during the Syrian resettlement initiative.” Sponsors were warned at the time that their refugee families still had to be screened.

“Some of these cases are currently on hold pending security/criminality and/or medical checks,” said Lindsay Wemp of the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, in an email.

The new refugees will have already passed their medical and security screening.

The government has promised to bring over the refugees who have been replaced as government-assisted refugees if their cases are eventually approved.

Many sponsorship groups now have to make difficult decisions.

“Absolutely we would take a substitute family, [but] we’d be disappointed,” said John Wright, co-chair of a sponsorship group based in Ottawa that’s waited since January for their family to arrive.

“We hope that the first family find their way to Canada. We may never know what happens to them.”

Wright and his group have no connection with their refugee family they selected from a government list.

“Of course we had hoped for the family, the family we’ve never met, to come here,” said Wright, who has mixed feelings about the federal government’s offer. “But we have so little information [about the delay], we just have to accept that. And we’re really hopeful that we can have someone else in their stead.”

Smith says that by offering to replace one refugee family with another, the government is living up to its commitment to both refugees and private sponsors.

“They will get a family to sponsor, and the [refugee] families will come,” he said. “One way or another. It is a good resolution to what turned out to be a sticky situation.”

But other sponsorship groups feel too close to their prospective family to give up on them.

Philip English’s group has already sponsored one Syrian refugee family, and is now waiting for the father’s brother, wife and child to arrive from Jordan.

“It doesn’t work for us at all,” English said. “There’s no way we can abandon this small family with their baby, in place of some other group that we don’t know at all.”

In an email to CBC News, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said sponsors have been told there “are no guarantees that the family will ultimately be approved for resettlement to Canada.”

Groups accepting the offer have been promised families who match the profile of refugees they had already committed to sponsor. Only one replacement case will be offered to each group.

The new cases will be offered as they become available, and first choice will go to the groups that have been waiting the longest.

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UN Secretary General visits CCI Ottawa

UN Secretary General visits CCI Ottawa

“A once in a lifetime opportunity.” That’s how CCI Executive Director Carl Nicholson characterized the informal visit of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Catholic Centre for Immigrants on Thursday, February 11.

Seven Syrian refugee families who had arrived in Ottawa in December and January were invited to participate in the special visit by His Excellency and his wife, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek. The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and Ms. Anita Biguzs Deputy Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada were also on hand.

Handshakes and cell phone photos were the order of the day as His Excellency and his wife made their way around the circle of chairs, greeting newcomers one by one, and leaning down to touch the faces of the excited children. His Excellency then began his remarks to the families by expressing his gratitude to Mr. Nicholson and the Centre for its generous support for the refugees.  He praised the “long civilization and culture” of Syria’s people.

His Excellency Ki-Moon noted that the UN was mobilizing record amounts of resources, and “working day and night” to aid those affected by the crisis in Syria, through political negotiations and humanitarian aid.  “Do not despair, do not be frustrated,” he told the group, saying that in his childhood his own country, South Korea, “was able to be rescued by the help of the UN.”

Participants took the opportunity during the informal interaction following His Excellency’s remarks to reiterate their gratitude to the Canadian government for the support, and for the honour of the Secretary General’s personal visit. “You’ve put hope again into our lives,” commented one family member.

Prior to His Excellency’s arrival, Minister Bibeau spoke about the work CCI and other Canadian agencies are doing to settle refugees. “You make us look good,” she joked to Mr. Nicholson. “You are doing the big job.” She encouraged everyone to “work hard to learn the language, it’s the key to integration and the key to finding a job.”  Deputy Minister Anita Biguzs noted that her parents had been refugees to Canada who spoke neither English nor French, and probably never imagined that their daughter would become a Deputy Minister. She described herself as “very privileged and very humbled” to hold this office “because it has a lot of personal meaning for me.”


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