How Canada can offer a warmer, wiser welcome to refugees

March 15, 2017

By Allen Tung

Canada needs to rethink the Immigration Loans Program (ILP) if the country truly want to achieve its objectives of humanitarian intervention and support for settling newcomers.

That’s SFU public policy master’s student Hope Caldi’s recommendation in her winning paper at the fourth annual Blueprint 2020 National Student Paper Competition on the Future of Public Service.

Caldi’s paper, “Offering a Warmer, Wiser Welcome: Recommendations for Reforming Canada’s Immigration Loan Program,” analyzed the key issues facing loan recipients, as well as the program’s shortcomings.  

The ILP issues loans to emigrants, many of whom are refugees who have a demonstrated need to have their costs associated with relocating to Canada covered. Since 1995, Canada has been the only country to charge interest on loans to refugees.

In her winning paper, Caldi found that, as a result, recipients prioritized repaying their loans over enrolling in English or French language classes. Yet many refugees are dependent on income assistance and face housing affordability challenges. These factors, together with the strain of repaying their outstanding loans, can end up delaying their economic integration.

“Ultimately, the spirit and values underlying a humanitarian decision to accept a refugee should be honoured by assisting them in their relocation to Canada in a reasonable and supportive fashion,” she says.

Caldi recommends improving communication surrounding loan repayment, and delaying repayment until a loan recipient earns a minimum of $25,000 annual income.

She’ll be able to share her ideas when she joins a federal public service agency later this year to participate in a two-year, federal development program.

The competition, sponsored by the Canada School of Public Service and the Institute of Public Administration Canada, challenges Canadian graduate students to submit papers explaining their ideas on how to improve public service in the country.

Caldi’s paper was selected as the winner based on its originality, research, clarity, significance and relevance to the Government of Canada and the public service. It was judged by the deputy ministers' panel.

"I credit this win largely to the School of Public Policy, including all of the professors and students,” she says. “The school prepares us well for challenges such as this one, by giving us opportunities to present our analysis and incorporate feedback from the class and professors in the final product.”

As part of her prize, Caldi will attend the prestigious 2017 Manion Lecture in the National Capital Region and has also been invited to present her paper on a national platform.