Recent Immigrants' Awareness of, Access to, Use of, and Satisfaction With Settlement Services in York Region

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By: Lucia Lo, Shuguang Wang, Paul Anisef, Valerie Preston, Ranu Basu
Org: CERIS Working Paper No. 79
Date: 2010

The purpose of this study is to:

  • Examine the availability of settlement services that are crucial for integrating recent immigrants into Canadian society.
  • Learn about newcomers' awareness of, use of, and satisfaction with the services available in York Region.


This study focuses on York Region, which includes Aurora, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and rural communities. It looks at the availability of human services and programs, with a specific focus on settlement services.

It uses 2006 Census data and a list of service providers compiled for the study to analyze the geographic access that recent immigrants in York Region have to settlement services. The authors analyzed the location of residents and services, as well as the distance to services and the time it would take to travel to services by public transit, car, and on foot.

The second part of the study uses a phone survey to explore awareness of, access to, use of and satisfaction with settlement services. The participants in the phone survey were recruited in two phases: 1) a random-digit dialing phase, in which residents in York Region were called at random; and 2) a purposeful phase, in which participants were referred by service agencies.


These are some highlights of the study's findings:

Access to Services
  • Markham and Richmond Hill had much higher client-to-service ratios than other municipalities.
  • 94% of recent immigrants in York Region live within a 30-minute bus ride of general settlement services and ESL classes.
  • 89% live within a 30-minute bus ride of LINC classes.
  • Capacity for ESL and LINC programs is low.
  • Access to LINC programs is much lower than for ESL programs.
Awareness of Services
  • Awareness of service providers and the main settlement website in the Toronto area was generally low.
  • Awareness of services was higher for those who were younger and better educated.
  • Awareness was also tied to country of origin - fewer people from East and South Asia had heard of the specific service providers.
  • Male immigrants were more informed than female immigrants.
  • Friends and family were the most important sources of information about service agencies.
Use of Services
  • Users of services were more likely to be recent immigrants born in Eastern Europe and East Asia, and less likely to be born in South or West Asia.
  • Business class immigrants were more likely to be users than non-users.
  • Women were more likely than men to be users.
  • University graduates were more likely to be users.
  • Users were more likely to live in low-income households.
  • User were more likely to use other human services.
  • Most users (40-47%) access service locations using public transit.
Satisfaction With Services
  • Recent immigrants who used settlement services were generally, but not overwhelmingly, satisfied with the services.


Overall, the study identifies unmet settlement needs in York Region. Further, the study shows service disparities within York Region.

First, the study found a spatial mismatch in services. That is, the services for recent immigrants are not located in the areas where the largest number of recent immigrants live. Recent immigrants living in Newmarket and Aurora have better access to services than those living in Markham and Vaughan. However, Markham and Vaughan have the highest numbers of recent immigrants, and the highest number of recent immigrants with low income.

Second, less than one-third of recent immigrants in this study are aware of or actually use settlement services. Service users are more likely to be women, younger, better educated, and of European ethnicity.

Third, use of services is tied to awareness of services. Since many recent immigrants rely on social networks for information, the settlement sector and funders need to consider focusing on developing bridging social capital to link recent immigrants with longer-term immigrants and the Canadian-born. The authors also recommend increasing outreach efforts.

The authors suggest considering two different models for expanding services in York Region:

  • Comprehensive, "hub" service centres, such as the Welcome Centre in Vaughan
  • Mobile settlement services, such as settlement workers in schools and libraries, and internet services