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The Issue 

Peel, Toronto, and York are top destinations for Canada’s immigrant and refugee communities. These communities have a long history of shaping and often defining the neighbourhoods where they settle. While many newcomers to Canada do not experience challenges with integration, others continue to face barriers that limit their ability to contribute to the economy and community. Not only does this prevent our region from benefiting fully from their education, skills, and work experience, it also poses serious risks to their overall wellbeing. Newcomers and refugees are at higher risk of experiencing poverty because of barriers to their settlement and integration. These barriers include language fluency, racism, discrimination in the labour market, and limited social networks. Certain groups of immigrants, such as those without status, are ineligible for federally-funded settlement supports. As such, these groups are often marginalized and are put at higher risk of exploitation.


Nearly half of the population across the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area is made up of immigrants

67 cents

earned by an immigrant who has lived in Canada for ten or more years – for every dollar earned by a Canadian-born person (in the same type of permanent, full-time work in Toronto)

51 cents

earned by a self-employed immigrant who has lived in Canada for ten years or more – for every dollar earned by a self-employed, Canadian-born person (in similar employment fields in Toronto)

How we help

We aim to enable social inclusion of immigrants and refugees in our communities, and help them reach and develop their full potential. We support programs needed by vulnerable newcomers and temporary residents – especially initiatives that attend to gaps in services caused by ineligibility, or gaps in federal or provincial settlement funding. United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in programs seeking to close opportunity gaps for communities that face a greater risk of marginalization due to systemic barriers. Our supported programs aim to improve social inclusion of immigrants and refugees through better access to social supports and peer networks. They also seek to improve over-all wellbeing through counselling, peer support, and referrals to housing, employment, and services needed for settlement and integration. 

Picture of Xica a United Way program participant.

I came to Canada from Honduras when I was 19 after I became more open about who I was as a trans woman. In Honduras, gangs were always harassing me. I got beat up a few times. After not finding any hope, I was suicidal. When I arrived in Canada, I found a job at a retail chain. The customers were lovely and really liked me. And then one day, I got called into the office and was let go. They didn’t give me a reason but I knew it was because of my gender identity. It was devastating. I ended up homeless. After becoming suicidal again, I decided to get some help. I found a United Way agency that supports LGBTQ2S individuals and they connected me to another United Way agency that provides support to Spanish-speaking people. Today, I work as a peer leader at the same agencies that helped me survive when things were rough. My job and advocacy work make me feel strong and compassionate towards other people who need help.

Xica, United Way program participant

Here’s how your local love helped newcomers across Toronto, York, and Peel Region: 

Three south asian women standing together in a yoga class


Immigrants and refugees received support to connect with others, the community, or needed services

Woman in hijab working in community kitchen.


Immigrants and refugees improved skills needed for settlement and integration

A man working on computer, a instructor standing beside him


Immigrants and refugees acquired knowledge, skills, and connections to prepare them for the labour market

January 09, 2019

How to help newcomers to Toronto feel more at home

Navigating a new country can be a lonely and frustrating experience, here’s what you can do to welcome new Canadians to your community