AMSSA (the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC) is an umbrella association with over 70 member organizations who build culturally inclusive communities. First established in 1977, AMSSA provides opportunities for its members and others in the settlement and integration community to exchange knowledge, build connections and engage with government with a unified voice. With a BC-wide perspective, AMSSA works to address emerging issues and build capacity for the BC Settlement sector.
Q: What is your organization’s purpose?
AMSSA is different from the agencies in the re-settlement, settlement and integration sector in that they do not work directly with clients and instead provide indirect support through their various agency clients. Primarily they work by 1) building capacity and 2) Promoting policy change with respect to the needs of BC’s immigration and refugee sector. Some of AMSSA’s employees previously worked on the frontlines and use that firsthand knowledge to help those currently working with claimants now.
AMSSA is contracted through the Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology to provide sector support to service providers delivering programing under the BC Settlement and Integration program. BCSIS supports the social and economic integration of newcomers who are not eligible to receive immigrant support services under federally funded programs. All newcomers benefit from settlement services to achieve the best possible settlement outcomes. This in turn benefits the broader community both economically and socially. The various client groups served by BCSIS, including refugee claimants, each face unique barriers and challenges to integration that require settlement support.
Q: What resources or services does your organization provide specifically for refugee claimants?
An example of one of the services provided to service providers was a recently created e-learning training module on the topic of refugee mental health. Helping service providers learn more, and create empathy, for those they work with allows the community organizations to continue growing. The knowledge also addresses burnout and mental health in staff working at the agencies. AMMSSA has created other e-learning modules focused on BC Employment Standards, Workplace Safety and BC Federation of Labour Occupational Health and Safety Centre Training Programs as well as diversity and inclusion.
Here is a link to the e-learning modules: https://www.amssa.org/resources/e-learning-modules/
How do you influence the policy sphere?
Within the policy sphere AMSSA has an Immigration Inter Coordination Committee with regional representatives throughout the provinces. This group focuses on topics that people working on the ground with refugees have brought to their attention. Previously they have encouraged the provincial government to be aware and mindful of their language when discussing refugee claimants to the media. Beyond this, AMSSA creates backgrounders for the government (for instance one highlighted the difference between Government sponsored refugees and claimants and the misconceptions between the two), position papers to UNHCR, and are in contact with CBSA in regards to detention. Because of their umbrella status they are able to harness collective input, so that when AMSSA writes letters and such they are lifting a collective voice.
Is there anything else you’d like us to highlight?
AMSSA also works for the benefit of Legal Aid, penning letters in support of increased funding and helping communication dissemination vehicle to organizations with the hope to help claimants in light of potential changes.
AMSSA works collaboratively with its membership to promote positive change to better serve BC’s newcomers.
To learn more about AMSSA visit: https://www.amssa.org