Multicultural Liaison Officer ProgramHow to Replicate
Subject of AnalysisInclusive and Equitable Education, Intercultural Competency, Parent Engagement, Welcoming Schools
AuthorWali Farah, Ikram Jama
Multicultural Liaison Officer Program: A Unique and Effective Service Delivery Model
In 1991, the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) created the Multicultural Liaison Officer Program (MLO) in order to meet the needs of immigrant families in Ottawa schools. The MLO program has become efficient, effective and innovative model of service delivery to assist with the successful of integration of newcomer families and children into the Ottawa school system. The MLO program has been replicated all over Canada (Outside of Ottawa the program is known as Settlement Workers in the Schools –SWISS program). To meet the needs of French speaking newcomer families, OCISO later created the Agent de Liaison Multiculturelle (ALM). In 2012 the ALM program’s name was changed to Travailleuses et travailleurs d’établissement dans les écoles (TÉÉ).
MLO Program Approach
Schools are one of the first services that immigrant families connect with in the community. The program allows for settlement services to be provided on-site at schools and facilitates the interaction between students, parents, teachers, school administrators and a broad range of organizations, immigrant serving agencies, and settlement services, enabling all involved to work toward shared goals, such as quality of education for students, increased intercultural competence and awareness, and a smoother integration of immigrant and refugee families.
What makes the MLO program unique?
The success of the MLO program rests on the fact that it’s based on the recognition, to borrow an African proverb, “it takes a village to settle and integrate newcomers in our communities”. There are two important features that speak to the innovative nature of this program:
- Unique partnership between Ottawa School Boards, OCISO, the Federal Government and newcomer communities.
- Providing settlement services on site (in the past settlement services were delivered in settlement agencies) which makes the program highly effective.
What Multicultural Liaison Officers do in the schools?
- Assess the needs of students and parents when they first come to the school
- Orientate immigrant students and parents about the education system and their roles and responsibilities
- Provide language and cultural interpretation at meetings involving staff members, parents, and students
- Provide referrals to organizations that assist students and their families settle in Canada and liaise with the local community organizations to improve immigrant families’ access to community services
- Contact parents about the educational and social development of their children and keep them informed about events at the school
- Organize and deliver workshops for staff and all students to increase cross-cultural awareness and understanding
- Encourage parents to get involved in the school
- Liaise between the school and community about changes in the community’s demographic profile, partnership possibilities, and issues of concern
- Help bridge cultural differences, mediate conflicts, and facilitate resolution
- Coordinate OCISO’s summer programs, the Step Ahead and Now Programs, and other special projects.
Through daily interventions, outreach and information sharing the MLO program greatly contributes to student success, facilitates a relationship between the schools and new comer families, supports immigrant parents to become familiar and confident in dealing with the school system and supports the schools to create a welcoming environment for immigrant and refugee families.
Based on the MLO program success in Ottawa, CIC duplicated the model and launched the Settlement Workers in Schools program, which now has 225 settlement workers operating in schools across Canada.
The MLO program has become an important feature in many communities across the country and greatly contributes to creating welcoming communities for newcomers to Canada.