Search

COPA Presents the TÉÉ program


This article aims to give readers a brief overview of a program that is an essential and beloved cornerstone of COPA’s work. COPA is the Provincial Coordinator of Ontario’s Francophone network of Settlement Workers in Schools, known as TÉÉ in French. In this capacity, COPA provides information and training to support TÉÉ services in designated French-language schools. Over the last 11 years, thanks to funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, COPA has developed and implemented a successful model to facilitate the integration of newly arrived Francophone immigrant families into French-speaking school communities in the province.


In the course of writing of this article I interviewed Zoé, the director of TÉÉ, and Céline, who has been working with Zoé for the past year and a half. When I asked them what they love best about the work they do with TÉÉ, they both exclaimed about what a rich and beautiful milieu it is to work in. Mostly what they love is working with the TÉÉ themselves (travailleurs et travailleuses d’etablissement, or settlement workers), who have all undergone the experience of being new arrivals in Canada. Each of the TÉÉ brings a world of stories about what they have lived through in order to successfully transplant themselves into their Canadian communities, and a passion for supporting the journey of others to do so. There is a wealth of diversity in their experiences and in their ways of seeing things. Both Zoé and Céline speak enthusiastically about the richness of their collaboration with TÉÉ, and the abundance of ideas, passion, curiosity, and thirst for continuous learning there is within these teams. But more about that later…


Since immigration is crucial to ensuring the vitality of Canada’s Francophone communities outside of Quebec, every province has its own challenging targets for attracting French-speaking newcomers, as does the federal government, whose target for 2023 is that 4.4% of immigrants to Canada settling outside of Quebec will be French-speaking. Attracting French-speaking immigrants is only one part of the equation, however. Ensuring the success of these newcomers in integrating into communities outside Quebec can be hard. There are many particular and specific challenges, such as finding employment in predominantly Anglophone communities and finding the services and resources they need in their language. French speaking immigrants to these communities are considered as having double minority status since they are both immigrants and Francophones. And not only language, but also cultural differences can impede integration into their new communities, and result in an increased sense of isolation for new arrivals.


COPA’s program was first developed in Toronto in 2010 as a response to what the organization felt were gaps in responding to these real and distinct needs of the Francophone newcomers to Ontario communities, specifically in regard to navigating the schools. Simply replicating the successful SWIS programs (English settlement workers in school) that do this work throughout English Canada did not work well, since these French-speaking immigrants were more vulnerable and marginalized and had access to fewer services and resources in their own language. The TÉÉ program was created by Francophones for Francophones, and it has been so successful that it has been designated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as a model to emulate for all other communities in Canada that are welcoming French speaking immigrants.


COPA intends to go further with this program than simply being a model to emulate. Our plan is to use our experience in creating this successful model in Ontario to support the efforts of organizations in other provinces to develop and implement their own successful programs. With a combined focus on consultation, training and mentorship, the COPA team believes that the success of this model of integrating Francophone newcomers can be adapted and replicated effectively everywhere in Canada. This work has already begun in some provinces, and many other organizations have been reaching out to COPA to learn more about it, including SWIS workers (Settlement workers in schools) across Canada wishing to adopt core elements of COPA’s approach in their own programs.


The success of the TÉÉ program is due to this unique and effective approach. As is true of all of COPA’s work, the TÉÉ program is rooted in social justice principles and anti-oppression strategies. It operates with the fundamental belief that all children, youth, and adults have the right to flourish and reach their full potential, and that safe schools are the responsibility of all of us. Everything is built upon these beliefs.


Although TÉÉ are hired by schoolboards and community organizations in the regions where they work, the structure, content and training are administrated and delivered by COPA.

Céline explains that training of the TÉÉ begins by exploring the fundamental questions of why there is oppression: why some people are more vulnerable than others, and how to address the root causes of the vulnerabilities that newcomers face. We know that it will be hard for newcomers, that oppression exists and that students will experience it in schools. We also recognize the vulnerability of their parents as new immigrants, stripped of their old identities and experiencing the anxiety of integrating into a new community where they may face rejection, resistance, racism, no money, no job, and no place to live.


The TÉÉ thus approach their work with a deep understanding of those vulnerabilities and the root causes of them. Their work is not to tell new arrivals what to do or simply where to go to get the services they need, but to ensure that these new arrivals have what they need in order to develop their autonomy. By equipping people with real and effective tools, we help them to build their own capacity. And by building to their strengths, we support their autonomy.


One of the concepts near and dear to us at COPA is that people need TOOLS NOT RULES.


Schools are incredibly important places for families newly integrating into our communities, and the TÉÉ program functions within schools as a community-based model, supporting the integration of the students into schools and the adjustment of their families to this new way of life by accompanying them both as they become part of the school community.


Zoé Somé


As Zoé points out, a large part of successfully integrating newcomers is educating the communities into which they are arriving. As an immigrant herself who ‘parachuted’ alone into snowy, cold Quebec in the middle of winter, she is acutely aware of the need for this. There were people she encountered in the community who had never seen a Black African woman before, and she experienced discrimination on a regular basis.

One way that welcoming communities are encouraged is through the ANNA initiative (Accueil des nouvelles arrivantes et des nouveaux arrivants). The TÉÉ identify students in the school who have already been there for 2 years and invite them to act as mentors and allies of newcomers. These student leaders receive a comprehensive training once a year, and then throughout the school year they organize activities to support the integration of new arrivals. All students, not just immigrants, are welcome and included in these activities. Many students in the schools are curious to come and see what’s happening and when they do, they learn more about the issues that are faced by new arrivals. Thus, the circle of allies widens, and the school community becomes more welcoming of the new arrivals, which of course in turn aids their integration into that community.


COPA offers regular trainings for these student allies on bullying, cyberbullying, racism, consent, inclusion, equity, etc. This ongoing training equips them with tools that help to make the school milieu a safer and more welcoming place for everyone. The TÉÉ also receive professional training on an ongoing basis so that their professional capacities are constantly being expanded and updated.


As Zoé points out, a large part of successfully integrating newcomers is educating the communities into which they are arriving. As an immigrant herself who ‘parachuted’ alone into snowy, cold Quebec in the middle of winter, she is acutely aware of the need for this. There were people she encountered in the community who had never seen a Black African woman before, and she experienced discrimination on a regular basis.


One way that welcoming communities are encouraged is through the ANNA initiative (Accueil des nouvelles arrivantes et des nouveaux arrivants). The TÉÉ identify students in the school who have already been there for 2 years and invite them to act as mentors and allies of newcomers. These student leaders receive a comprehensive training once a year, and then throughout the school year they organize activities to support the integration of new arrivals. All students, not just immigrants, are welcome and included in these activities. Many students in the schools are curious to come and see what’s happening and when they do, they learn more about the issues that are faced by new arrivals. Thus, the circle of allies widens, and the school community becomes more welcoming of the new arrivals, which of course in turn aids their integration into that community.


COPA offers regular trainings for these student allies on bullying, cyberbullying, racism, consent, inclusion, equity, etc. This ongoing training equips them with tools that help to make the school milieu a safer and more welcoming place for everyone. The TÉÉ also receive professional training on an ongoing basis so that their professional capacities are constantly being expanded and updated.


At the heart of the TÉÉ program is the rich collaboration that is built into the structure of it. TÉÉ meet regularly with Zoé to discuss current obstacles and successes, exchange ideas, brainstorm and share useful strategies, tools and resources. Each region has its own specific challenges and needs, so they meet in both regional groups (there are 6 in Ontario) and also as a provincial network. Zoé describes herself as functioning like a pollinator, carrying ideas and solutions from one group to another.


Zoé became the director of TÉÉ in 2018. From 2009 to 2018 she served on COPA’s board, so she has seen the organization through a few different lenses. She was drawn to work with COPA originally because of its values and mission, but she also appreciated deeply its approach to new arrivals. She understands firsthand the challenges of being a Francophone immigrant in Canada, as it was not easy for her when she first arrived in Canada to study. She had to work hard to navigate daily life and find information, resources, and people to help her. She talks about how helpful it would have been to have a program like this and is passionate about working with the TÉÉ to help others to have a better and easier experience than hers.


This is the strength of the TÉÉ program – the way the people in it work together, and the passion they have for what they do. Zoé speaks inspiringly of working with this extraordinary group of people. She loves the diversity of opinions and experiences in these groups that leads to creativity and innovation. She says it takes a village to educate a child and that the more people reflect together about how to do that the better chance we have of succeeding.


According to Zoé, our society would be so much richer if people were more open to diversity and brought a spirit of curiosity and inquiry to exchanges with each other. This openness of spirit is what characterizes this program, and what COPA hopes to help spread to other organizations throughout the rest of Canada that are working with new arrivals.


Céline describes the same richness of this environment that Zoé does. Again, it is their openness to learning and discussing and their curiosity and desire to learn more that inspires her about working with the TÉÉ. They each have rich personal stories and also some wounds. It is an honour to hear their stories and humbling to see the dedication to helping others go through the process of integration by using their own sometimes painful experiences to reach deeper understandings.


Céline Duguay


She says it is the same thing with the youth. During the trainings with student allies they discuss a variety of topics such as racism, sexism, and colonization and the kids are fascinated and want to know about all of it. The stories of colonization in Canada intrigue them and make them understand that they are not alone in having been stripped of their identities. Together with the TÉÉ and the COPA team they undertake rich explorations of how to grow in and be part of this society but maintain your own identity.


We at COPA have learned so much over the years from working with the TÉÉ and supporting their work with newly arrived families, and we continue to learn within this incredibly rich and creative environment. As we do, our passion for and belief in the value of what we do and how we do it have only grown stronger. This year COPA began working with Francophone organizations in other provinces in order to support them as they set up new ways of working with newcomers within schools. We receive many requests from SWIS organizations as well to share ideas, programs and ways of working. As mentioned earlier, our goal this year is to expand our offering of consultation services, training, and ongoing support through mentorship in order to support the efforts of others to implement this type of content and structure in schools across Canada.


Please visit www.nationalcopa.com to know more or contact us at info@infocopa.com to set up a conversation with us about this.