Similar to other resettlement countries, Canada has been providing pre-arrival settlement support since the 1970s.
COA was created in 1998, following the gradual closing by the Government of Canada of the Language Instruction to Newcomers in Canada (LINC) Overseas Program, which had been implemented by IOM from 1990 to 1998. LINC Overseas consisted of approximately 60-120 hours of settlement information and language training with an emphasis on functional teaching approaches and communicative competence. Over its eight five years of implementation, LINC overseas was offered to over 20,000 Canada-bound refugees and family reunification cases in Austria, Croatia, the (former) Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In 1998, the Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) came into place, with the following existing training sites in Bosnia, Croatia, Kenya, Serbia and Vietnam. In the midst of the conflict in Kosovo, and Canada’s decision to offer temporary shelter to thousands of Kosovars in Canada, COA started its very first large-scale mobile mission to Macedonia and Albania. In this emergency context, COA was provided aboard buses in Macedonia, and in hospitals’ waiting areas in Albania. In that short period, approximately 8,000 Kosovars attended a pre-arrival orientation. The project quickly expanded beyond these permanent training sites, through mobile sessions offered in various remote locations. In early 2001, COA established its first immigrant training operation in Pakistan. Following this successful project, additional immigrant training sites were established in Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Nowadays, the COA program operates 20 permanent training sites. In any given year, COA delivers orientation sessions in an average of 40 countries and 60 locations worldwide.
Since 2015, COA is the largest pre-arrival orientation program implemented by IOM, closely followed by the United States Cultural Orientation (USCO) program. COA is also the largest overseas orientation initiative funded by IRCC, and the longest standing.