It’s usually one of the first stops for Syrian refugees, a place where newcomers and residents can look for support or employment services. But the community staple that hundreds of thousands have relied on in the past 33 years just got axed without any warning.
Clients who made their way to MicroSkills Development Centre inside the Rexdale Community Hub on Wednesday were met with locked doors and a bankruptcy statement that said the agency “is closed immediately.”
“I came here, I saw the sign and there was supposed to be a little workshop downstairs,” said Don Sidon, a client who has used the agency’s services for years.
Staff told CityNews this is just one of five locations that’s affected, and over 90 employees are now left jobless as a result. Like the agency’s clients, they only found out about the closure on Wednesday.
“We were just told that there was a deficit,” Sandra Witter, a MicroSkills employee said. “Basically, there’s no money to pay our bills and the staff.”
The company’s board of directors penned this letter that’s posted on the agency’s front doors, and the website. It details the company’s financial struggles, saying “MicroSkills is in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee.”
It went on to say, “several years of consecutive deficits have imperilled the agency’s financial sustainability and the agency cannot meet its future obligations, including financial liabilities.”
The notice, which also has a United Way logo at the bottom, goes on to say it couldn’t deliver on “contractual obligations” sited by “various government contracts,” one of them being Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
In an email statement to CityNews, a ministry spokesperson wrote: “IRCC is aware of the situation and will be working to ensure that any gaps left by this closure will be filed by other service providers. At this point, we cannot comment further.”
Neighbouring community organizations, including those with the Rexdale Community Hub, are planning to meet in a closed door meeting Friday morning to discuss what can be done to help the MicroSkills’ 18,000 displaced clients.
“They plugged a lot of gaps that existed in the community, and they’re going to leave very big shoes to fill,” said community advocate Andray Domise, who is calling on city leaders to step in.
The ward’s councillor, Michael Ford, told CityNews he hopes to meet with those affected by the closure as soon as possible.
“We will be working with our relevant city division and other community agencies to ensure that residents continue to receive these vital services,” the email statement read.
CityNews called MicroSkills and the numbers provided on the bankruptcy notice but they weren’t answered.