Who We Are

A History in Progress

Re-building Lives and Strengthening Families

As a community based multicultural agency specifically mandated to provide services to new Canadians and their families, COSTI embraces the ideals of this nation, and is committed to ensuring that each generation of newcomers is provided with the opportunity to participate in, and contribute to, Canadian society.

Reflecting a holistic view of the needs of newcomers and their families, COSTI 's programs encompass orientation, education, training and employment.

COSTI originated with the amalgamation, in 1981, of two major service agencies, COSTI (formerly Centro Organizzativo Scuole Tecniche Italiane) and the IIAS (Italian Immigrant Aid Society), each of which had a lengthy and proud history of service in the immigrant community.

Review a visual overview of COSTI's history [WMV movie file, 15 MB].

The 1950's - Establishing a Tradition of Helping Others

Formed in 1952, the IIAS emerged as an agency whose main purpose was to provide newcomers with the basic necessities of life.

Meeting immigrants at Union Station in Toronto, IIAS workers would assist them with housing and employment, and would follow up with orientation and counselling designed to help these new arrivals become more comfortable in their new country.

The 1960's - Strengthening Ties to the Community

Ten years later, in 1962, COSTI was established to help recent Italian immigrants obtain the professional qualifications required to practice their trades in Canada. During its early days of operation, COSTI's programs were based in a church basement in Toronto, eventually moving to an old unused mansion at 136 Beverley Street.

To prepare immigrants for the English-language licensing examinations which they were required to pass in order to work in Canada, COSTI workers organized English language instruction programs. As the number of clients increased, a need was perceived not only for vocational counselling, but for general and family counselling as well.

The programs offered at COSTI soon outgrew its facilities, and the agency began working in collaboration with various technical education centres in the area. In 1966, the Workers' Compensation Board contracted COSTI to begin a program to rehabilitate injured workers. This is a program that continues today, albeit on a much larger scale.

By the end of the 1960's, the agency had opened counselling offices throughout Toronto, Hamilton, and suburban North York. It was also around this time that COSTI became a United Way member agency, and began serving immigrants from other countries in addition to those from Italy.

The 1970's - Multiculturalism

During the 1970s, COSTI's services expanded once again to include aid for refugees coming to Canada. Recognizing a pressing need for many of the Vietnamese "boat people" to confirm their true level of education, COSTI developed an examination and certification process in conjunction with George Brown College, the first program of its kind in Canada.

The 1980's - A Shared Vision

Acknowledging the similarities in the goals and work of the two organizations, negotiations were initiated in 1980 to amalgamate the two agencies. On January 24, 1981 this goal was achieved and the organizations were merged under the official name of COSTI-IIAS Immigrant Services.

The Present - Meeting the Needs of a Diverse Society

Now known as COSTI Immigrant Services , the agency has expanded to the point where it annually assists over 39,000 people from every corner of the world. While COSTI's main target group continues to be recently arrived immigrants, COSTI's programs have been broadened services to all adults, youth, women and seniors who need help.

Through its seventeen centres located throughout the City of Toronto,the Region of Peel and York Region, COSTI has established a strong presence in the community, offering, to all those in need, a wide range of programs and services.