There are many issues and questions related to the Canadian approach to refugee settlement and sponsorship. Recently, there have been some groups who are talking about the issues and publicizing their concerns. One is Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). This is a national organization of members inspired by faith to act for justice in Canadian public policy. The other is a local Toronto group headed by former mayor of Toronto John Sewell.
CPJ conducted a study of the issues as seen by various Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH’s) in Canada. The study entitled “A Half Welcome, delays, limits and inequities in Canadian Refugee Sponsorship”, focused these areas of concern. These include: long wait times for applications from Syrian and other countries to be processed by Canada, allocation limits from Syria and other parts of the world such as Africa and travel loans which need to be repaid beginning after 6 months for private sponsorships and not at all for Government Assisted refugees.
You can read the entire article here: Half Welcome
The group informally known as “Clearing the Backlog” is a community advocacy group consisting of many faith-based groups and other local community advocates. They are also concerned about the backlog indicating that it has climbed to about 45,000, and with the 9000 in Quebec’s frozen pipeline. Another concern is the limits on the number of applicants from various parts of the world, especially Africa.
This Backlog group can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Canada renews commitment to global refugee agency with additional $1.6 million
The Catholic Register reports, in an article published on March 21, 2017 by Michael Swan that the Canadian Government has committed 1.6 million to the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC). Refugee and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen made the announcement in Geneva March 15 when he renewed an agreement between the Canadian government and the International Catholic Migration Commission. Under an agreement signed in 2013, Canadian funding has allowed the Catholic agency to interview and process 41,300 refugees.
The ICMC works closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, sending specialized staff into refugee emergencies to conduct interviews and assess refugees for resettlement programs around the world. “The money we’ve been getting from the Canadian government allows us to send more people,” ICMC general secretary Msgr. Bob Vitillo told The Catholic Register by phone from Geneva. “It’s been a big help to us.”
You may read the notice on the ICMC website at this link: ICMC
Please read the article in the Catholic Register at this link: Canada Renews Commitment
The annual World Day of Migrants and Refugees was celebrated on Sunday January 15, 2017 across Canada and the entire Catholic Church. Pope Francis had issued his statement entitled CHILD MIGRANTS THE VULNERABLE AND THE VOICELESS. Celebrations of Mass, receptions and speeches took place in many dioceses across Canada such as Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto and Halifax.
In Toronto, Auxiliary Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick celebrated Mass at St. Luke’s Parish in Thornhill. In his message the Bishop encouraged all of us to act even in small ways to promote and build up the kingdom of God. He referred to the pope’s message of care for children who are dislocated from their homes and have to endure terrible suffering. He thanked the parish of St. Luke for their sponsorship of so many refugee families. He also thanked the Office for Refugees in the Archdiocese of Toronto for their great help to parishes and groups to sponsor refugees.
Following Mass the Iraqi community hosted a reception with great food and fellowship. Several speakers provided greater insight, welcome and thanks for this wonderful day. Rabea Allos, from the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council was the emcee. The speakers included Fr. Damien McPherson from the Archdiocese, Francesco Sorbara the MP from Vaughan, Itrath Qizilbash McGrath from the Organization for Islamic Learning, Dr. Martin Mark from the Office for Refugees in the Archdiocese of Toronto, and Maurice Malone from the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council. Brian Dwyer, Chair of the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council was also in attendance.
Several families of refugees also spoke and told their story of coming to Canada and how their lives had dramatically changed for the better since arriving. The families were from Iraq, Ghana, Vietnam and Syria. The audience was very thankful to hear these great positive messages.
Please read Pope Francis’ full statement here: Child Migrants
In January, 2017, Michael Swan of the Catholic Register published a great “Good News” story of the Khalil family from Iraq who came to Canada and seem to be thriving here. The family consists of two parents and two children – boy and a girl. Parents are working and children are in school. Ayad Khalil (father) is a hard-working warehouse manager and driver at Ararat International Foods in Toronto. Both Sahr and Ayad (parents) have worked day and evening jobs for most of their time in Canada. Sahr worked in a restaurant during the day and cleaned offices at night. Saher and his nine-year-old sister Naden are students at St. Aidan’s, just a short walk from their new townhouse.
There wasn’t much question about the necessity of moving the family out of Iraq. Ayad had been kidnapped for three days — an episode that cost Ayad and Sahrs families $20,000 (U.S.). The Khalil family’s slim hope had rested on a meeting with Office of Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto director Martin Mark at the Syriac Orthodox church in Damascus in 2010. ORAT teamed up with Ayads cousin, Talal Allo, in Richmond Hill, Ont., to sponsor the family, with help from St. Barsaumos Syriac Orthodox Church in Markham.
The Khalils say there is nothing they would rather be than Canadians.
Please read the entire article here: Kahlil Family
January 15, 2017 is World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The theme as established by Pope Francis is, “Child migrants, the vulnerable and the voiceless”. Across Canada in many dioceses there are liturgies in commemoration and honouring this special day.
In his message pope Francis reminds us that the sure path which leads to God begins with the smallest and, through the grace of our Saviour it grows into the practice of welcoming others. The Pope focuses our attention on the reality of child migrants, especially the ones who are alone. They are defenseless: they are children, they are foreigners, and they have no means to protect themselves.
The Pope asks “How can we respond?” First, he says we need to become aware that the phenomenon of migration is not unrelated to salvation history, but rather a part of that history. In addition, we need to work towards protection, integration and long-term solutions. Furthermore, the most powerful force driving the exploitation and abuse of children is demand.
Secondly, we need to work for the integration of children and youngsters who are migrants. They depend totally on the adult community.
Thirdly, to all the Pope addresses a heartfelt appeal that long-term solutions be sought and adopted.
Lastly, Pope Francis addresses a word to us, who walk alongside migrant children and young people: they need our precious help. The Church too needs us and supports us in the generous service we offer.
Please read the entire document here: “Child Migrants“
The Honourable Jim Munson was the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights along with the co-chair the Honourable Salma Ataullahjan. In December the Senate published their report on the Syrian resettlement issue in Canada. The report clearly stated that “the Government of Canada is not allocating enough resources to help them integrate”.
The report expresses concerns that when refugees arrive in Canada they are already in debt that need to be paid with interest within certain time limits. In addition it mentions that the Canadian Child Benefit needs to be available much quicker to these families.
The ability to communicate in English or French is vital to survival in Canada and the report suggests that Canada should be providing more funds to support English language classes for refugees. Furthermore the report goes on to highlight the fact that the youth need further programs to help them integrate quicker into Canada.
Many refugees come from a land of war. It is vital, the report says, that Canada offer special mental health and other social services to enable the refugees to feel more settled here in Canada. The report also describes situations of domestic and gender-based violence in society. It is recommended that the Government develop ways that these can be addressed.
Moreover, many refugees come to Canada with the hope that some of their relatives who are still in Syria can be settled in Canada. The Government needs to develop ways and means to help resolve this issue as well.
This report is well worth the time to read. You can read the full document by clicking here: A Syrian Resettlement Story
St. Nicholas, the first Santa Claus, is or could/should be the patron saint of all sponsors of refugees. The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church. There are many accounts of St. Nicholas helping the poor and especially the children. These stories help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
Those who sponsor refugees are just like St. Nicholas. They go out of their way to provide the basic necessities to refugees – food, shelter, clothing and love. It is time we honour and be thankful to all the sponsors of refugees. Their dedication, time and talents have helped thousands of refugees to enjoy a better life.
Here is a short prayer you can say to invoke the blessing of St. Nicholas:
Saint Nicholas, glorious Confessor of Christ, assist us in your loving kindness.