Canada renews commitment – ICMC

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


Iraqi refugee family finds success in hard work and each others support

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

“Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless”. Pope Francis



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


Finding Refuge in Canada: A Syrian Resettlement Story

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

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.


On Saturday November 26, 2016 at Marylake Shrine in King City Ontario a very enthusiastic  and committed group of people sat down to discuss the refugee situation in Canada and the world. The workshop was organized by the Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice and the Catholic Refugee Sponsors’ Council (CRSC).

The meeting was chaired by Brian Dwyer the Director of the Augustinian Centre for Social Justice and the chair of the CRSC. The special guest presenters included Fr. Emeka Obiezu, former representative of the Augustinians to the United Nations and Rev. Bob Dueweke, the present Augustinian rep to the United Nations.

Fr. Dueweke provided the group with an overview of the role and work of the Augustinians at the UN. He pointed to the constitution of the Augustinian Order declaring that there is a social commitment to “clearly identify and resolve issues such as: defense of life, human rights, the situation of migrants and the dignity of women; to protect justice and peace at the United Nations”.

Following this discussion, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was presented by Fr. Obiezu and Fr. Dueweke. The SDG’s were promulgated by the UN in September 2015. There are 17 goals with specific targets for each goal. Examples of some of these goals are: no poverty, quality education, clean water, decent work, reduced inequalities, climate action, peace and justice and partnerships.

Please read more about the SDG’s here: SDG’s

What followed next was a discussion of the “United Nations Summit Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants” held in New York on September 19, 2016. Canada was represented by the Prime Minister, some Cabinet members and other officials. Many people from local NGO’s and civil society were also invited. The Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice was invited but was unable to attend. The summit included “round tables” attended by many members of civil society, governments and businesses.

The result of this summit is “The New York Declaration”. This document was distributed to the participants for discussion. Each country participating at the summit committed to following these declarations. A summary of the declaration is available here: New York Declaration

The declaration includes the following commitments: protection of human rights of migrants and refugees, education of children, protection against violence, recognizing the positive contributions of refugees and migrants, implementing a comprehensive refugee response program and many more.

The summit agreed that there be an international conference on the adoption of a global compact for safe migration in 2018. The CRSC and the Augustinian Centre will follow this process closely.

The next speaker was Rabea Allos from the CRSC. He spoke about the Canadian “Government Assisted Refugees” Program (GAR).  He made the point that settlement of refugees in Canada is handled most efficiently and productively by private sponsors and not the GAR. The CRSC will be advocating to the Government to slowly decrease their GAR program and offer more support to private sponsorships.

At the conclusion of this informative and inspiring workshop, the participants were grateful for the new information and were motivated to help and support the Augustinian Centre and the CRSC. There will be follow-ups from the summit in New York, and from the Marylake Shrine Monastery.

You can see more about this workshop by clicking on “Activities” at the top of this page, along with some pictures.