Diocese of Toronto | Anglican Church of Canada

Refugee Response

Celebrating 4 Years of Welcoming Refugees to Our Community

In November 2015, a group of community members and St. James Cathedral parishioners gathered to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Over the years, that partnership has grown to be a wonderful success. To date, the Cathedral-Community Refugee Response Committee has sponsored and helped settle a Syrian family of five and a father and daughter from Iran. Through Canada’s unique blended visa program, we support these newcomers financially, practically, socially, and emotionally during their first year of resettlement.

How YOU can be involved!


Current opportunities include:

Committee members: Particularly people who can be available during the day assisting newcomers as they settle into life in Toronto. Committee members are needed with professional school board connections and experience, knowledge of adult ESL resources, and communications. The Committee meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., in the Cathedral Centre at 65 Church Street.


Affordable housing: Help needed with providing or suggesting temporary shelter or permanent accommodation options in the downtown area.

Resource referrals: Help needed with providing names and connections to services or other resources that might be helpful to newcomers from specific cultural or geographic backgrounds.

 To learn more and get involved, contact us at: StJamesTorontoRefugee@gmail.com or 416-364-7865 x *801. Check out the hashtag #WelcomeRefugees online to see more about refugee resettlement in Canada and beyond.

You can make donations to the refugee committee online here.

Learn more about the committee’s work here:

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What is Happening

The civil war in Syria that began in 2011 created a desperate situation worldwide as people fled violence, conflict and persecution and were forced to build new homes and lives. In December 2015, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) totaled the number of Syrian refugees at over 4.3 million. The Canadian government initially pledged to bring in 25,000 in 2015. The deadline was extended into 2016 and by January 2017, the number of Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada was 35,147. With the target met, the government has redeployed its resources and the processing of Syrian applications has slowed dramatically. Nevertheless, Syrian refugees and refugees from other countries continue to arrive, and at the same time many sponsorship groups still wait to be matched with a family.

Our Response

The Cathedral-Community Refugee Response Committee was formed in November 2015 with the goal of sponsoring two families, one Syrian and one a named case. The Committee’s role was to help them settle in Canada by raising funds for the first year of living expenses, helping them to connect with local resources and generally learn how to live independently in their new country. The committee works closely with AURA (Anglican-United Refugee Alliance), a sponsorship agreement holder with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

How You Have Helped

As the Committee approaches completion of its fourth year, thanks to the generosity of Cathedral parishioners and members of the wider community, enough funds have been raised to allow three separate sponsorships and an upcoming sponsorship in Fall 2019 (see August 2019 Update below).

With this incredible generosity and experience, we continue to develop a more informed approach to our work, in the hope of ongoing sponsorship of new families, from countries where the need and opportunity exist. We do all work with gratitude to you, our supporters, for your generosity, kindness, and belief in our mission.


Upcoming Sponsorship – Fall 2019

Preparations are underway as the Committee looks forward to welcoming our fourth sponsorship this fall – a young mother and son from Cameroon.

Iranian Father and Daughter

Our Iranian refugee and his daughter continue to settle in to life in Toronto, after being separated for six years prior to the latter’s arrival from Iran in March 2018.

The daughter’s first year in Canada was not always easy as she struggled to adjust to her new country and to cope with missing people in Iran. She continues to build her English speaking skills and has enjoyed improving her swimming skills at the local aquatic centre. Her love of music remains and she celebrated her sixteenth birthday in November surrounded by family, cake and candles.

We were able to secure affordable housing in the downtown area for them to live.  The father undertook English as a Second Language late last year and, after several months, began working in the home renovation sector.  He enjoys his work and is now building his own business.

The Syrian Family

In June 2017 we welcomed our second sponsorship – a Syrian family of five (mother, father, and three boys aged at that time 12, 10 and 5). With our assistance during the first year, they gradually adjusted to living in a new country and dealing with a new language and culture. Now, over two years later, albeit with a few expected challenges, they continue to embrace their new life. Both parents are employed in jobs they enjoy, and the children have adapted well to the Toronto school system. The family is happy to be living in Canada.


Iranian Father and Daughter

In January we mentioned that we hoped to welcome another individual newcomer in the near future. We are very happy to announce the arrival in mid-March of daughter of the single man from Iran, who, as you know, arrived here from Iran in July 2016. She had been named for admission to Canada on her father’s original application and, with his hopes and our help, this has come about. Those Committee members who travelled to the airport with the father witnessed a very touching and heartwarming reunion between father and daughter. Assistance had been provided in securing a larger apartment in advance of the daughter’s arrival, and various Committee members will provide ongoing support to her with learning English, schooling, medical and dental care, and meeting all the government and other settlement needs, as we have done with our previous sponsorships. The daughter plays guitar and is apparently quite musical, so we hope this interest will offer some social opportunities as she settles in Toronto.

 The Syrian Family

The family from Syria continues to settle into their Toronto home. They are all learning English (the children in particular are managing amazingly), and the mother and father are pursuing employment possibilities, managing their finances, and assuming responsibility for the different aspects of their day-to-day lives, all in anticipation of the completion of our sponsorship at the end of June. It would seem very unlikely that we will lose touch with this remarkable family!

Do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions or would like further information – telephone 416–364–7865, extension 801, or by email – StJamesTorontoRefugee@gmail.com  Thank you again for making this important, life-altering work possible.

More information:

Contact us:


416-364-7865, ext. *801

The Cathedral Church of St James

106 King Street East, Toronto ON M5C 2E9 | Office & Mailing Address: 65 Church Street, Toronto, ON M5C 2E9
(416)364-7865 | info@stjamescathedral.ca

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