What is Happening
Although there has never been a shortage of refugees, the civil war in Syria that began in 2011 has created a desperate situation worldwide as people flee the violence and are forced to build new homes and lives. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has numbered Syrian refugees at 4,393,831 as of December 2015. 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. Of these, 18,433 were government-sponsored (GAR), 13,138 privately sponsored, and 3,576 blended visa office referred. 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.
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. This means helping 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 with AURA (Anglican-United Refugee Alliance), a sponsorship agreement holder with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
How You Have Helped
Thanks to the generosity of Cathedral parishioners and members of the wider community, the refugee sponsorship committee has raised the amount needed to sponsor one individual and two families.
We continue to need help in the following areas:
- Advocating with the federal government for speeding up the processing of Syrians, increasing ESL resources, and retaining the Blended Visa Office Referred program;
- Identifying potential volunteer interpreters who speak Arabic.
Update: Cathedral-Community Refugee Sponsorship Committee: June 2017
Kambiz, the first of the refugees we are sponsoring, arrived on July 14, 2016 from Iran via Turkey. As our one-year sponsorship approaches its end, we are happy to report that he is making excellent progress toward employment in his chosen field and independent living. We have enjoyed our time with Kambiz, a delightful person with a gift for sociability, and we look forward to maintaining our bonds of friendship with him.
And now we are so happy to report that the long wait is over! The Syrian family we are sponsoring arrived at Pearson at 7am on June 1, 2017: father, mother, and three sons aged 12, 10, and 5. They are all doing well and, along with committee members and wonderful volunteer and professional interpreters, are getting through the seemingly endless series of appointments necessary to become settled in this country. They are an intrepid bunch: by the end of their first week – and without the assistance or even knowledge of the committee – they had taken public transit to Mississauga and Hamilton, not to mention the covering the entire Toronto waterfront. The children began attending school a few days after their arrival and are soaking up English like sponges. We will be rushing to keep up with this crew.
Finally, with our first two sponsorships launched, we are now focusing on a named case, that is, working with an Eritrean woman who attends services at the cathedral to help her support her sister and nephew, currently in the Sudan. We have raised the amount required for these sponsorships, even exceeding our original goal.
The refugee sponsorship committee is deeply grateful for the generous financial support, practical assistance, and wise counsel of Cathedral parishioners and community leaders. With God’s grace, let us continue to welcome the stranger together.
Chair, Cathedral-Community Refugee Response Committee
416-364-7865, ext. *801