REFUGEE SUNDAY MATERIALS... AND A WORKSHOP!
Refugee Sunday is April 12, 2015! Resources are now available.
A refugee workshop for churches: Journey with Me: Refugee Stories that Change Lives
Refugees are our neighbors. When we think of refugees we often hear of the Biblical call to ‘welcome the stranger.’ And welcoming the stranger is a good first step. But in this increasingly interconnected world, these strangers are our neighbors and we need each other. When one part of a community struggles, the entire community is incomplete. This workshop will help Christian citizens to work with their refugee neighbours for justice.
News: Refugee Workshop Launches
Letters to The Honourable Chris Alexander, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Canada:
- NGOs say they weren't consulted on latest Syrian refugee pledge - Embassy (Jan.14/2015)
- War stokes further growth in forced displacement in first half 2014 - UNHCR (Jan.7/2015)
- Canada must step up to help Syrian refugees - Toronto Star (Dec.3/2014)
- Why has Canada only taken in 200 Syrian refugees? - Toronto Star (Sept.19/2014)
- Canada slow to respond to Syrian refugee crisis - Toronto Star (Sept.14/2014)
About Refugee Resettlement
WHO IS A REFUGEE?
The ideal solution for most refugees is repatriation--the resettling of refugees back to their country of origin.
For those who cannot return home, a second solution is for the refugee to create a new life in their country of asylum. However, if neither of these solutions is possible, refugees may be resettled to a third country, like Canada, the U.S, or many others.
Refugee resettlement is the third and final possible solution available to refugees. This often comes as a surprise to many North Americans, A mere 1% will be welcomed into a new country. Limited numbers of countries willing to resettle refugees and limited number of resettlement spaces per country are the main reasons so few refugees are resettled. Those that are, face difficulty in adjusting to a new culture and often find their education and work experience less valued in their new land.
Canada is unique among nations that welcome refugees. That’s because it is the only country that allows sponsorship of refugees by private organizations. World Renew is one of the Canadian agencies that has been granted a sponsorship agreement by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
World Renew’s sponsorship agreement allows CRC congregations in Canada to sponsor refugees.
A refugee is:
“a person who, because of well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or afraid to ask for protection in that country, or not having a country of nationality, is outside the country where he/she usually lived, and is unable or afraid to return to that country.” (United Nations Convention, 1951.)
We would to like encourage more Christian Reformed congregations to sponsor refugees. There are several opportunities for refugee sponsorship that World Renew is not able to access due to the lack of sufficient numbers of churches engaged in sponsorship. . Won’t you consider sponsoring a refugee?
Remember- a person isn’t a refugee by choice. A person is a refugee by the discriminating choices of others.
If your diaconate would like to consider sponsoring a family or individual that Citizenship and Immigration Canada suggests, please call us! There are countless refugee families in need of help in many places around the world.
We will provide you with resources, administrative help, and encouragement if you decide to make this a ministry for this year. The new Refugee Resources Booklet (see resources below) contains a wealth of information about refugee sponsorship and details about how your church can become involved. If you would like us to mail you a copy please contact us.
Rebecca Walker, Refugee Coordinator
Burlington, Ontario L7R 3Y8
Toll Free: 1-800-730-3490
How to Get Involved
SPONSOR A REFUGEE
- Approach your deacon with your desire to sponsor a refugee and form a small refugee sponsorship committee.
- Contact World Renew’s Refugee Office: Rebecca Walker can refer several cases of waiting refugees for your review. Take time with your committee to discern whom God is calling your congregation to sponsor.)
- Communicate your decision to the refugee office. You may name the refugee(s) you would like to sponsor or you can learn of other refugee populations in need of resettlement. Rose and/or Rebecca will assist you in preparing the sponsorship application.
- Wait for the arrival. This tends to be the most difficult part of the process for sponsoring congregations, co-sponsors and refugees. While you wait, read over the ‘Refugee Sponsorship Resources’ which can be mailed or emailed to you by the Refugee Office.
HOLD A REFUGEE SUNDAY
Refugee Sunday is celebrated annually in Canada on the first Sunday in April close to Canada’s Refugee Rights Day. See above for this year's resources.
Current Issues in the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program
CIC OFFERS A NEW OPPORTUNITY TO SPONSOR REFUGEES CIC
CIC offers a new opportunity to sponsor refugees CIC announced the Visa Office Referred (VOR) Blended Program to begin in January 2013. It is a new initiative and an opportunity for private sponsors to sponsor more refugees. Visa Office Referred refugees are refugees identified by the UNHCR and selected for resettlement by CIC. These refugee populations will be made available to SAHs within the next few months. The blended program means that CIC will provide financial support for these refugees for their first six months in Canada. This is an exciting possibility and we encourage churches to contact the refugee office to learn more details about this opportunity.
CIC ANNOUNCES CAP ON THE PRIVATE SPONSORSHIP OF REFUGEES PROGRAM
On January 1, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) introduced limits on the number of refugee sponsorship applications that Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) may submit. In the past, World Renew and other SAHs were able to submit unlimited sponsorship applications. This meant that World Renew could gladly respond to individuals or deacons’ requests to sponsor refugee families that were friends or relatives of former refugees currently living in their church communities. In the 2010-2011 ministry year, for example, World Renew helped to bring 40 families to Canada, many of whom had existing ties to the communities surrounding CRC sponsoring churches.
For 2013, World Renew received an allocation of 19 individuals. CRC congregations have responded and most of the 19 spaces have been allocated to date. This is good news. The allocation for 2014 will be made known to World Renew sometime in the fall 2013.
The VOR blended program described above is an excellent program for all SAHs and interested sponsors as it allows another window of opportunity to respond to the many refugees in need. Refugees that fall under this program do not count against our allocations and the number of submissions under this program is unlimited.
INTERIM FEDERAL HEALTH PROGRAM (IFHP)
Citizenship and Immigration recently announced changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) which will affect the health benefits provided to current and future refugees. As of June 30 2012, IFH benefits, which include prescription drugs, urgent dental care, and vision care and mobility devices, will no longer be available to privately sponsored refugees.
IFHP was an extended health program that provided health coverage to newly arrived refugees. In addition to what was covered under provincial health care programs. IFH was available to privately sponsored refugees immediately upon their arrival for their first 12 months in Canada.
The CIC website provides helpful information regarding which refugees will receive what coverage under the 'new' IFH Program. While it is good news for some refugee populations that their coverage will continue, the website clearly indicates that privately sponsored refugees fall under the category of 'Health-Care Coverage' and will not receive health coverage in addition to what is provided by the province. For churches sponsoring refugees under the new CIC Visa Office Blended Program described above, it is confirmed that these refugees will receive IFH coverage.
The impact on private sponsors from this policy change is that it will now be up to the sponsor to provide dental, vision, prescription drugs and mobility devices as needed during the initial year of sponsorship. This does increase the risk to all sponsoring groups as it is very difficult to know or predict medical needs prior to the arrival of the refugee family. In many cases there are no medical needs beyond what is covered by provincial health care, however if difficult medical problems arise, the sponsoring group will have to take on this additional responsibility and cost.
There has been considerable response from the sponsoring community, lawyers, doctors, and refugee activists regarding this policy change. One Sponsorship Agreement Holder in Winnipeg is filing a law suit against the government and other SAHs are exploring alternative health insurance options. The SAH Association membership also had the opportunity to speak directly to Dr. Grondin (Health Management Branch) at the recent Sponsor Agreement Holders conference in Fredericton in May 2012. Several SAHs took the opportunity to present the negative impacts this policy will have on the private sponsorship program.
MEMBERSHIPS & NETWORKING
The refugee office is actively engaged with several stakeholders involved in working with refugees. We have an official partnership with Diaconal Ministries Canada for refugee sponsorship.
In addition to ongoing liaison and networking with other SAHs, CIC and the UNHCR, the World Renew refugee office is a member of:
- Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) Association
- Southern Ontario Sponsorship Group (SOSG)
- Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR)
- KAIROS Canada
AGE OF DEPENDENCY
The most recent refugee legislation that has been proposed would also deeply impact refugee families. Currently children of refugees who are under the age of twenty-two, are considered dependents of their parents and can be sponsored to Canada along with their families. The new legislation proposes to lower the age of dependency to “under nineteen” years of age.
Imagine being a parent in a refugee camp that would need to choose to leave behind a nineteen or twenty year old child in order to come to Canada under either the private sponsorship of refugees program or the government assisted program. If you have a nineteen year old child or grandchild, could you leave that child behind in order to find safety for yourself and your younger children?
Please contact your MP to protest this proposed legislation.
- Applying as a Convention Refugee or as a Humanitarian—Protected Person Abroad (GOVERNMENT OF CANADA)
- Guide to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (GOVERNMENT OF CANADA)
- Processing times for Privately Sponsored Refugee Applications (GOVERNMENT OF CANADA)