Migrants and Refugees



The year 2022 marks the 108th year of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This is a day that highlights the commitment that we are all called to share in building a future that embraces God’s plan, leaving no one behind.

Pope Francis has issued a document for this occasion entitled “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees”. In this document the Pope uses the metaphor of the “journey” that we are all engaged in. We are travelling to the kingdom of God. The builder of this city/kingdom is God we are the construction workers. In this new city no one is to be excluded, God’s plan is inclusive. Each person has a contribution to make to the construction of the new city – the kingdom of God.

Pope Francis also highlights the value of people from various places working together – newcomers are not invaders. There is great personal enrichment found in meeting and sharing life with the newcomer. We will share new languages, dress, food, spirituality and much more.

The prayer offered by the Pope is one we all can say:

Lord, let us learn how beautiful it is
to live together as brothers and sisters. Amen.


Pope Francis message “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees“.

World Day of Migrants and Refugees – Home Page

Video: Fr. Robert Stark S.S. – Regional Coordinator, Migrants and Refugees Centre.

Video: Fr. Francis Galvan OSA – Chaplain to the Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice

Video: Fr. Emeka Obiezu OSA – Director Augustinian Centre for Advocacy, Justice and Peace – Nigeria

Website: Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Cardinal Collins Honoured for Care of Refugees

On June 18, 2022 a dinner and celebration was held for Cardinal Thomas Collins Archbishop of Toronto. This was in recognition for his untiring dedication and fatherly care for refugees coming to Canada. The Chaldean community came together to honour the Cardinal who had founded the Office for Refugees at the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT). Since ORAT was established over 7,000 refugees have been sponsored.

Diana Kaktoana, the soloist at the Mass said, “It is very very valuable to us that he cares, like a father.”

Please read the entire article here: Care for Refugees

Life and death persecution internationally, suppression locally

The Canadian National Multilingual News Group also published an article regarding the dinner honouring Cardinal Collins. The article notes that Christians (in particular Catholics practicing their faith in several of their Rites) are numerically the most persecuted in the world. They represent the largest demographic prone to seek refuge from their native soil.

The evening began with a procession by the Eritrean community leaders. There were over 450 people attending this dinner. The article also lists those in attendance: “It was an overwhelming display of thanks by Catholics, Coptic, Chaldeans, Melkite, Syriac Orthodox, members of the Eritrean Chaplaincy for the Archdiocese’s work on their behalf. Equally impressive was the number of prelates, priests and parish organizers, including Archbishop Emeritus Lawrence Saldanha, Bishop Mina, Fr. Yousif Al Banna, Fr. Manhal Abboush Habash, Fr. Keflemariam and the Reverend Msgr. Makarios Wehbi, who joined His Grace Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Papal Nuncio to Canada, in their expressions of gratitude.”

In his remarks the Cardinal said, ““People should be able to stay in their homeland instead of being persecuted and driven from their homes.” He also emphasized that the danger here is “not YET persecution”, but rather “complacency and suppression of our Faith”.

At the link to the article please see the video of the procession and pictures of those present.

Choose this link: Life and Death

Thanking Cardinal Collins – Refugee Resettlement

This link includes several pictures from the dinner in honour of Cardinal Collins.

Link: Leadership in Refugee Resettlement

Minister Sean Fraser’s Remarks

IRCC Minister Sean Fraser provided a video message at the dinner honouring Cardinal Collins.

Please watch the video here: Minister Fraser


With thousands of Afghans still desperate to flee the Taliban, is Canada set to close its doors?

Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star reporter, wrote about the situation of many Afghans waiting desperately to flee from the Taliban and what is Canada doing.

Canadas has said that they plan to settle 40,000 people this summer. Some advocates say that they have almost run out of spots and want the Government to have a plan to keep the doors open. Initially, Canada had a plan to bring those who had a significant and enduring relationship with Canada. It was later expanded to include vulnerable groups. In December, another pathway was opened to the extended family members of former Afghan interpreters who previously resettled here.

A coalition of organizations are deeply troubled by Canada’s plan to close its doors. Immigration officials said Canada’s commitment to the Afghan refugees has not wavered. Aidan Strickland, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser indicates that more invitations will be issued soon. He also said that the number of applications received are far above what Canada can accommodate. The problem is that IRCC has not communicated effectively on this issue.

A request was made for local Afghan staff to come to Canada more than three months before Kabul fell to the Taliban, according to government briefing notes obtained under an access-to-information request.

Jenny Kwan, NDP critic says Canada made a promise that we would bring them to safety and we have not fulfilled that promise. The government must not close off the initiative but expand it as long as required to bring those individuals to safety, Kwan said.

You can read the entire article by choosing this link: Afghans Desperate


35% of government-sponsored refugees still on welfare after 10 years

True North News published an article by Noah Jarvis on March 28, 2022. “A report from Statistics Canada study has found that 72% of government-sponsored refugees still rely on welfare programs two years after arrival, and 35% are still dependent after ten years.”

The government plans to accept 40,000 refugees from Afghanistan plus others totaling 75,000 in 2022. The Stats Canada report showed that compared to the 35% rate for government-sponsored refugees, 23% of privately sponsored refugees relied on welfare ten years after coming to Canada. 

The StatsCan report stated that becoming dependent on government “is less likely for privately sponsored refugees who are more likely to have family or friends in Canada and are better positioned to find employment through sponsors.”

David Davis, a lawyer for the National Indo-Canadian Council. Davis advocated for allowing any Canadian citizen to sponsor anyone regardless of their relationship with that person. 

Please read the entire article here: Government-sponsored Refugees


‘God opens the door’ to Pakistani Catholic refugee family

The Catholic Register published an article in the May 27th edition which described the plight and joy of a family from Pakistan coming to Canada. The article says, “Like all the Pakistani Christians hiding out in Bangkok in 2019, Younis Gil had to keep his name and face off the Internet, out of public view, for fear of being betrayed to the Royal Thai Immigration Police. Or worse yet, he might have been hunted down by Pakistani extremists who would take his life, without trial or evidence, in revenge for a made-up, fantastical charge of blasphemy.”

Younis had first applied to come to Canada in 2019 but because of COVID could not travel. Finally, with the help of the Office for Refugees at the Archdiocese of Toronto, he arrived in 2022. Younis Gil comes to the door of the four-bedroom, three-bath suburban house, which the combined refugee committees of St. Martin of Tours and St. Ignatius parishes have provided for the family.

It took a while to get all eight of them together in that house. Sunena arrived Jan. 27. Her sister Seemab with her husband Aurangezeb Joseph and their children Joshua and Divine Mary got there Feb. 9. Sunena’s big brother Shan arrived Feb. 24. Nobody seems to remember when the younger brother Adeeb arrived. Finally their father and mother landed at Pearson International Airport March 17.

“We are confident,” said Aurangezeb. “We have rights here. We have freedom. We have our health free. We have education for our children free. The only thing we have to do is we have to work. This is our duty. We can work.”

“God opens the door for us,” said Sunena.

You can find the complete article at this link: God Opens the Door


Toronto Archdiocese to Resettle Refugees Fleeing Ukraine

The April 9th edition of the Catholic Register has an article by Susan Korah regarding resettling of Ukrainian refugees. The Office for Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) is in discussion with Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Church officials to coordinate a program that would see Toronto parishioners host Ukrainian families fleeing the war in their homeland. They are collaborating to establish an emergency program to help parishioners of the Latin rite, Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches who wish to sponsor a family member that has fled Ukraine.

One part of the program is the Parishioner Sponsored Family Program which is meant for Ukrainians who have relatives in Canada. The other part is that ORAT will conduct mission trips to Ukraine’s neighbouring countries and will select families that have no relatives or connections in Canada. Another ORAT initiative is the Ukrainian Relief Fund which has been established to help suffering Ukrainians, with funds directed to ORAT and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) to provide humanitarian aid and pay for refugee settlement.

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), has yet to establish a refugee settlement pathway for Ukrainians, but has set up an expedited travel visa program that gives them the opportunity to stay in Canada for two years.

Please see the entire article here: Ukrainian Resettlement

Parishioners are advised to indicate their interest by sending an e-mail to oratrefugeeoffice@archtoronto.org.


108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees – Sunday September 25, 2022

Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees

The term “building with” means recognizing and promoting the role that migrants and refugees have to play in this work of construction, because only in this way will it be possible to build a world that ensures the conditions for the integral human development of all.

Pope Francis’ Message, featuring six sub-themes, will explore how migrants and refugees are able to contribute – now and in the future – to the social, economic, cultural, and spiritual development of societies and ecclesial communities.


Persecution Against Christians on the Rise Worldwide

In the January 2022 edition of the Vatican News, Lisa Sengarini wrote an article regarding the rise of persecution of Christians around the world.

The article refers to the 2022 World Watch List (WWL) released on Wednesday by Open Doors International showing that persecution against Christians continues to rise especially in Asian and African countries and that the COVID 19 pandemic has further exacerbated discrimination.

On January 19 the non-denominational organization based in the Netherlands presented its  2022 World Watch List (WWL) which ranks the top 50 countries where Christians experience the worst persecution for their faith.

In the new report, Afghanistan ranks first as the most dangerous country for Christians, since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, overtaking North Korea. Four out of the first five countries recording the highest rate of anti-Christian violence are Islamic States where both political unrest and religious extremism have grown. Apart from Afghanistan, they include Somalia (3), Libya (4) and Yemen (5). They are followed by Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Sudan, Iraq and Syria.

One of the consequences of religious violence against Christians is forced displacement.

Please read the entire article at this link: Persecution of Christians


107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees – Sunday September 26, 2021

Toward an Ever Wider “WE”


September 26, 2021

God created us male and female, different yet complementary, in order to form a “we” destined to become ever more numerous in the succession of generations.

The truth however is that we are all in the same boat and called to work together so that there will be no more walls that separate us, no longer others, but only a single “we”, encompassing all of humanity. 

I also make this appeal to journey together towards an ever wider “we” to all men and women, for the sake of renewing the human family, building together a future of justice and peace, and ensuring that no one is left behind.

Ours must be a personal and collective commitment that cares for all our brothers and sisters who continue to suffer, even as we work towards a more sustainable, balanced and inclusive development. A commitment that makes no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.

Please read the entire message from Pope Francis at this link: Toward an Ever Wider WE

You can watch Pope Francis video message at this link: We are as Wide as Humanity



The Catholic Register published an article by Michael Swan indicating that Canada is in a unique position to accept refugees from around the world. Pope Francis, in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday September 26 said, “This is the ideal of the new Jerusalem, where all people are united in peace and harmony, celebrating the goodness of God and the wonders of creation. We must endeavor to break down the walls that separate us.”

Canadian citizens can privately sponsor refugees. Therefore, there is no reason not to take the challenge offered by Pope Francis. Deacon Rudy Ovcjak from the Office for Refugees Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) says that Canada and Catholics are uniquely positioned to be directly involved in resettlement of refugees.

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto will celebrate Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday September 26 at 5:00pm. It will be live-streamed from St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.

Please read the entire article at this link: Canada Saving Refugees


On August 25, the Catholic Register published an article by Michael Swan dealing with Afghan refugees and the role of sponsors in Canada who will receive them. The process for sponsoring the more than 20,000 refugees is very unclear, according to Deacon Rudy Ovcjak from the Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT). The issue is the details related to the process of resettlement, according to Erin Pease the Director of the Hamilton Diocese Office for Refugees. Furthermore, the announcement that many refugees would be processed was made without consultation with the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs). Erin Pease also mentions that on average it takes more than three years to bring an Afghan family to Canada. There are many who are waiting and have been waiting for years.

Deacon Rudy is confident that when the process is clearly outlined the sponsors will be ready.

Erin Pease also hopes that Canada will have a plan to resettle refugees from all countries not just Afghanistan.

You can read the full article here: Sponsors Ready

Religious Persecution’s Red Letter Day

Convivium December 2, 2020, Susan Korah

Wednesday November 18 is designated Red Wednesday, a public awareness campaign and call to action on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world. Initiated in 2016 by the UK chapter of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a pontifical international Catholic charity, Red Wednesday is now observed in many countries including Canada.

But the Canadian government has yet to wake up to the global crisis, despite the efforts of organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need Canada, which coordinated the Canadian event.

Sister Micheline Lattouf of Lebanon, reports on statistics reflecting severe persecution in the Middle East:

260 million Christians are persecuted because of their faith, January 2019 (Open Doors)

  In Syria, Christians are currently fewer than 500,000, compared to 1.5 million in 2011 (ACN)

    In Iraq, the number of Christians is less than 150,000 compared to 1.5 million before 2003 (ACN)

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria says: “The Boko Haram (extremist Islamist group) insurgents are still rampaging. Most of the kidnapped (Christian) girls have not been found and are still in captivity.”

“The selection process for immigration is broken and there is a gross under-representation of Christians who are accepted as refugees,” Deacon Rudy Ovcjak, Director of the Office of Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) told Convivium in an interview. “This is not an appeal to help Christians exclusively,” Ovcjak added. “This is to ensure justice and fairness and to maintain equilibrium between Christians and other groups.”

The comments by Ovcjak align with the principles of Red Wednesday as envisioned by its founders. Although it is a Catholic Church initiative, it does not focus entirely on persecuted Christians. Instead, it’s a call to action on behalf of all people persecuted for their faith and beliefs.

In sharp contrast to the Canadian government, the government of Hungary has demonstrated its support for persecuted Christians in a concerted manner. As a proof of this commitment, Hungary was the first European country to join the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance,” she said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada needs to fine-tune its policies and processes to ensure that Christians, and others such as Yazidis in a particularly disadvantaged situation, get a fair chance at re-settlement, while continuing to accept refugees of all groups.

Please read the entire article here: Religious Persecution’s Red Letter Day


Quebec Suspends Refugee Resettlement

On December 6 the Catholic Register published an article by Michael Swan reporting that the Quebec Government had suspended churches and faith communities for one year (until November 2021) from sponsoring refugees. The churches and faith communities want some explanation. Canadian Religious Conference Director Fr. Alain Ambeault finds the decision “Unacceptable”.

The Government mentioned serious concerns about the integrity of certain practices of legal persons within the framework. Alessandra Santopadre from the Diocese of Montreal wondered why the government has made such a blanket suspension. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Director Norbert Piche also wondered about the blanket cancellation and its fairness.

A letter from the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes refugiees et immigtrantes (TCRI) stated that the Quebec Immigration Department has introduced a spirit of suspicion in place of collaboration.

Please read the entire article here: Suspension


Immigration levels – tough to meet

On November 7, 2020 Michael Swan from the Catholic Register published an article regarding the Government’s plan to take in a record 1.2 million immigrants between now and 2023. Churches and other organizations have expressed serious doubts about the effectiveness of this approach.

Deacon Rudy Ovcjak from the Archdiocese of Toronto Office for Refugees agrees with the closure of the border during COVID-19 but is also worried about the prospect of future backlogs gumming up the works of Canada’s refugee system.

The SAH Association says that if the government is serious about hitting its refugee targets, it’s going to have to lift the travel restrictions for more people who have already been approved for permanent residence in Canada.

“I know that is something Canadians take great pride in,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. In percentage terms, the new levels plan for refugees will hold steady at between 14.5 and 14.8 per cent of all new immigrants.

In announcing the new plan, Mendicino leaned heavily on the economic realities of immigration and Canada’s aging population. He pointed out that 25 per cent of health-care workers are immigrants. About 60 per cent of all new arrivals are economic class immigrants.

“In 1971 there were seven workers for every retiree. Now it’s three,” Mendicino said. “Put simply, we need more workers.”

Please read the entire article here: Immigration Levels


Quebec suspends private refugee sponsorships by organizations for one year

On October 30, 2020, the CBC reported that the Quebec Government has suspended private refugee sponsorships from organizations for one year.

The report says, “Quebec is suspending all private refugee sponsorships by organizations because it says it has serious concerns with the integrity of the program.

The province said Wednesday that until November 2021, only groups of two to five people can privately sponsor a refugee.

All larger organizations including church groups and non-profits that have privately sponsored refugees for years are shut out of the program for the next 12 months.

You may read the entire news story at this link: Quebec Suspends Private Sponsorships



The following are celebrations and remarks related to the World Day of Migrants & Refugees (WDMR) 2020. Pope Francis has declared that the theme for this year is “Forced like Jesus Christ to Flee“.

Toronto – Mass with Cardinal Collins of Toronto, Sept. 27, 2020: Mass

Homily – Cardinal Collins – WDMR Mass

Vancouver – Mass with Archbishop J. Michael Miller, Sept. 27, 2020: Mass

His Grace, Archbishop Bashar Warda C.SS.R. (Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq)

Archbishop Saldanha, retired Archbishop from Pakistan

Minister Marco Mendicino – Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Raquel Dancho, Conservative Party of Canada