Migrants and Refugees

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