Month: January 2015

Churches left in the dark on changes to refugee policy

This article originally appeared in Christian Courier in print and at http://www.christiancourier.ca.
by Brad Wassink on January 12, 2015. In the article he mentions that congregations have taken on the financial and emotional commitment of supporting a refugee or refugee family for their first year in Canada. This includes raising between $20,000 to $30,000, depending on the family’s size. He indicates that today long wait times and a lack of consultation are among the top concerns for these churches. Some other examples include the change in federal funds to health care.

The article also mentions the fact that many SAHs believe that these current policy shifts may make private sponsorship prohibitively difficult. But others fear that raising their concerns publicly will put their role as private sponsors at risk.

The conclusion by the author is that Churches are looking for the best avenue to make sure their concerns are being heard. While it is encouraging to see churches exploring a variety of avenues to influence public policy, more can still be done.

To read the entire article click here.

 

Additional 10,000 Syrian refugees to be offered asylum by Canadian government

On January 7, 2015 Stephanie Levitz wrote an article published in the Winnipeg Free Press regarding the announcement by the Government to accept 10,000 refugees from Syria. She points out the communities are willing and able to take in those seeking shelter from the brutal violence in Syria, but changes are needed to the asylum program, refugee groups and opposition politicians say. The UNHCR welcomed the announcement as “in keeping with Canada’s strong humanitarian tradition to offer resettlement to refugees worldwide.”

The NDP’s Paul Dewar said he’s glad the government’s made the promise, but isn’t convinced they’ll fill it. “This was an announcement. We want to see an action plan to realize the actual pronouncement of the government,” he said. “We do this not only because we can, but because it is right and just,” Alexander said in a statement.

You can read the full article by clicking here.

Canada vows to accept 13,000 more refugees from Syria and Iraq

Steven Chase wrote an article in the Globe and Mail published on January 7, 2015. In the article he says that Canada is opening its doors wider for refugees fleeing a Middle East civil war and the Islamic State’s reign of terror, announcing it will accept another 10,000 Syrians over three years and 3,000 more Iraqis in 2015. He notes that this decision is expected to strain the capacity of private sponsors. The Harper government says the priority for refugees will be persecuted groups, specifically religious minorities – which would include Christians – sexual minorities and victims of rape. This has prompted concern among some refugee advocates that Muslims, a majority in the region, would get short shrift in selection.

Mr. Alexander said the 10,000 new Syrian refugees will be resettled in Canada through both government and private-organization sponsorship. He said he expects roughly 60 per cent will be supported by private sponsors such as church groups and 40 per cent through government arrangements. Refugee sponsor groups said it will be a huge task to help 6,000, or 60 per cent of Syrian refugees, settle in Canada over 36 months. Martin Mark, the refugee sponsorship co-ordinator for the Catholic archdiocese in Toronto, said he believes Canadian private sponsors can absorb 6,000 Syrians over three years if they sit down and carefully plan among themselves.

You can read the full article by clicking here.

Helping to Protect the World’s Most Vulnerable

January 7, 2015 – Toronto , Ontario – Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, today announced increased support for conflict-affected Syrians and Iraqis. Minister Paradis announced additional humanitarian assistance to respond to the immediate needs of those displaced in the region, and Minister Alexander announced that Canada will welcome an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees and 3,000 Iraqi refugees.

Today’s commitment of 10,000 additional Syrian refugees will mean Canada is fulfilling 10 percent of the latest appeal from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees worldwide. Syrian refugees will be resettled in Canada over the next three years, while the additional Iraqi refugees are expected to arrive by the end of 2015.

You can read the full press release from the Government website by clicking here.

Sponsoring Refuge – Alexandra Kotyk

On January 15, 2015 Steve Paiken on his TV program The Agenda interviewed Alexandra Kotyk. She is with the Anglican-United Refugee Alliance and an elected members of the Sponsorship Agreement Holders Council. She indicated that the Government intends to bring 10,000 refugees from Syria and 60% of those will be sponsored by private sponsors, the other 40% will be Government sponsored. In  addition, the Government will bring 3,000 Iraqi refugees. She also indicated that the United Nations High Commissio9n for Refugees had asked Canada to take action on refugee resettlement and this is a step in the right direction. The issue of lack of consultation from the Government to sponsorship agreement holders was also mentioned. Another issue concerned the long complicated processing time for each case. It was interesting to note that Canada is the only country that has private sponsorship of refugees. On another point Alexandra pointed out that it is the Government that is responsible for bringing refugees to Canada, and the trend is to limit and be told what types of refugees to accept and from where – but in the past it was totally open as to where the refugee was originally from. One worry that was discussed is the fear that the private sponsors cannot meet the Government targets and what that might mean two or three years down the road. The reality is that private sponsors are doing most of the refugee sponsorship work.

You can watch the entire interview by clicking here.

Canadians are the first and only people to have been honoured collectively with the Nansen Medal.  The 1986 award committee cited “the major and sustained contribution of the People of Canada to the cause of refugees” through individuals, families, voluntary agencies, community and religious organizations, as well as the three levels of government. For more information on this award please click here.

Canada to take in 13,000 refugees

In the January 13, 2015 edition of the Catholic Register, Michael Swan wrote an article regarding the Government’s commitment to bring 13,000 refugees to Canada. Of the 13,000 there will be approximately 10,000 from Syria. The article states, “Ottawa committed to bring in 10,000 Syrians currently stuck in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Beirut, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere over the next three years — 10 per cent of the 100,000 the United Nations High Commission for Refugees hopes to resettle. Along with the Jan. 7 announcement on Syrian refugees, the government announced it would take in a further 3,000 Iraqi refugees this year.”

Dr. Martin Mark expressed some concerns about this. Complicated application processes and long waits only undermine the enthusiasm and capacity of parish volunteers at the heart of refugee sponsorship, said Mark.

You can read the full article by clicking here.

CRSC Meets with Chris Alexander

Some members of the executive committee of CRSC and a representative from the Office for Refugees for the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) had the opportunity to meet with the Honourable Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in December 2014. Several topics were discussed. These included: the Interim Federal Health Program, the change in the age of dependency rules, the increase in processing times when  the offices moved to Winnipeg and the increased use of the BVOR program.

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The CRSC and the Minister agreed that continued dialogue was vital to furthering our mutual aim of resettling refugees in Canada. Both parties pledged to work together on this important issue.

You can read the note of thanks and a summary of the discussion by clicking here.

Christian refugees share their plight after being persecuted in Iraq

Since the month of August, Church bells have gone silent in Iraqi cities controlled by ISIS. There is one town though, where that mold has been broken.  In the border town of Alqosh, near Mosul, bells ring loud, as locals yearn for peace.
A campaign titled ‘Alqosh Bells’ is shedding light the plight  refugees like Mubarak and Aneesa Hano are facing. They managed to escape, but like thousands, their troubles are far from over.
You can see and hear their stories when they met with Pope Francis. Please click here.