In the News

Restaurant to sponsor Syrian refugees

In the Nov. 30, 2015 edition of the BC Catholic paper an article by By Thandiwe Konguavi discussed a unique idea of a restaurant sponsoring  Syrian refugees in
Edmonton, Alberta. Kim Franklin, owner of the diner, wanted to start a group to sponsor a refugee and put up a sign at St. Joseph’s College where a refugee sponsorship group had already been started. At the college, Franklin met Father Glenn McDonald of St. Joseph’s College Chapel – one of several communities in the Edmonton Archdiocese sponsoring Syrian refugees.

Paulette Johnson, refugee sponsorship co-ordinator for Catholic Social Services, said it is wonderful to see how many Canadians want to help. But trying to secure a family from the government lists has been frustrating. This year, 112 refugee sponsorship cases involving 267 people have been submitted through the archdiocese.

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Organization seeks more resources, faster application processing times

On September 20, 2015 the BC Catholic newspaper published an article by Agnieszka Krawczynski entitled “Organization seeks more resources, faster application processing times”. The article references the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) statement from September 4, stating “Refugee resettlement is about the urgent need for protection. Sponsorship procedures need to be fast and efficient so that lives are not lost in the current situation of endless red tape.” Evelyn Vollet, who oversees the process as director of the Service and Justice Office, said she shares their concerns. She said the current annual number of refugees from all over the world, sponsored privately as well as by government, comes out at only about 13,000. She also urged Catholics to donate to aid organizations to support refugees overseas.

You can read the full article here.

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“We are the voice of the voiceless”

On Saturday October 31, in the Toronto Star newspaper, Marina Jimenez posted an article describing the trip to Jordan by several volunteers from the Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT). Their two week mission was to prepare a list of mini profiles for parishes responding to Project Hope in the Archdiocese of Toronto. The volunteers included two teachers from Barrie, an immigration consultant, two women from a Brampton parish and three from ORAT’s office.

You can read this story by clicking here.

Project Hope on track to bring in 100 Syrian refugee families to GTA

On Wednesday Oct. 28, 2015, the Toronto Star published an article by Debra Black updating the Project Hope initiative from the Archdiocese of Toronto. Fifty days into the campaign, the archdiocese has raised $1.7 million and 50 volunteer sponsorship committees — made up of individuals from a community group, church or corporation — have come forward to sponsor refugees. But another 50 volunteer committees are needed as well as another $1.3 million, said Martin Mark, director of the office for refugees at the Archdiocese of Toronto, who recently returned from Jordan where he and a team of volunteers interviewed Syrian refugees for resettlement here.

The article mentions that 50 families have been matched and there is need for more groups to come forward. Mark stressed the archdiocese isn’t just looking to the Catholic community for support, saying other faith groups, corporations and community groups are welcome to join the effort.

Please read the entire article here.

There is also an article on this same topic in the Catholic Register dated Nov. 1, 2015. You can read this article here.

Clinic launched ‘where care matters more than a (health) card’


Nicholas Keung Immigration reporter for the Toronto Star, published an article on June 11, 2015 on a new health clinic, made possible by volunteers and donors, will care for some of Toronto’s most vulnerable residents — the uninsured and undocumented. There will all be a grand opening of the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care on Sheppard Ave. E., in Scarborough, with an open house that runs through June 13-14. The former Volunteer Health Clinic for the Uninsured has finally found a permanent home in the 107-year-old manse of Knox Presbyterian Church Agincourt. The new 2,800-square-foot facility will house a medical clinic, a dental clinic, pediatric services, midwifery and diagnostic imaging programs, chiropractic and massage services, and a foot care clinic all under one roof. It will be run by medical professionals volunteering their time and will serve some of the most vulnerable residents — the undocumented and uninsured.

You can read the full article by clicking here.

Legal Aid seeks standing at penalty hearing for disgraced refugee lawyer

The Toronto Star published an article by Nicholas Keung on Sunday May 10, 2015 dealing with a lawyer who has admitted to misconduct in refugee cases.

Viktor Hohots, who pleaded guilty to professional misconduct in March for failing to adequately prepare the asylum claims of 13 of his clients. Jozef Pusuma, one of the complainants who sought sanctuary in a church for more than two years before leaving Canada voluntarily with his wife, Timea Daróczi, and daughter, Viktoria, have also submitted an impact statement to the hearing for Mr. Hohots.

Mary Jo Leddy of Romero House, which helps refugees resettle, said the impact could be more far-reaching and reported on a study that found Hohots represented hundreds of Hungarian — mostly Roma — cases between 2008 and 2012, with a dismal 1.2 per cent success rate. She says, “We are not interested in simply punishing a lawyer for misconduct. We are interested in a justice that restores humanity to both the offender and the offended. We would like to see Viktor Hohots involved in the process of seeking redress for the refugees who were harmed by his misconduct.”

You can read the full article by clicking here.

Job Opening Jesuit Refugee Service National Director

Jesuit Refugee Service is looking for a National Director. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organization with a mission to accompany, serve and defend the rights of refugees and displaced people. One of the responsibilities is to coordinate, facilitate and implement support activities for refugees and migrants. She or he also represents JRS and related Jesuit initiatives to the Canadian Bishops and and national organizations for the defense of refugees, notably the Canadian Council for Refugees. Place of work: Montreal Office (Bellarmin House, 25, rue Jarry Ouest, Montreal). He or she will have to travel regularly to other Canadian cities, especially Toronto. Starting date: August 2015.

You can read the full job posting by clicking here.

Legal Aid vows to ‘weed out’ bad refugee lawyers

Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star immigration reporter, published this article on Monday April 20, 2015.  He notes that after two years of consultations, the body that administers the province’s legal aid program will start screening lawyers representing refugee claimants based on their experience, expertise and records if they want to be paid to do asylum cases. In 2014, Canada received 13,133 asylum claims, two-thirds of them in Central Region that covers Greater Toronto. The issue arises from ongoing concerns over poor representation of the most vulnerable by some lawyers in jeopardizing legitimate refugees’ claims for protection. Legal Aid Ontario has set a July 17 deadline for lawyers to submit to the screening process, where they must fill out an application to detail their experience in representing refugees at the Immigration and Refugee Board and Federal Court of Canada. Any lawyer who does not apply before then or fails to meet the standards will be removed from legal aid’s roster. However, there are those who express reservations as to whether refugee lawyers, despite their diligence and good intent, are able to do everything expected of them with the limited number of hours Legal Aid Ontario pays for.

You can read the full article by clicking here.

Supreme Court ruling could alter landscape for refugee advocates

The Toronto Star published an article on March 14, 2015 by Debra Black in which she outlines the Supreme Court ruling on advocating for refugees. Advocates have said that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is written far too broadly and puts people who legitimately help refugees at risk of prosecution. Section 117 makes it illegal to “organize, induce, aid or abet the coming into Canada of one or more persons knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, their coming into Canada is or would be in contravention of this Act.”

Francisco Rico, co-director of the FJC Refugee Centre in Toronto says “We do it being aware of the daily risk,”

Still, many challenging the law worry in a political climate increasingly hostile to refugees, it could criminalize the work of all advocates and humanitarians, says Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees. Lawyer Lorne Waldman, who represented one of the appellants in a Supreme Court case, said if the law stands, it “will be a strong disincentive against people helping refugees to try to come to Canada.”

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

New report on Development and Peace’s solidarity with the people of Syria

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) has released their report on the crisis in Syria and surrounding areas covering the years 2011-2015. They outline the depth of the problems in the region and what CCODP and their partners have been doing to help the people affected by the crisis. The report indicates that the crisis began during the time of the Arab Spring of 2011, whose goal it was to spread democracy across the region. The result was civil war in Syria. Today many groups are fighting with each other and another group (ISIS) has arrived and is intent on taking control, of the entire region by force.

Infrastructure has been destroyed, many Syrians are fleeing their own country, host countries are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of refugees, the past two winters have been devastating. The statistics provided are shocking. For example in March 2012 there were 7,500 deaths in Syria but in March of 2015 there were 220,000. In March of 2012 there were 40,000 refugees compared to 3.75 million in March of 2015.

Development and Peace felt compelled to launch an appeal in collaboration with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to raise funds to support Syrians trapped in the calamity of war. In addition to contributions of $2.8 million from parishes, dioceses, schools, religious communities and Canadians at-large, Development and Peace has also received $11.3 million in funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) and $932,000 from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB).

Development and Peace’s principal partner in Syria, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), manages to reach thousands of people despite these circumstances, and even as their own staff are directly affected by the war. JRS is providing help with lodging, educational activities for children, medication for chronic diseases, hospital access, care kits for infants, and household kits containing clothes, bed linens, kitchen supplies, and hygiene kits.

You can read the entire report by clicking here.

The website for the CCODP can be found here.