Book Review: Refugee Countdown

Reviewed by Erin Pease

Refugee Countdown unfolds during an unprecedented period in Canada’s recent past, immediately following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s rise to power in 2015 and his ambitious campaign to expedite the resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees. In addition to describing an atypical Canada-U.S. sponsorship alliance, Bob Cowin focuses on the experience of the sponsors before the refugee family set foot in Canada.

The journal-like style makes for easy reading. Its pages shed remarkable and honest light on the spectrum of emotions, practical considerations, and settlement and integration issues (the good, the bad, and everything in between) that can manifest while preparing for “arrival day.” The book effectively evolves the conversation from one of program participation as an act of global citizenship into an exercise in how sponsorship challenges sponsors to embrace their human agency to feed the human family, both literally and figuratively. The result is that the sponsors learn and receive and grow in return, becoming more human in the process.

Subsequent print editions would benefit from including a forward to situate this sponsorship story within the more formal, contextual, and technical domain of Canada’s federal resettlement program and enlightening the reader as to the different sponsorship program streams, related program requirements, and processing distinctions. Doing so would allow for a more constructive comparison and debate when considering similar publications on the market.

For anyone interested in a window into the messy, complex, beautiful, and hope-filled world of refugee sponsorship in action in church halls and living rooms, this book is for you!

Refugee Countdown: A Canadian- American Partnership to Resettle a Syrian Family

By Bob Cowin
FriesenPress, 2019

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