Letter: Speed up Private Sponsorship for Syrian refugees

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CPJ’s Board Chair, Will Postma, and Executive Director, Joe Gunn, respond to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. In this second letter, we again request Canada step up and commit to resettle 10,000 Syria refugees.

In September 2014, CPJ released Private Sponsorship and Public Policy: Political barriers to church-connected refugee resettlement in Canada. In light our the findings within this report, our letter to Minister Alexander also requests increased consultation with the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association.

Letter

October 2, 2014

Hon. Chris Alexander, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON

K1A 1L1

Dear Mr. Minister,

Thank you for the reply to our June 19 letter, sent from S. Charbonneau of your Ministerial Enquiries Division, on August 28. By means of this correspondence, we wish to continue the dialogue with you on the matter of Syrian refugees.

We thank you and officials of your Department for sharing with us the good news that all of the 200 UNHCR-referred GARs have landed in Canada. It is commendable that our country has met this stated commitment.

We ask you now, in keeping with our message of June 19th, but in light of the successful entry of these 200 GARs, to announce that Canada will substantially increase the number of GARs from Syria. Given the on-going crisis and need there, and the words of your letter that Canada welcomes “about one out of every 10 of all resettled refugees globally” – and in light of the fact that UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres called on international partners to help resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees – we reiterate our request that you consider expediting the acceptance of up to 10,000 Syrian refugees.

We would also bring to your attention the continuing need to speed up arrivals of PSR Syrian refugees. There continue to be long delays and processing challenges that work against sponsorship organizations maintaining interest and commitment to receive refugees. In mid-September on a CBC radio program, for example, the Ottawa-area parish of St. Martin de Porres reported how they have been ready to receive a Syrian refugee family for 18 months, and described how such lengthy wait times beyond their control threaten community enthusiasm for resettlement activities.

Mr. Alexander, we have enclosed, for your information, a survey our organization conducted of SAH organizations this summer. In their own words, these valued partners in refugee resettlement in Canada have several concerns that should be addressed.

We highly value collaboration with the federal government. Greater collaboration also with the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association will be valuable for all of us, including the refugees that are in critical need of support, sponsorship and resettlement.  We believe more can be done through the private sponsorship of refugees program to resettle Syrian refugees, and that with consultations with SAHs through their Council, the program can be made as effective as we all want to see. National-level SAHs look forward to working with you and your staff. Given their experience in sponsorship and resettlement, strengthened consultation with them will ensure as effective a process of resettlement as possible. We are convinced that Canada wants to do its utmost to help respond and resettle refugees from Syria and we at Citizens for Public Justice are willing to also provide feedback and support.

Mr. Minister, we continue our prayerful support for all the activities of you and your officials that contribute to alleviating the suffering of refugees across the globe, and especially at this moment, Syrian refugees. We remain open to active collaboration with your staff in working to resolve these outstanding issues. Canada will be better for all our residents if our mutual efforts to assist refugees are successfully enhanced.

Yours sincerely,

Will Postma                                         Joe Gunn

Board Chair                                         Executive Director

Cc   Hon. John McCallum, Liberal Citizenship and Immigration critic

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, NDP Citizenship and Immigration critic

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