The Diocese of New Westminster continues the hard work of refugee sponsorship. We received an allocation allowing us to submit sponsorships for 39 individuals. (In 2017 we received an allocation of only 12.) We are working with a variety of churches, community groups, and synagogues to submit these sponsorships and to support those already in progress. Many of the churches that sponsored have now decided to take a break, or are sponsoring relatives or friends of those families and individuals. We continue to receive urgent requests for sponsorship from people all over the world, who have harrowing tales to tell and many gifts to bring to Canada and to our parishes.
I would like to encourage all parishes to consider the possibility of Co-Sponsorship, as a way to be involved in sponsorship, without a great deal of responsibility or demand on your church. Here is how it works: A community group, which is often a family, approaches our diocese, hoping to bring family members to Canada. Those family members are not eligible for any other immigration track. In these cases, our diocese requires the following to be in place in order for us to consider putting forward an application:
This list of requirements sends those families who have been sending pleading emails and visiting our churches to find a parish willing to get involved. We are hoping to identify parishes that are interested in co-sponsorship ahead of these queries, in order to make the process much easier for everyone involved.
When a parish signs on as co-sponsor, that parish is effectively underwriting the sponsorship. This may seem scary at first, but with some information provided here, I hope this will be seen more as an opportunity and less as a burden. The jobs of sponsorship are to provide funds for one year, and to do everything required to settle the newcomers, to become independent by the end of one year. So, what the parish underwrites is funds and human resources.
Funding make parishes very nervous, but this is actually the easy part. A parish can do one of two things to ensure there is no financial liability. The most secure is to hold on to the funds in the church’s bank account. This means that the church knows exactly where the funds are and also allows the church to provide tax receipt(s), which can be a huge help to the family/co-sponsor. The only work needed is to write one cheque at the beginning to reimburse set-up expenses and then provide a monthly cheque for the newcomer’s expenses, as well as any tax receipt(s). If you have a willing person to do these tasks, that is all that is required. The other option is to ask for a bank statement, showing that the funds are being held in a separate bank account for the newcomers. Since the church does not have control over that account, you do not have as much control, but also, no responsibility for disbursements.
Human resources for settlement support. Our diocese requires each group to complete a form called a Settlement Plan. This outlines all of the tasks that need to be done and a check box next to each. Either Constituent Group or Co-Sponsor can sign on to do any of the tasks. If the parish wishes to be involved in any part of the settlement, such as greeting at the airport, providing English tutoring, or any other task, they are encouraged to do so, however, this is not required. The Constituent Group can sign on to all of the tasks and then the church joins on as co-sponsor simply to make the sponsorship happen. The Settlement Plan is prepared on form IMM 5440 and can be searched on the Immigration and Canadian Citizenship (IRCC) webpage. It is recommended that you meet the co-sponsoring group and get a sense of their plan and who they are. Shakuntala Soden (Satori) and I will also be meeting those people to evaluate them. Now, if all members of the settlement group (Constituent Group) were somehow struck down by an unguided missile, yes, the church would need to step up to help the newcomers, so, there is some risk. There is a much greater risk/potential of a wonderful new relationship with people you would never have met in any other part of your lives.
If you think that your parish might be interested in co-sponsoring in the future, let me assure you, this is a wonderful thing to do, without having to do very much! We have many parishes that have co-sponsored in all kinds of arrangements and we would be happy to talk to you more about it.
If you would like to consider co-sponsoring at some time in the future, please send an email me, Shannon Muir and we will do our best to match you with a Constituent Group wanting to bring refugees to Canada over the next year.
If your parish has been considering initiating a sponsorship, please do get in contact with me or with Shakuntala Soden (Satori) at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are many kinds of sponsorship of all kinds of refugees.
Lastly, for any parish considering sponsorship, I would like to plead the case of a young woman, age 26, from Iraq, now in Lebanon. She is a single woman who converted to Christianity and now continues to be threatened with torture and death by her family and her ex-husband, because of her conversion. She has a university degree in Arabic literature, a little English, and great determination to make a life for herself. If your parish, or a group that you know of might be interested in sponsoring her, please contact me and I will share more information.