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The Reverend Michael McGee, rector of St. Christopher’s, West Vancouver and chair of the Refugee Unit of the diocese attended the November 4, 2015 meeting of Diocesan Council to request that Council consider a motion to “go off pattern” and have the diocese enter into partnerships with other groups to sponsor refugees.

The Refugee Unit is the primary group that works on behalf of the diocese managing the dioceses status as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) with the Government of Canada therefore facilitating and assisting parishes and/or parish groups of the diocese to sponsor refugees.

In the Precis prepared for Diocesan Council by the Director for Mission and Ministry Development, the Reverend Ruth Monette in consultation with the Reverend McGee and the Unit memberbership the following information was shared:

In the last decade or so, refugee sponsorship has not been a high priority among many parishes in the diocese. There have been usually less than 6 applications pending at any given time. In the last five years or so, the Unit has seen applications from parishes where someone known to the parish has asked for support in sponsoring a family member as a refugee. In such cases, the person known to the parish has often been a government sponsored refugee.

Since the media interest in the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, an increased interest in sponsoring refugees has arisen within the diocese.
The Unit's process for assisting parishes continues to be manageable. However, in light of the increased attention around refugee resettlement, the Unit is being asked by groups other than parishes to co-sponsor refugees. These requests reflect a government policy that prefers partnerships with SAH organizations (such as the diocese of New Westminster) for Community Sponsors and Groups of 5.

  • A Community Sponsor (CS) can be any Canadian organization, association or corporation. A Community Sponsor can sponsor up to two refugee families per year without a sponsorship agreement.
  • A Group of Five (G5) is a group of five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Group of Five are usually one-time groups formed in response to special situations that arise.

The Refugee Unit would like to enter into sponsorships with these groups but understands that there needs to be assurance that the CS or G5 have the financial capacity to raise the funds to support refugees for the required 12 months in keeping with the requirements of SAH. The Precis document contained the following four points outlining the CS’s or G5’s financial capacity and suggestions on how the agreement could be constructed:

  1. This may take the form of establishing a trust fund or a letter of credit or another legal instrument determined satisfactory by diocesan legal officers.
  2. It may also take the form of a demonstrated capacity to raise the funds as needed. The demonstrated capacity of our parishes to raise funds has generally been the assurance we have relied on when parishes have sponsored refugees. CS organizations may have an equally sound track record of fundraising which is deemed satisfactory by diocesan leadership.
  3. A combination of the two forms of demonstrating financial capacity.
  4. Diocesan Council should specify to whom the G5 or CS organization needs to demonstrate its financial capacity. Rather than bringing each of these back to Diocesan Council, the Unit suggests delegating this responsibility to the Unit along with the Bishop with the support of 1 or more legal officers and senior staff members.

In this way, G5’s or CS’s would be asked to complete the same paperwork and have the same conversations with Unit members as parishes wishing to sponsor. This includes completing a Self Assessment Tool (provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to help a group determine its capacity for refugee sponsorship) and an Expanded Settlement Tool (also provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada which outlines the plans the group has for the settlement of a refugee individual or family).

A Memorandum of Understanding be drawn up between the Diocese and any Group of 5 or Community Sponsor organization.

Such a letter would not replace the existing Sponsorship Agreement we have between the Diocese of New Westminster and Citizenship and Immigration. It would, however, outline the relationship between the Group of 5/Community Sponsor and the Diocese. Each Memorandum of Understanding developed would need to be approved by diocesan legal officers.

The Unit suggests that Diocesan Council set a timeframe during which time, these partnerships may be formed - such as through the end of 2017. This would not require that all refugees sponsored through partnerships be settled by then, only that the establishment of the partnership be done by that point. It may be that Diocesan Council will want to extend the opportunity for these partnerships to be formed after 2017, but it may also be that the need for such partnerships will have lessened.

After the Reverend McGee had concluded his address, Chancellor George Cadman informed Council that this agenda item was discussed for an hour at the most recent Steering Committee (Executive Committee of the diocese consisting of: the bishop {chair}, the chancellor, the treasurer who is also chair of the Management, Finance and Property Committee {MFP} and the chair of the Mission and Ministry Development Committee {MMD}) meeting. There is a proposed CS partnership in the works with the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver. They would like to sponsor refugees supported by the diocese as the Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). The local Jewish Federation contingent can demonstrate financial capacity therefore it would make sense to move ahead and structure this agreement with the Unit supported by the signature of the bishop. It was agreed that Council vote on a motion approving in principle the recommendations of the Refugee Unit and authorizing the Unit to move forward with this partnership subsequent to the approval of the bishop. The recording secretary drafted a motion that was met with approval and that motion was approved.

Going into partnership with the diocese will allow CS’s and G5’s with financial capacity to sponsor more families and individuals than previously. Partnerships (CS’s and G5’s linking up) may create the capacity to source revenue on a larger scale through donations and other initiatives accessing a much broader section of the population who would like to contribute and participate in refugee aid.

More information about the diocese and refugee sponsorship will be made available as new developments occur. At the November 4 meeting after the motion was approved and discussions concluded, Council thanked the Reverend McGee with enthusiastic and sustained applause for the work that he and the Unit have done this past fall and for their ongoing commitment to the ministry of refugee aid and support.

Direct link to Refugee Unit Pages on this site

PHOTO: The Reverend Michael McGee addressing Diocesan Council, November 4, 2015