Canadian Unitarians Step Up for Refugees
23 Unitarian and Universalist congregations and fellowships across Canada are currently in the process of fundraising, planning, and working towards sponsoring refugees from Syria and Iraq. It is a complex process that involves many volunteers, many forms, many conference calls, and many questions. Amazingly, the two Edmonton congregations, Unitarian Church of Edmonton and Westwood, raised an incredible $29,000 in two weeks for their Syrian refugee fund.
Our CUC Social Responsibility Coordinator, April Hope, has been working flat out these past few months to support Canadian UU congregations who are sponsoring Syrian refugees. April is our go-to staff person on refugee matters. The CUC is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH), which is an organization that has signed an agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to assume overall responsibility for management of refugee sponsorships. April has been setting up the systems to share sponsorship information with congregations, and creating a platform for congregations and committees to share their work with one another.
In November, April hosted the first of several online webinars, which gave members of congregations and sponsorship committees across the country the chance to get on the same page about some of the basics of refugee sponsorship. Upcoming sessions will offer participants the chance to share best practices, ask questions, and receive additional information on many of the details involved in the complex process of bringing refugee families safely into Canada.
Topics will range from discussing the differences between “family-referred” sponsorship and the “Blended Visa” program, to getting into the details of settling the new arrivals in your local community, to learning about cultural differences. All the while, new information is coming from the Liberal government, so stay tuned for more online meet-ups in the coming weeks!
Following the first webinar, Refugee Sponsorship Basics, April launched a Google group, where individuals can share information and post questions, and receive regular updates from April. New forms and guides are being created all the time and posted on the CUC Refugee Sponsorship webpage, and directly shared with members of the Google group. Click here to join this group, to share information with others who are in the same situation, across the country.
And for some uplifting news: We received approval for two more applicants this week, and with that approval we also received this wonderful message of thanks to the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto refugee group, headed by Annette Wilde:
“We have received [your] application. You included a letter and picture of your settlement team, thanking us for our hard work.
We don’t often get thanked that way. We shared it with our whole office here in Winnipeg. The letter you sent is our reward for our hard work and dedication. Thank you for recognizing our hard work and dedication to our jobs.
Thank you again,
Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada”
If your congregation is considering refugee sponsorship and has questions, please read through the information on the CUC’s Refugee Sponsorship page, then email firstname.lastname@example.org – information is changing constantly, so please check back often for updates.