A Campaign to Fix Canada’s Broken Refugee System

How authentic is Canada’s welcome?

As noted by the Globe and Mail in July 2017, last year’s Canadian private refugee sponsorship system, exported as a model for the world, has this year cracked and slowed, frustrating many who are waiting for their applications to be processed. To speak out against the present slow processing of refugees, Victoria Unitarians have joined their local Anglican Cathedral and Diocese and others. They are protesting the broken promises of the government made in March 2016 to throw open Canada’s doors to refugees, as well as the lack of transparency about the refugee system and families’ status in the increasingly long waiting system.

There is an estimated backlog of 40,000 cases awaiting processing, with an additional 14,000 who have registered their intent to claim asylum in Canada in the first few months of 2017. The July 2017 Globe and Mail editorial further says, “A government analysis obtained by the Canadian Press forecasts the number of refugee claimants in Canada will hit 36,000 this year, and rise by as much as 20 per cent a year after that. If the current trends hold, the time required to process an application will reach 11 years in 2021, and could cost $3-billion in social support payments. This must not be allowed to happen.”

The CUC is concerned for the estimated 1,000 private sponsorship groups waiting for the Canadian government to process their requests for refugee families. The sponsorship groups have raised the amounts of money ($30-50K per family) required to resettle refugee families. The cost to fix the refugee system is a drop in the bucket compared to the $40 million already raised by private sponsors; money which is now sitting idle.

There is concern that the Immigration and Refugee Board has announced working at reduced capacities due to shortages in staffing. There are reports refugees from Lebanon and Jordan were given priority. There is concern that refugees from certain countries have been given priority over others, and a  note from the Turkish Ambassador states that Turkey (which hosts 2.9 million refugees) was not delaying families at all and that long waits are due to Canada.

The CUC, as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, receives dozens of calls and emails a week from those desperate to come to safety in Canada. All of them are heart-wrenching, like the single mother of 6, or the family of 5 in a refugee camp in Jordan where access to education and medical attention is scarce. Or this email from a young girl: “I am 13 yers old and i am from syria  since i was small i dremed of go to canada my family make up 6 peopel and our financial situation is not good for living i do not want money i want go to canada please help me please.”

The CUC cannot bring any more refugees to Canada in 2017 – our number of allotted spaces are used up.  But politicians say that handwritten letters are worth 200 e-mails; that numbers count, and that popular opinion matters, especially if it comes from across Canada. Help us please, Unitarians from British Columbia to Newfoundland.

So, for maximum effect:

  • Today, please hand write a short, simple, personal, courteous but firm and pointed letter (one page is good)
  • Ask the government to live up to its promise of welcoming refugees by allocating resources to deal with the backlog, to fill staffing positions, and to increase quotas. See a sample letter here
  • Send one letter to the Prime Minister and do NOT cc or copy to anyone.  That is priority #1.
  • Send a similar letter to Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (who is mandated to increase immigration levels)
  • Send more letters to your local Member of Parliament, and to the Leaders of the other parties. Find your MP here. Address is House of Commons, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, K1A 0A6. NO STAMP is needed for for a letter to Parliament.

Please note that letters have to be non-partisan, ie without targeting or supporting a specific politician or political party, so please write to all parties.