The Canadian Unitarian Council and Refugee Sponsorship
Since December 2015, Unitarian Universalists across Canada have welcomed refugees from a dozen countries, including Syria. Sponsorship requires a group of people who are committed to working alongside refugees to help them find their footing, establish themselves, and integrate into life in Canada. Our congregations have sponsored both individuals and families, people of many religions and backgrounds who were seeking a place of hope. The Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) provides advice and support to congregations throughout the process of sponsoring refugees, preparing for their arrival, and helping them establish themselves as new Canadians.
Sponsoring refugees with the CUC
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada has announced that Canada will welcome 57,000 privately sponsored refugees between now and 2020. The CUC is a sponsorship agreement holder (SAH) with the federal government, which means that we can authorize congregations to sponsor refugees under our agreement. This lets us streamline the application process and support a congregation or group of individuals who want to sponsor refugees to Canada. Unfortunately, there are strict limits on the number of people an SAH may sponsor each year.
If your congregation is interested in sponsoring one or more refugees to Canada through the CUC, please fill out our refugee sponsorship form. Rules around sponsorship are constantly changing, so we recommend that you fill it out as soon as you decide to explore the possibility. We will contact you as spaces become available.
Helping refugees in other ways
Support the CUC’s campaign to fix Canada’s broken refugee system. Write to the prime minister, your member of Parliament, and other government officials, urging them to swiftly and efficiently address the backlog of refugee applications. See How to Write a Letter.
It costs about $10,000 to bring just one person to Canada. If you’re not able to sponsor someone yourself, consider making a tax-deductible donation to the CUC’s Refugee Fund. Every dollar helps the efforts of sponsoring groups around the country.
The CUC’s sponsorship spaces are limited, but there are other options. One of them may be open to you, so we encourage you to explore them! Quebec has its own humanitarian immigration procedures, different from those elsewhere in Canada.
Resources for sponsors
If you are considering sponsorship, the CUC and other groups have resources that can help you decide whether to proceed:
- Tips for private refugee sponsorship in Canada
- So you’ve decided to sponsor a refugee—what’s next? And here are ones that will be useful once your congregation is further on in the process:
- Financial guidelines for sponsoring congregations (updated November 26, 2015)
- Application guide (updated May 1, 2018) for private sponsorship of refugees, from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada
- Code of ethics of the Canadian Council of Refugees
- Refugee Sponsorship Training Program of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada
- Recommendations for speaking to the media about your sponsorship work
- Dictionary of terms related to refugee sponsorship from the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program
- Your First Two Weeks in Canada, a video available in Arabic, English, and French from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada
- Welcome to Canada a poster in English and Arabic. If you want to customize it, you can request the original Microsoft Publisher file by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- General information on refugees and asylum from the Government of Canada
The sponsorship commitment is for a year, and you should think in advance about how it will end. It is best to start preparing yourselves and the newcomers at least three months before the sponsorship time comes to a close.
- Month 13 Planning Check List from the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program
- Month 13 Planning—FAQs from the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program
- Social Services in Canada (Word)
There are many things to consider as we help newcomers to settle and become independent in Canada. Thank you all for your dedication and efforts!
Income Taxes and the Newcomer
Refugees do not generally have to report funds they received from a charitable organization, such as a church group, on their tax return. Find complete information in a brochure from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) titled Newcomers to Canada. All CRA publications are also available in French.
The CRA also offers a fact sheet to give newcomers an overview of benefit and credit entitlements under the Canadian tax system. It explains that filing a tax return enables them to benefit from programs like the Canada Child Benefit. Settlement.org has made this fact sheet available in English, French, and Arabic:
- Filing a Tax Return Can Benefit You!
- Remplir une déclaration peut vous être avantageux!
- التصريح بالعائد الضريبي قد ينفعك
Other resources from the CRA:
- Newcomers to Canada, a website for immigrants and returning residents
- New to Canada? Learn about Taxes, a short video with a transcript and subtitles, also available in Arabic, Cantonese, Punjabi, and Spanish
- Newcomers to Canada and the Canadian Tax System, a series of eight short videos
Please contact April Hope, Social Responsibility Coordinator, at email@example.com if you are interested in learning more about refugee sponsorship.