The Canadian Unitarian Council and Refugee Sponsorship

Welcoming refugeesSince 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

refugeesImmigration, 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 a SAH may sponsor each year.

There are several sponsorship options available for interested sponsors. Because the CUC receives only a limited number of allocated spaces each year which are quickly used up, congregations who want to sponsor may wish to explore two options:

  • The Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program is a program where private sponsors and the Government of Canada work together to support a refugee or refugees. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) identifies the refugees that can be sponsored under this program. BVOR sponsorships have the added advantage of partial funding from the government and not counting towards a SAH’s allocated spaces.
  • The Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program has been extended by the government for two years until March 2020. Under this program, the resettlement of LGBTQ2 refugees in Canada has been increased, Like the BVOR program, refugees receive partial funding from the government, and spaces are not included in a SAH’s annual allocations.

For additional information on refugee sponsorships, please contact refugee@cuc.ca.

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 sponsorsrefugee sponsorship group

If you are considering sponsorship, the CUC and other groups have resources that can help you decide whether to proceed:

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.

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:

Other resources from the CRA:

Please contact the CUC’s Social Justice Lead at refugee@cuc.ca if you are interested in learning more about refugee sponsorship.