Refugees carry their belongings in Macedonia after crossing from a transit camp in Idomeni, Greece, Oct. 19. A new endowment has been set up to help refugees settle in Toronto. CNS photo/Paul Haring

New endowment aids in resettling refugees

  • November 7, 2015

TORONTO - Money doesn’t make the world go ’round. If the world is on the move it’s because of war, famine, oppression — all the things that go into a global population of 13 million refugees.

But money helps. How it helps is a matter of strategy.

The James Brendan Killackey and Son Endowment for Refugees will help the Office of Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto overcome a monetary hurdle for immigrant families trying to sponsor their relatives. The endowment set up in October is an example of how strategy and sober second thought has taken a little bit of money and used it to help a lot of people.

An endowment fund is a gift that keeps on giving. It puts the proceeds from a large gift into an account and uses income generated by the account to fund charitable causes. The fund can be created from cash, securities, life insurance or property.

In the Killackey endowment, the donor’s original plan was to take an investment property he owned, a Toronto condo, and make it available for temporary, transitional housing for refugees who arrive in Toronto. If it’s the thought that counts, then that plan was a lovely thought.

But that’s not how the refugee system works. In the complex world of refugee sponsorship, by the time a privately sponsored refugee or refugee family arrives their sponsor already has a house or apartment lined up.

The next thought was that the condo could be sold and the money used to sponsor refugees. But $150,000 realized from the sale would only be enough to sponsor three or four families and once the money is spent, it’s gone.

Then the Development and ShareLife offices at the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Office of Refugees came up with an idea that would maximize the donation and let that money serve wave after wave of refugees.

The Archdiocese of Toronto’s development office looks on the endowment as a big win.

“It’s not just a one-time gift,” said Quentin Schesnuik, manager of planned giving and personal gifts. “It can be used over and over. It’s excellent.”

By selling the property and using the proceeds to fund a gift of securities, then using that gift to establish an endowment, the donor eliminated capital gains taxes on the transaction. The endowment will be used as a permanent, rotating assurance fund to back up private refugee sponsorships managed through ORAT. The donor made 75 per cent of the gift to the Archdiocese of Toronto, an amount of $150,000. Another $50,000 went to the Archdiocese of Vancouver to fund its refugee sponsorship program.

The federal government requires refugee sponsors to assume liability for the refugees they sponsor. Sponsoring a family can mean putting up $30,000 in cash.

“To have $30,000 in cash is difficult for everyone,” said ORAT executive director Martin Mark. “Especially if you have relatives overseas.”

Many of the refugees ORAT brings to Canada are sponsored by relatives and friends of the refugees who are often struggling immigrants themselves.

Getting a deposit up front can seem like an impossible hurdle, and it often delays these kinds of sponsorships while immigrant sponsors work to raise the money. But ORAT can’t just skip over the deposit requirement.

“We have 2,500 cases in the process right now. If we have one default, one case which goes wrong financially, then Immigration Canada will stop the whole program and nobody can come under the Archdiocese of Toronto any more,” explained Mark. “Therefore we insist. If you want to bring this family here you have to deposit the funds so we can be sure in a worst case scenario that we can use these funds to take care of any problem.”

But with a modest $150,000 in the Killackey endowment, ORAT can use that money to cover for families whom they know will responsibly execute their duties as sponsors but simply can’t raise the deposit on their own. If the money’s there, things go smoother and faster, said Mark.

“If we have enough funds we can triple our numbers,” said Mark.

In the case of the Killackey endowment, the donors made it an open endowment, allowing other donors to contribute and build up the fund so it can be used for even more refugees.

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