A group of Haitians wait to cross the U.S.-Canada border into Quebec from New York in late August 2017. CNS photo/Christinne Muschi, Reuters

Catholic refugee council wants government to change sponsorship agreement

  • June 7, 2018

Spiralling costs and mountains of red tape may force some Catholic refugee sponsorship agencies out of business and cause others to cut back on the number of refugees they’re prepared to welcome, according to the Catholic Refugee Sponsorship Council representing 20 agencies across Canada.

At a June 3, first-ever meeting of Catholic agencies that hold sponsorship agreements with the federal government, the agencies endorsed a list of seven recommendations demanding clarification and changes to the way Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) deals with sponsoring agencies.

The national Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association agreed to pass the Catholic concerns on to federal immigration officials during meetings with the national association June 4-7. 

Collectively, all Sponsorship Agreement Holders were allowed to submit 8,500 new applications to resettle refugees in 2018, but most refugees will not arrive until next year at the earliest. This year, in an attempt to clear a backlog of over 40,000 privately sponsored refugees with their applications still in process, the federal government plans on 18,000 private arrivals this year. 

The worry for many sponsorship agreement holders is that the new rules and associated costs will also apply to refugees whose applications were made under the old rules. The new agreement between the government and sponsors has blown budgets out of the water for sponsors, according to the Catholic Refugee Sponsorship Council.

The Catholic agencies complain that terms of a new agreement imposed on sponsoring agencies last year are constantly changing and that lengthy processing times have “resulted in unjust, unplanned and significant burden to sponsors.”

The Catholic refugee sponsors complain that the new agreement fails to recognize the advantages of private sponsorship or understand how parishes and volunteers go about helping refugees settle in Canada.

“There is no methodology in place to quantify the value of the substantially greater non-financial support provided to newcomers under the PSR (Private Sponsorship of Refugees) program,” said the Catholic agencies.

The IRCC’s media relations department said it was unable to answer questions from The Catholic Register about how or why the new agreement has increased costs to sponsors.

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