A report published by Citizens for Public Justice, a national Christian research organization with historic ties to the Christian Reformed Church, recently summarized the political barriers private refugee sponsors have been running up against for years. Titled “Private Sponsorship and Public Policy,” the report says the top three concerns of the sponsoring groups were wait times and processing delays, cuts to interim federal health coverage, and lack of government consultation.
“We knew there was discontent and frustration among the different refugee-serving groups in Canada, including many churches,” said Ashley Chapman, author of the report. “Our goal for the report is that it will become a springboard for effective advocacy among churches and others in the private sponsorship world.”
Since 1978, the majority of refugee resettlement work in Canada has been done through private sponsorship of refugees coordinated through a central program with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The CRC is part of that work. The Refugee Office of World Renew participates in this program as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, having helped roughly 60 different CRCs and about 20 other denomination’s churches complete sponsorships for an estimated total of 6,800 resettled individuals to date.
Rebecca Walker, refugee coordinator for World Renew in Canada, was a respondent in CPJ’s survey for the report. “This document is good for summarizing the issues and serves as a foundation from which to do some planning around advocacy,” she said. Public engagement, she said, will be important to bring about change. “In the past, loud voices in the community have been responded to,” she said.
A refugee justice task force on which Walker serves is poised to begin the work of local empowerment with the creation of a workshop designed to educate churches on refugee issues and mobilize them for action. Tentatively titled “Welcoming Refugees,” the workshop is the product of the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue working together with other agencies of the CRC. It will be made available to churches this fall, beginning with the Diaconal Ministries’ Day of Encouragement October 18 in Ancaster, Ontario.