Grants totalling more than $80,000 to support refugee sponsorship in seven parishes across the diocese were approved by Diocesan Council in May. The grants were the result of the second round of applications for diocesan assistance to help offset the costs associated with private sponsorship of refugee cases. The funds, provided through a $500,000 tithe from the Ministry Allocation Fund, were earmarked for refugee work in September 2015.
Once again, grants will be given to parishes in all four episcopal areas, reflecting the widespread engagement with refugee sponsorship throughout the diocese. Funds will be provided to two parishes in Toronto, as well as parishes in King City, Ida, Markham, Mississauga and Bowmanville. Five of the applications were connected to multi-parish or ecumenical sponsorship initiatives and all involved significant outreach to the wider community for financial and practical support. The proposed sponsorships from this most recent round of applications would welcome as many as 35 individuals to Canada from a variety of countries of origin with vitally important financial and community supports to help them transition to their new home.
Grants will be released to parishes once they have raised 80 per cent of the committed parish contribution to the sponsorship costs and they have been matched with a refugee case through the Anglican United Refugee Alliance (AURA), a FaithWorks ministry that administers the sponsorship agreement on behalf of the diocese.
An initial round of applications in March awarded an additional $373,000 in grants to 23 parishes. These grants continue to represent only a portion of the total sponsorships being undertaken by parishes in the diocese. More than 100 refugees have already been welcomed since the fall of 2015 by parishes from Toronto to Collingwood to Orono, while dozens of other parishes have raised millions of dollars, combined, in anticipation of being matched with a case in the coming months.
The number of refugee cases available for private sponsorship in Canada has been reduced significantly in recent months, leaving many sponsoring groups waiting with uncertainty as to when they can expect to be matched with a case. Archbishop Colin Johnson wrote to John McCallum, the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, in April to ask him to increase the number of blended visa office referred (BVOR) cases available for sponsorship.
“Such an increase,” he wrote, “would help protect thousands of vulnerable people suffering war or persecution in their homelands while also engaging Canadians directly in the important work of welcoming refugees and developing a strong understanding of the realities of this global crisis.”
Advocacy efforts to increase the availability of BVOR cases continues through the efforts of parishes across the diocese.