Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/9/2016 (1674 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
News from New York City our prime minister and minister of immigration have successfully recommended the adoption of Canada’s model for private sponsoring of refugees is as gratifying as it is astounding.
World leaders are gathered for the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants, and this is the first concrete plan. Our government’s news release says "Research demonstrates that privately sponsored refugees tend to have relatively early, positive integration and settlement outcomes, thanks in part to the social support provided by sponsors."
They could have said, but didn’t, that Canada’s private program is also cheap compared with the cost of landing and supporting government-sponsored refugees, and the cost of the panoply of fine agencies, government-funded and spread across this country, tasked to resettle them.
But there is a dark underside, and half-truths, in this easy self-congratulation. And there is more than a bit of "do as I say, but not as I do" hidden from a first glance.
In the first place, the reality is about 95 per cent of privately sponsored refugees are picked by their Canadian family or friends who came here as refugees before them and are now resettled. It is they who mainly bear the initial costs of support, integrate the arriving ones into their family circle and networks and thus assure the positive outcomes.
It can be said the program, as much as it is for refugee rescuing, is also for family reunification and is the only avenue available in a hard-to-enter country that long ago stopped the sponsoring of one’s relatives other than spouses, children and parents.
There is, however, a far more serious limitation: the numbers. Canada’s annual "Levels Plan" pie has only allowed a slice, for privately sponsored refugees, of about 6,000 persons to be landed in Canada. This year, the target number has been increased by the Trudeau government to 17,800.
While the 2016 increase is a welcome improvement, one notes that arriving refugees for Winnipeg’s Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, which will have landed over 900 by October this year, have been waiting five to eight years since being sponsored to get here — because of the annual limits on numbers.
Back in 2012, the Harper government also started controlling the number of new sponsorships that could be started, so as not to overwhelm the corresponding "arrivals" intentions. The 2016 "cap" is 10,500 refugees, and there are "sub-caps" on some overseas offices (with large backlogs), from a top of 400 to a low of 100.
Actual demand to sponsor new cases is closer to 30,000 persons — not counting Syrian demand. Next year it could be in the order of 40,000 to 50,000. Hospitality House is forced to turn down sponsorship of about 5,000 refugees a year from Winnipeggers because of the "caps."
So Canada’s private sponsorship of refugees program may be a model for the world, but it is flawed at home by the reluctance of past governments to open it up to new cases in larger numbers, despite admitted resettlement success, cost effectiveness and the world’s refugee crisis.
It will therefore be interesting to see what happens when the current government releases its next Levels Plan, expected in November. Will it put its policy where its mouth is?
Tom Denton is a former chairman of the Manitoba Immigration Council and is executive director, administration and sponsorship, for Hospitality House Refugee Ministry of Winnipeg.