Open Letter to Immigration Minister John McCallum

OTTAWA SOUTH COMMITTEE FOR REFUGEE SPONSORSHIP

Jan 28, 2016

Dear Minister McCallum:

First we would like to congratulate the government on its progress in the settlement of the Syrian refugees. We applaud the government’s leadership and the hard work of public servants throughout all of the associated departments. Also we recognize your personal leadership and commitment to the cause of resettling the refugees.

Our group, the Ottawa South Committee for Refugee Sponsorship, is a Constituent Group of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa Sponsorship Agreement Holder, based at Trinity Anglican Church in Ottawa. We have successfully managed to settle one family of six Syrian refugees here in Ottawa. We have the resources to sponsor a second family if not a third at a later date. The experience for us has been enlightening. Our goal, just like that of the hundreds of similar groups across this country, is to see the family thrive in our society and become full contributing citizens to this country so they in turn can one day extend their hand to help on some future occasion.

The government’s success on the program has been rapid and not without hurdles along the way. Today we in the OSCRS would like to address the issue of the Government Assisted Refugees (GARs) and their settlement issues that appear to be far more challenging than those faced by private groups such as ours. As Virginia Johnson pointed on January 26 out in her Globe and Mail article, “How Canadians Can Step Up And Get Refugees Out Of Hotels”, there could be a role for private sponsors to help the GARs if the government were to find a way to open that door. Once opened I think Canadians will step up, as they always have, to help in the settlement process.

 

As you personally have mentioned time and again the issue is housing, more specifically affordable housing. The definition of “affordable” varies from community to community. In Ottawa the GARs do not have sufficient financial support to find suitable housing. As you are aware, Syrian family sizes are relatively large by Canadian standards and this places a burden on a housing market more geared to smaller family sizes. This is just one area where the private groups can help by providing sufficient financial assistance to top up the GAR support to land the families in good housing. Of course the private groups bring far more to the table than simply money.  We also provide ongoing continuous support for whatever problems families face, be it health, counselling, mentorship, child care, etc.

We are ready to help resolve this vexing issue in any way we can. To that end, we would welcome an opportunity to meet with your Office to pursue how best our Committee might do its part to contribute to a solution.

Yours truly,

Robert Taylor, Chair, Ottawa South Committee for Refugee Sponsorship

 

The Rev. Arran Thorpe, Trinity Anglican Church

 

 

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