Posted on January 2, 2021

Canada Now Resettles More Refugees Than Any Other Country, Mostly Through Private Sponsorship

Bryony Lau, National Post, December 30, 2020

Every day Andrea McCoy receives up to five emails from refugees desperate to come to Canada. As the messages flood in, she writes back, “I can’t help you at this time.”She works for the Anglican diocese on Vancouver Island, which has privately sponsored more than 800 refugees since 2016. But its parishes cannot resettle everyone who writes.Stephen Watt fields 20 such requests a day. He runs a website, Northern Lights Canada, that matches refugees with sponsors. He tries to help because refugees have “no money, no resources…no hope,” Watt said.Meanwhile, Action Réfugiés Montréal receives so many queries that its staff can’t keep track, according to its executive director, Paul Clarke.

Private sponsorship gives citizens the power to offer refugees a new life in Canada. It is an alluring and unique alternative to resettlement by the United Nations, which in 2019 resettled less than one per cent of the world’s 20 million refugees.

Nonetheless, thousands sponsor every year. Their generosity is a bright spot in a time of tightening border restrictions. Under President Donald Trump, the United States abandoned its traditional role as the world’s leader in refugee resettlement. Meanwhile, Canada resettled more refugees than any other country in 2018 and 2019, the majority through private sponsorship.Even so, the odds of being privately sponsored are slim. Because sponsors can name a specific person or family, refugees need relatives, friends or a complete stranger in Canada to help them. And sponsors must be willing to raise the funds — $16,500 per person, more for a family — and file a mountain of paperwork.Some Canadians are undaunted, sponsoring again and again. Others feel overwhelmed and withdraw. And refugees keep writing, using social media to draw attention to their plight.

Vania Davidovic of Oakville, Ont., has helped 56 refugees since 2015, either as a sponsor herself or by finding other Canadians to take on that role. Most were Syrians she met through Facebook. All were in dire situations. Davidovic simply brought as many to Canada as she could.

But eventually it became too much, even for her. Davidovic recently stopped befriending refugees on Facebook because it was too hard saying no.

“I don’t even know how to say to someone, ‘I can’t help you’,” she said.

Davidovic was part of the surge in private sponsorship as Canada scrambled to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016. At that time, there were more volunteers than refugees to welcome. That’s no longer the case.Yet the government expects Canadians will still help refugees, even though other crises do not receive the same attention — and volunteers — as Syria did. In October, it set a target of 22,500 privately sponsored refugees per year for the next three years.The history of private sponsorship — more than 325,000 refugees since 1978 — shows Canadians are firm believers in the program. {snip}

And there’s no shortage of refugees anxious to come. {snip}