Clement looking for answers re: Syrian refugee ‘replacement family’ controversy in Huntsville

Member of Parliament for Parry Sound-Muskoka, Tony Clement, is looking for answers after learning that a local Syrian refugee sponsorship group is being asked to consider a ‘replacement family’ after months of preparation and corresponding with a family waiting to come to Huntsville.

“The Liberal government has been reluctant to acknowledge the problems they have had with its Syrian refugee resettlement. The way it is treating some private sponsorship groups is appalling. Not knowing what will happen to these original families, who have been dreaming of coming to Canada for many months, is truly disturbing,” said Clement.

After months of delays, the Huntsville group was given only one week to decide if they will accept the ‘replacement family,’ which still could take months to arrive. If they opt to keep their original family, there is no guarantee they will ever come to Canada. It is being reported that this stark choice has been forced upon numerous private sponsorship groups across the country. The email received by the Huntsville group from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) stated the “delays have been disappointing for some private sponsors and (we) regret the challenges that we know this caused for many.”

The full CIC email is pasted below

Dee Mallette, a member of SRS (Syrian Refugee Sponsorship) Huntsville who has been working on settlement preparations for months, said “Over 60 volunteers have been waiting patiently to embrace the Ahlam family. Many have already given an abundance of time to ensure that everything is in order when the family arrives. Now we have been asked to take a replacement family. How do we tell the Ahlam family they may not come to us? We have been in contact with them several times and have received photos of them. ”

“Our hearts are broken, we feel like the Ahlam family is part of our own and they are already despondent because of the long wait to build a new life here,” said the Application Chair of the SRS Huntsville, Carole Walsh. “We have a house waiting and over $60,000 has been donated by our community. We truly feel we have made a promise to the Ahlam family that we cannot walk away from.”

“We are willing to consider assisting a replacement family,” said Nancy Wilding, SRS Community Relations Chair, “But we would like assurances that if/when the Ahlam family is cleared to come to Canada as Government Sponsored Refugees, that they could still come to Huntsville if they wish. The way this has been handled, with months of waiting with almost no information, then getting only one week to accept a replacement family, has put us under tremendous pressure and turmoil. ”

Nancy Knox of Bracebridge United Church said they were shocked to hear about the offer of replacement families and heard from their Syrian family immediately asking if they were going ‘to give up on them.’ “What a devastating message to deliver to refugees whose very life is held in a tenuous balance that they might be discarded by our government so that a more convenient family could be chosen.”
For further inquiries contact:

Sondra Read,
tony.clement.c1@parl.gc.ca <mailto:tony.clement.c1@parl.gc.ca>
MP Tony Clement, Huntsville Office,
705-789-4640

Nancy Wilding,
nancywilding@gmail.com <mailto:nancywilding@gmail.com>
SRS Huntsville Community Relations Chair

Letter from CIC to Huntsville refugee sponsor:

Dear members of the SAH (sponsorship agreement holder) Council,

This is regarding a number of delayed Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) cases. As you are aware, the delays were in large part due to the fact that cases were made available to sponsors prior to the finalization of eligibility, medical, and security decisions to meet the demand from sponsors at that time and to have them included in the initiative to resettle 25,000 Syrians by the end of February 2016. We understand that the delays have been disappointing for some private sponsors and regret the challenges that we know this caused for many.

As a special exception given the pace and volume of the Syrian initiative, we will begin offering replacement cases in the coming weeks to those sponsors that have been impacted by these delays. As replacement cases become available, and as a matter of fairness, groups (and I assume the SAH) will be contacted directly by the Matching Centre in the order of the profile referral date starting with the oldest cases on the list; every effort will be made to provide a replacement case with a similar profile of the family originally sponsored. The cases offered as replacements will have passed medical and security screenings, and will therefore be travel ready. Sponsors offered a replacement case will have one week to confirm their willingness to accept a replacement case and one additional week to submit the new Sponsorship Undertaking to the Centralized Processing Office – Winnipeg (CPO-W). Due to the limited number of replacement cases available, only one replacement case will be offered.

By accepting a replacement profile, sponsors will be canceling the sponsorship for the previous case that is currently delayed. We understand that sponsors may have already been in contact with the refugee(s) whose case are delayed, and IRCC will contact these refugees to inform them that their case is still in process. Should any of the cases where a sponsor has cancelled to accept a replacement case ultimately be approved, they will be resettled to Canada as Government Assisted Refugees (GARs) with full support from the Government of Canada.

If sponsors choose to continue waiting for the original family they sponsored, rather than accepting a replacement case, they will be doing so knowing that IRCC is unable to provide timelines as to when that case will be finalized and there are no guarantees that the family will ultimately be approved for resettlement to Canada.

It is important to note that while the replacement cases will be expected to be finalized by the visa office shortly, timelines for the arrival of the refugee(s) will vary according to the individual circumstances of the family and the situation in the host country. Sponsors are advised not to make financial commitments at this point such as renting accommodations for replacement cases. The Notification of Arrival Transmission (NAT) will be sent once travel plans have been made.

We expect that the process of finding and offering replacement cases will take a few months, starting immediately, so we ask sponsors to be patient and wait to be contacted directly.

Thank you in advance for your continued collaboration and partnership.

Sincerely,

David Manicom
Associate Assistant Deputy Minister
Strategic and Program Policy Sector

Bracebridge United Church and Rotary Club to sponsor Syrian refugees

(November 13, 2015, 3:45pm BRACEBRIDGE) The Bracebridge United Church plans to sponsor a Syrian refugee family and to help them start a new life in Canada. The church is one of a number of groups in Muskoka, including the Bracebridge Rotary Club, working together to provide help to those fleeing the war-torn country.

The plan is to raise a minimum of $27,000 to bring a family to Bracebridge and to provide for them for one year while they get on their feet.

“This started because of a groundswell of compassion from members of the congregation in recent months as the world’s attention turned to this crisis,” said Reverend Nancy Knox of the Bracebridge United Church (BUC). “I have never seen an outpouring like this before.”

The Church has sponsored refugee families before and The United Church of Canada is already a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, a designation required by the Federal Government to assume responsibility for such an undertaking. The Canadian government has pledged to bring in 25,000 refugees by the end of 2015, and the BUC is working as quickly as possible to be ready to receive the family.

One of many Muskoka groups working to provide support

BUC is not the only group in Muskoka working to provide assistance. The Rotary Club of Bracebridge is also spearheading a community project to sponsor two Syrian refugee families, and the two groups are working closely together and hope to connect with others in Muskoka with similar aims.

Public information session on Syrian refugee sponsorship

Any individuals or groups interested in sponsoring or supporting Syrian refugees are invited to attend a public meeting on Tuesday December 1st at 7pm at Trinity Hall, 33 Main St. E., Huntsville. Bracebridge United Church and Bracebridge Rotary Club will be attending this meeting conducted by AURA (Anglican United Refugee Alliance) a Canadian charitable organization that assists in the sponsorship and resettlement of refugees. “This is for any group interested in helping to learn more about how they can become involved in sponsorship and resettlement,” said Knox.

How you can help the Bracebridge United Church initiative

Make a cash donation: Send a cheque addressed to the Bracebridge United Church with “Syrian Refugee Fund” on the memo line. You can also donate online through Indiegogo. com to “Syrian Refugee Fund — Bracebridge United Church.” Anyone donating $20 or more will receive a tax receipt.

Volunteer, donate goods or household items, put out a collection box at your place of business, or provide in-kind assistance: Send an email to SyrianRefugeBracebridge@gmail. com and tell the group what you might be able to provide when the time comes.

“It’s truly inspiring the way people have quickly come together to facilitate such an ambitious undertaking,” said Knox.

BRACEBRIDGE ROTARY CLUB RELEASE: CLUB LAUNCHES EFFORT TO SUPPORT SYRIAN REFUGEES

As a response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, The Rotary Club of Bracebridge is launching a fundraising effort to bring up to two Syrian Refugee families to Bracebridge to help them settle in Canada. The Club intends to work closely with the Bracebridge United Church who also announced a fundraising effort today, along with numerous other community organizations and partners. The Rotary Club’s efforts are being led by the club’s World Community Service Committee and include a number of local churches, community organizations and outside organizations with expertise in resettlements as partners. The Rotary Club has already committed up to $27,000 for this project.

According to Peter Rickard, Chair of Rotary’s World Community Service Committee, “The District of Muskoka’s Community Services Department has indicated support for the initiative by way of provision of various social supports. Graydon Smith, the Mayor of Bracebridge recently met with us and encouraged working together with other groups in the area to make this truly a community effort.”

The Rotary Club of Bracebridge undertakes a significant number of projects within the community. While the Club returns the majority of the funds it raises to the local Community, it also has an international humanitarian focus which includes responding to humanitarian crises. For example, over the past number of years, the club has provided shelters for victims of the earthquakes in Haiti, Nepal and the Philippines.

The Rotary Club and its partners are seeking the generous assistance of the general public to raise the full funding required to bring the refugee families fleeing the civil war in Syria to a safe haven in Bracebridge. This crisis has been described by the United Nations as the “Worst Humanitarian Crisis since the Second World War”.

This is an opportunity to get involved and make a difference in the lives of refugees who have lost everything. A tax receipt will issued for any donation amount over $25. Donations can be made to The Rotary Club of Bracebridge Charitable Trust with a memo notation on the bottom “Syrian Refugees”. The mailing address is 131 Wellington Street, P.O. Box 1140, Bracebridge ON P1L 1V3.

In addition to cash donations, the Rotary Club is interested in hearing from those in the community that can provide in kind donations of furniture, household and other supplies and services necessary to set up homes when the families arrive.

Organizations or individuals interested in supporting this initiative may contact one of two members of the World Community Service Committee of the Rotary Club of Bracebridge – Peter Rickard at 705 645-7508 bayhouse@muskoka.com or Linda Brouillette 705 645-6724 lgbrouillette@vianet.ca.

Contact for the Bracebridge United Church is Reverend Nancy Knox, Bracebridge United Church, (705) 645-5713 nancybuc@bellnet.com.