1.B What is Community Sponsorship?
B.2 Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Program
Immigration is an integral part of Canada’s history and a key part of its future. Indeed, it would be impossible to tell the story of Canada without also telling the story of how it has been shaped by immigration. Immigration plays a key role in contributing to Canadians’ well-being, economic prosperity, and success as a nation by balancing compassion, efficiency, and economic opportunity for all, while protecting Canadians’ health, safety, and security. In 2017 some 300,000 people from all corners of the globe will take up permanent residence in Canada. Most will go on to become Canadian citizens.
As part of its permanent resident immigration stream Canada selects foreign nationals whose skills contribute to Canadian prosperity, as well their family members. Canada’s humanitarian tradition and international obligations are also upheld by welcoming refugees and other people in need of protection to the country.
Resettlement is how Canada selects refugees abroad and supports their health, safety, and security as they settle in Canada. Each year Canada establishes the number of refugees who can be resettled through extensive consultations with other levels of government and civil society. Canada considers factors such as economic indicators, the availability of social services, global resettlement needs, and government budget mechanisms and constraints. Resettled refugees can be admitted to Canada through one of three programs:
- Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) are referred by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), based on refugees’ vulnerability. Upon arrival to Canada, these refugees receive twelve months of income support and other essential services from the government to support their settlement.
- Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSR) are referred for resettlement to Canada by private sponsors – Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Under this stream, private sponsors provide financial support and settlement assistance during the refugees’ first twelve months in Canada, or until the refugees are able to support themselves (whichever comes first).
- Visa Office-Referred Refugees (VOR) are referred by UNHCR or other designated referral agencies and identified by Canadian visa officers for participation in the program. The refugees’ profiles are posted to a secure website where potential sponsors can view them and select families to support. Costs of resettlement and resettlement responsibilities are shared by Canada and private sponsors. There are several types of VOR sponsorships:
- Visa Office-Referred (VOR) sponsorships, where private sponsors are responsible for full financial and settlement support during the sponsorship period;
- Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) sponsorships, where the government and private sponsors share the financial costs of sponsorship but private sponsors are responsible for settlement support; and
- Joint Assistance Sponsorships (JAS) for refugees with special needs (e.g. victims of trauma or torture, particular medical conditions, exceptionally large families), where the government provides full financial support throughout the sponsorship period, normally two years, and the private sponsor is responsible for providing settlement support.
Canada’s refugee resettlement program and the unique role of private sponsors has proven to be a fruitful and lasting partnership that has provided protection to hundreds of thousands of refugees since its inception, and enriched the fabric of Canadian society through the successful settlement refugees. Canada’s program has evolved considerably since it began and is just one example of how government and civil society can collaborate to provide protection to refugees and support their settlement in a new country. Through this Guidebook, the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative hopes Canada will serve as a strong example to other actors contemplating community sponsorship in their own countries. Canada’s model is also not perfect and is continuously evolving as Canadians continue to learn. While the hope is that the Canadian example inspires other actors to build new community sponsorship models, these new programs do not need to replicate what Canada has done and should be tailored to their own context.