Letter to Minister McCallum from a SAH on Vancouver Island

The Refugee Committee
The Anglican Diocese Of British Columbia
900 Vancouver St. Victoria BC V8V 3V7

Refugee Coordinator: The Rev. Canon Bruce Bryant-Scott 778-533-6171


The Honourable John McCallum, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario     K1A 1L1

Dear Minister:

We are writing to you about the present situation with sponsorship and settlement of refugees in light of the recent discussions between the SAH Association Council and IRCC. The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder working on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and has been privately settling refugees since the late 1970s.

First of all we applaud the Liberal government for meeting its pre-election pledge to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in remarkably quick time, and undertaking to land up to 18,000 Privately Sponsored Refugees in 2016.

Unfortunately we note that the pace of processing Blended Visa Office Referral refugees has slackened in recent times. A number of well-organized and funded Refugee Support Constituent Groups who have already invested in settlement costs have been left completely in the dark as to when the refugees will actually arrive. Furthermore, the announcement that the quota and capping system will apply to Syrian non-BVOR refugee applicants, even some in process, is causing further doubts among  groups actively supporting those endeavours.  These delays and the shifting sands of admissions policy are frustrating for the Constituent Groups and undoubtedly frustrating and frightening for the refugees and their families.

We have been pleased to see that some applications for refugee status in Canada which had under the previous government been languishing in various visa offices, in some cases  for up  to 6 years, have been acted upon in recent months, and we are thankful for that. However, we are concerned that the system does not fall back into its past practices of long delays which did nothing for the confidence of either the refugees or the Constituent Groups that private sponsorship and settlement was a priority of the Canadian government.

Finally, we believe that the mantra of Canadian refugee policy should involve a clear return to a blending of government and private sponsorship which respects fully the motivations, efforts and energies of citizens committed to this enterprise. This successful model the basis of Canada’s recognition in 1986 as a nation committed to supporting refugees through the bestowing of the Nansen Award by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

On behalf of the many, many generous Canadians helping, and willing to help the refugees, and on behalf of the many, many refugees for whom Canada is the last hope, we thank you for considering this letter, and urge you to continue with the noble and energetic initiative that brought the first 25,000 refugees to our country.

Yours sincerely,
The Reverend Canon D. Bruce Bryant Scott BA MDiv ThM, Refugee Coordinator
Mr. John McLaren LLB LLM LLD, Chair of the Diocesan Refugee Committee

cc. Ms. Rachel Blaney, MP for North Island-Powell River   rachel.blaney@parl.gc.ca
Mr. Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni     gord.johns@parl.gc.ca
Mr. Randall Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke    randall.garrison@parl.gc.ca
Mr. Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford
Ms. Sheila Malcolmson, MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith   sheila.malcolmson@parl.gc.ca
Ms. Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich – Gulf Islands   elizabeth.may@parl.gc.ca
Mr. Murray Rankin MP for Victoria   murray.rankin@parl.gc.ca


Ladysmith Refugee Sponsorship Committee

Our group is sponsoring a family of 4 which we have been waiting for since September/October. They are related to a refugee family in Nanaimo brought here around 2010. As our family is a Palestinian family from Iraq, now resident in Damascus, they have not fit into the 25,000 group just brought in by the Canadian government, but we expect they will be arriving within a few months. The last we heard was that their file is sitting on a desk in Jordan, and Canadian officials will get to it when they get to it.


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Comox Valley Syrian Refugee Support Committee

The Comox Valley Syrian Refugee Support Committee was the first sponsorship group on Vancouver Island specifically formed to privately sponsor Syrian and Iraqi refugees:

It is a constituent group of Christ the King Parish under Sponsorship Agreement Holder Diocese of Vancouver (Roman Catholic) and now negotiating a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Diocese of Victoria (Roman Catholic) and Diocese of Victoria (Anglican) as SAH.

Our first family of 4, which includes two preschoolers now aged 2 years and 5 years old, arrived in Comox on October 6th. They are from Homs, Syrian and had been in exile in Algeria for 10 months while awaiting processing of their private sponsorship with us. They are now happily settling into life in Comox. We are now preparing to sponsor our second family, who are also in Syria, but under the new terms of the Liberal government’s refugee plans.

Co-Chairs: Caron Mulgrew and Val Macdonald