Community Involvement With New Arrivals

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Community Involvement With New Arrivals

(From Leader Post article)

The 25,000 Syrian refugees the Liberal government has pledged to bring to Canada by early 2016 is a mix of government-assisted refugees and privately sponsored refugees.

While their overseas screening and assessments are similar, the two sponsorship streams differ when it comes to settlement in their new communities.

Government-assisted refugees are the responsibility of the Canadian government for one year after their arrival. The government has contribution agreements with local agencies — such as the Open Door Society in Saskatoon and Regina — to provide services.

“When they come to Saskatoon Open Door Society, we have the funding and support from the federal government to help the refugees,” said Ali Abukar, the society’s executive director.

“That is support in terms of financial support, help with housing, food, transportation, and finding English classes and all those sorts of things.”

Privately sponsored refugees come to Canada through two streams, both of which start with local sponsorship agreement holders who are often faith-based groups such as the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Saskatchewan or the Saskatoon Roman Catholic Diocese.
The sponsorship agreement holders link different groups — either a “constituent group” or “group of five” — with refugees overseas and help co-ordinate the lengthy sponsorship process, which can take four or five years. A constituent group is often a local church congregation that will take responsibility for the settlement of a refugee family; a group of five is five or more locals who have proved they have the pooled resources to help settle a refugee family.

Private sponsors are responsible for a refugee’s financial and settlement needs — everything from applying for a social insurance number to paying for housing — for one year.

Those relationships often last well beyond that time, said Dana Krushel, MCC Saskatchewan’s refugee assistance co-ordinator.

“A friendship is born. Friendships don’t end after a year. It becomes a relationship and a family, and that’s what we often see. It’s why we think private sponsorships are so successful — they come into a community and are welcomed,” Krushel said.

Recently, health care coverage differed for the two sponsorships, since the former Harper Conservative government eliminated benefits such as vision and dental care for privately sponsored refugees while maintaining that coverage for the government assisted refugees.

Krushel said sponsorship agreement holders have been assured the privately sponsored refugees among the 25,000 coming in the next few months will receive the same coverage as government assisted refugees.

(from the Leader Post)


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