Kitchener-Waterloo

'Government red tape' delays privately sponsored Syrian refugees, Guelph businessman says

Jim Estill, the CEO of the appliance company Danby, pledged in November to sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families, but only 10 have arrived so far.

Jim Estill says only 10 families have arrived in the city after he pledged to sponsor 50

Jim Estill, CEO of Danby, said in November he planned to sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families and foot the more than $1 million price tag personally. Six months later, just 10 families have arrived in Guelph. (Submitted by Jim Estill)

Jim Estill received an incredible amount of donations from Guelph residents after he said he would sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families.

The problem is, after the CEO of the appliance company Danby made that pledge last November, only 10 families have arrived in the Royal City.

"The big challenge is the government is not processing – it's just basically red tape, government slowdown," Estill said in an interview with Craig Norris, host of The Morning Edition, Tuesday.

Estill said the lack of families has meant his warehouse – and warehouses belonging to friends and associates – are full of items waiting for families to arrive.

And the government has not said when that will be.

"They say 'they're working on it,'" he said.

Clothing re-donated, furniture stored

Estill said they have re-donated clothing to the Salvation Army, which has a better system to deal with it.

But the warehouses still contain furniture and welcome kits such as packages of cleaning supplies, and those items are just sitting there taking up space that the companies now need.

"We didn't expect we were going to have to store it for a year," he said.

Estill added they learned their lesson when it came to lodging. While the original plan was to have multiple spaces available and the families could pick which ones they wanted to make home, now they have three apartments or townhouses on hold.

"It's completely unfair to ask for a landlord to, say, 'Oh, just leave this place vacant and hopefully we'll bring someone in some time,'" he said.

'It's just not happening'

So far, 10 families have arrived and one other is arriving June 8.

Estill – who is willing to spend more than $1 million to sponsor the families – said the government has gotten better at giving them notice about when a family will be arriving.

But he worries about those 40 families that could already have come to Canada. He noted the humanitarian crisis continues, but clearance procedures have slowed the refugees down from getting on with their lives here in Canada.

"The government's trying, but it's just not happening," he said. "The sooner [the refugees] can start their new life, the better."

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