Syrian refugees: How Quebecers can help newcomers

With thousands of Syrian refugees slated to arrive in Canada in the coming months, many people want to help them settle in. Here are some ways to do that.

Local agencies working with refugees swamped with offers of help, but short on storage space for donations

Rallies have been held across Canada to support the country opening its doors to Syrian refugees. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

With thousands of Syrian refugees arriving in Canada in the coming months, agencies poised to help them are being swamped by offers of help, and they're scrambling to work out the details.

"I'm very touched by this outpouring of support," Rivka Augenfeld told CBC Daybreak on Thursday.

Augenfeld, the head of a Quebec coalition of social service agencies that help refugees and new immigrants, said she has received many calls and emails from Montrealers asking how they can help sponsor refugees or help refugees once they arrive in the province.

She said she is working with other organizations to centralize support and donations. However, she said, volunteers waiting for assignments need to be patient because her group, the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI), has limited human resources. 

The email address to reach TCRI is:

Here are several ways Quebecers can help refugees once they arrive:

  • Driving new refugees to appointments. (Provided drivers have the appropriate insurance.)
  • Tutoring kids and adults in conversational French (or English), in addition to government-mandated French courses.
  • Organizing get-to-know-you events to welcome refugees to the neighbourhood and introduce them to members of their new communities. Hosting events with music and food can make for a fun afternoon, Augenfeld said.
  • Donations of winter coats and boots in good condition are welcome, but donations of furniture and household goods are currently difficult to manage due to lack of storage space. 
  • Monetary donations: The TCRI needs to set up a secure online-donation system before it can begin taking cash donations. Until then, Augenfeld said, people looking to make donations can do so online with the Canadian Council for Refugees
    The Canadian Red Cross has also established an appeal fund for Syrian refugees. Donations can be made by calling 1-800-418-1111 or through the organization's website.

When it comes to sponsorship, there are two kinds:

  • Government-sponsored refugees have many of their resettlement expenses paid for by the state and receive government help to integrate. Ottawa sets the target for the number that can be accepted this way.   
  • Collectively sponsored refugees in Quebec receive the financial support of a group or organization that agrees to take charge of them, signing an undertaking to help them financially, finding them work and taking other steps to help them integrate into Quebec. Here is more information from the Quebec government on collective sponsorship.