Potential refugee sponsors have a month to use new fund

Potential sponsors met last night in Ottawa to learn more about a private fund that would cover the costs of sponsoring up to 1,000 refugees across Canada.

Private donors helping with financial commitment to sponsor up to 1,000 refugees

Tammy Tremblay, a potential refugee sponsor, says the money made it easier for her family to commit to helping people resettle in Canada. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The administrators of a private fund to help sponsor 1,000 refugees to come to Canada this year are encouraging people to organize in the next month to take advantage of the money.

About 80 people attended an information session at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Ottawa to learn more about what they would need to do to help people resettle in Canada.

Stephane Telka said a group of friends were talking about forming a sponsorship group and having access to financial support made a big difference.

"It was a game changer," he said.

"I'm not sure if we would've had the time and the energy and the resources to do the fundraising."

The fund was created by the University of Ottawa Refugee Hub, Jewish Family Services Ottawa, an anonymous Canadian donor and the Shapiro Foundation, an American charity.

The refugees would be identified and screened by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the money will fully cover the financial commitment of sponsorship groups. 

'Why not help?'

However, sponsorship is a serious time commitment — nearly around the clock during the first few months, according to speakers at Thursday's event, including finding housing, schooling and responding to various emergencies.

"They're not just coming to volunteer a bit of their time to support a family," said Kailee Brennan, outreach coordinator for the hub.

"They're going to welcome that family, they're going to prepare their home with them together, they're going to show them how to ride a bus, where to buy groceries, how to open a bank account, get a health card and register for school."

Kailee Brennan, outreach officer for the University of Ottawa Refugee Hub, says the fund is looking for committed potential sponsors to help integrate refugees. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Tammy Tremblay, who attended the meeting with her 15-year-old daughter, said it's easier for her family and sponsorship group to make the time commitment knowing the financial side is covered.

"I know it's a huge commitment, but I'm ready," said Tremblay, who would be a sponsor for the first time.

"We have everything here, why not help?"

Deadline Sept. 17

Potential sponsors have until Sept. 17 to get organized because that's the government's deadline for approving blended visas for this year. 

Groups who had sponsored refugees before also attended the meeting, as well as representatives of local churches who are trying to organize within their congregations.

"It's unfortunate that it's such short notice," said Rev. Anthony Bailey of Parkdale United Church.

"It is a very wonderful thing to do and it's the right thing to do and I think there are many people, if possible, that are going to try to make use of this."

Rev. Anthony Bailey from Parkdale United Church says the financial support from private donors may help the church take on another refugee sponsorship. 0:31

Brennan said the refugee hub has received a tremendous response from a variety of groups and that church groups have been able to organize very quickly. 

"We had well over 100 inquiries into our email account since we've launched and we've had 20 or 30 formal expressions of interest from groups that are going to step forward and do this," she said.