Sudbury

A house in waiting: sponsors were never told refugee family settled elsewhere

Since February, a Sault Ste. Marie group spent more than $6,000 on rent and utilities on a rental property that was slated for a Syrian refugee family. The family never showed up, and the New Beginnings Interdenominational Refugee Sponsorship Group was left hanging without any explanations.

Sponsorship group in Sault Ste. Marie has been waiting since February for refugee family to fill empty house

New Beginnings Interdenominational Refugee Sponsorship has offered a house to Syrian refugees, but haven't been told by the government when that family will arrive. (Craig Desson/CBC)
The New Beginnings Interdenominational Refugee Sponsorship Group in Sault Ste. Marie is waiting for a refugee family they sponsored to arrive. 8:20

Since February, a Sault Ste. Marie group spent more than $6,000 on rent and utilities on a rental property that was slated for a Syrian refugee family.

The family never showed up, and the New Beginnings Interdenominational Refugee Sponsorship Group was left hanging without any explanations.

Co-ordinator Helen Christenson says it's been challenging getting answers about their sponsored families from the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

When the Trudeau government got their 25,000 refugees they dropped everything and left a lot of things not completed.- Helen Christenson of New Beginnings Interdenominational Refugee Sponsorship

After making some phone calls to the ministry, the group was informed that the refugee family chose not to settle in Sault Ste. Marie. The group would, however, be on the list to sponsor another family.

That, too, met with delays.

"We were told to just wait, just wait," Christenson said.

Christenson said she's heard from other groups that the ministry's handling of the refugee settlement process is very disorganized.

[Things] have gone back to the way it was under Harper.- Helen Christenson of New Beginnings Interdenominational Refugee Sponsorship

"They still want to help, which is good because, with some other groups, they've disbanded, I've heard," Christenson said.

She adds the federal government has raised the expectations of private sponsorship groups, and is not following through.

"When the Trudeau government got their 25,000 refugees," Christenson said, "they dropped everything and left a lot of things not completed."

"[The Liberal government] got their political points in February and... [and now] have gone back to the way it was under Harper," Christenson said,  "where it takes many months, if not years, to get a family to Canada."

As for the house, the sponsorship group has decided to keep it furnished for the time being, as they would not want to be informed at the last minute of a refugee family's arrival.

Christenson said she's not confident that the process will be smooth.

"I am disappointed in the government," she said, "I have no confidence this government will be able to bring refugees here."

with files from Martha Dillman. Edited/packaged by Casey Stranges

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