The Current

World refugee experts consider Canada's private sponsorship model

Experts from around the world working with refugees are meeting in Ottawa this week to consider if Canada's private sponsorship system could work as a model in their country, hoping to address the worldwide refugee crisis.
Canada turned a sense of despair about the Syrian refugee crisis into a plan. Now other countries are asking how they can do it too. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Read story transcript

Since the late '70s, Canada's private sponsorship program has resettled more than 288,000 refugees. And over the last year, Canadians helped 13,000 Syrian refugees make new homes in places from Haida Gwaii in B.C. to Nova Scotia.

We need to build the infrastructure in other countries that Canada has in order to be able to welcome refugees into our communities.- Gregory Maniatis, Open Society Foundations

Now experts from around the world are gathering in Ottawa to ask if Canada's private refugee sponsorship program could work elsewhere to help alleviate the global refugee crisis.

"We need to build the infrastructure in other countries that Canada has in order to be able to welcome refugees into our communities,"  says Gregory Maniatis, senior adviser at the Open Society Foundations.

He tells Tremonti, there's currently very little organization in the world for those who want to help refugees.

"In Greece last year alone, there were 50,000  individuals who went on their own to a single island — the island of Lesbos — to help refugees there."

Maniatis feels this opportunity to elevate the prominence of the Canadian model and have other countries see its value is not just for refugees, "it's of great value to the hosts and to the country."

Andrew Gratto and Melissa Deugo of Northern Hope made signs in Arabic that say 'Welcome Alsaeed family to the city of Greater Sudbury' - their new home. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)
We need to find ways to give them the same kind of tools that we've seen be so effective here in Canada.- Jennifer Bond

To Jennifer Bond, an organizer of the Ottawa meeting with world experts, sharing Canada's private sponsorship model gives the world the opportunity to spread compassion that exists in many communities around the world.

"We need to find ways to give them the same kind of tools that we've seen be so effective here in Canada."

What makes the model work so successful, according to Brian Dyck, chair of the Sponsorship Agreement Holder Association, is the good partnership between the Canadian government, the civil service and the people who are volunteering.

"I think that connection is one of the things that has really made it a success," says Dyck.

He tells Tremonti that one of the advantages of a private sponsorship in the blended program is the passion volunteers bring to the experience.

"It's something they're doing as volunteers and that really strengthens the settlement. It also strengthens our understanding of global issues."

Bond hopes the Ottawa meetings will recognize the Canadian model is not a "one size fits all" and hopes that Canada can share lessons learned in other places.

"I think it's an opportunity to talk together, learn together and also try to advance those common objectives of improving protection for refugees which is of course the ultimate objective of all of this work."

Dyck points out that an important lesson for everyone implementing a strategy is to "add to resettlement spaces and not just change it from a government responsibility to private."

Maniatis tells Tremonti he'd like to see fear transform into a sense of hope and opportunity.

"By systematically determining how to resettle refugees into communities, with the participation of those communities, I think we can get there."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.

now