“Kingston Faith and Justice Coalition Sends Letters Advocating for Improvements to Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Program”

speakupWhat follows is a letter that is being sent by the Kingston Faith and Justice Coalition to the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Chris Alexander, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair (NDP), Justin Trudeau (Liberal), Elizabeth May (Green Party), and Ted Hsu (Kingston & Islands).

Please consider sending letters of your own.  For your convenience  the email and postal addresses are listed following the letter.

 May 8, 2015

Dear [insert name here]

The Kingston Faith and Justice Coalition is a multi-faith group of citizens who are concerned about matters of social justice.

The Canadian Government has just recently met the 2013 promise to bring in 1,300 Syrian refugees.  Regrettably that is a very small number of refugees.  (Globe & Mail, March 26, 2015).

The Canadian government must reconsider the sponsorship program.  Currently the government expects 60% of the refugees to be sponsored by private groups or individuals.  We believe the government must contribute more than the 40% sponsorship.  We also agree with Janet Dench, Executive Director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, who believes reliance on private sponsors is too heavy.  Private sponsors need at least $12,000 for just one individual (more for a family) plus more for setting up a household and health coverage for necessities not covered by Ottawa.  (Toronto Star, January 7, 2015).  The requirements placed on private groups sponsoring refugees for paperwork, funding and finding housing is too onerous.

First we request simplifications of the paperwork.  We also request restoration of the one-time grant by the government.  This would enable groups to set up households for refugees, which would reduce the burden on private sponsorships.  (Canadian Council for Refugees, January 14, 2015)

A particular concern is the cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program in June 2012.  Even though some services were restored in November 2014, privately sponsored refugees continue to be denied IFH coverage for medications and prostheses.  Many potential sponsoring groups will be unwilling to face catastrophic medical costs.  (Canadian Council for Refugees, January 14, 2015).

Canada has been making it tougher for refugee claimants to make it to our shores since 2011.  Even Sweden, which only has a quarter of Canada’s population, admitted 75,100 refugees last year.  (Toronto Star, March 29, 2015).  Will the plea by the United Nations for Canada to accept more refugees continue to fall on deaf ears?  Thirty-five years ago Canada brought in 60,000 Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian refugees.  Let us hope the pledge to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years is fulfilled.  (Toronto Star, March 29, 2015).

Given the great need, why not speed up the timetable for the 10,000 resettlements (over the next three years) and make them Ottawa-assisted to make it easier for those refugees to reach our shores?  According to the United Nations 51.2 million individuals were forcibly displaced in 2014.  Of those, 866,000 sought asylum last year with the 44 countries who report claims to the U.N.   That is a shocking 45% increase from 2013 and the highest level since 1992 when refugees were fleeing the Balkan conflicts by the millions.  (Toronto Star, March 29, 2015).

We hope there is no “cherry-picking” of bringing in just minorities like Christians, Yazidis, etc.  Sunni Muslims comprise 75% of Syria’s population and Christians only 10%.  Other Muslims and religious minorities make up the remaining 15%.  All of them are suffering.  (Toronto Star, December 15, 2014).

Sincerely,

Mary McPhee (on behalf of the Kingston (Ontario) Faith and Justice Coalition).       

Mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of Parliament.

The Honourable Chris Alexander,
Minister of Citizenship & Immigration
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6
Chris.Alexander@parl.gc.ca

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper.
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6
stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

Thomas J. Mulcair,
NDP Party Leader
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6
thomas.mulcair@parl.gc.ca

Justin Trudeau,
Liberal Party Leader
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6
justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

Elizabeth May
Green Party Leader
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6
Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca

Ted Hsu,
MP Kingston and the Islands
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6
Ted.Hsu@parl.gc.ca

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