Ways to help

Proud history

Canada has a long tradition of accepting refugees. From our earliest days we opened our doors to religious minorities. Canada was the end of the underground railroad for African Americans fleeing slavery, and since World War II, Canada has accepted 1.2 million refugees. In recognition of our humanitarian compassion to refugees, the UNHCR granted Canadian people the coveted Nansen medal in 1986 – the only time the medal has been awarded to an entire nation.

Ottawa has been a leader among Canadian cities in welcoming people fleeing crisis and persecution. In 1979, Project 4000 facilitated the arrival of thousands of people fleeing Vietnam. Beginning in 1991, thousands of people looking for safety from war and famine in Somalia began settling in the capital, and in 1999 we welcomed refugees from Kosovo. Our settlement agencies and volunteers continue to welcome an average of 5,000 to 6,000 immigrants a year, around 1,000 of whom are refugees. With each wave of arrivals, Ottawa has gained more than it gave, enriched by the contributions of proud new Canadians to our labour force, our social institutions, our arts and culture.

Now the world faces the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Other Canadian cities are already stepping up. We, the people of Ottawa, are ready to mobilize our energy, time, and talent to organize, sponsor, donate, and volunteer.

Sponsor a refugee

Canada is one of the few countries in the world that allows its own citizens to undertake private sponsorships. Refugee sponsorship can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and one concrete way we can take steps to resolve the refugee crisis.


There are several different ways to sponsor a refugee family, and the rules around sponsorship are expected to change in the near future. Refugee 613 is here to help cut through the confusion. We’ll be providing basic information, organizing workshops, connecting you with knowledgeable advisers, and providing updates on the sponsorship process. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter and check back often for updates.

For more information:

Registry of Sponsorship Groups

Would you like to learn more about language interpretation services or welcoming events for refugees? Would you like to know when local businesses have special offers for refugees, or when Refugee 613 is offering workshops on housing advice, health care or cultural sensitivity?

Click here to sign up for Refugee 613's registry of private sponsors. It's a great way to keep in touch with all the settlement services available to support newcomers. It's also an exciting new tool for helping Ottawa understand the size and scope of the city's growing population of sponsors and the refugees they serve. Best of all, it's free and it's easy!

Donate to the cause

United for Refugees is committed to raising the necessary funds for the sponsoring and settlement of people affected by the Syrian crisis. The fundraising effort will focus on getting the necessary resources to where they are needed the most and will have the greatest impact. This United Way Ottawa - Community Foundation of Ottawa initiative is in collaboration with the City of Ottawa.

You can also donate directly to these Ottawa agencies working to facilitate refugee sponsorship, including:

Learn more

Volunteer your time

You want to lend your time and talent to Ottawa's resettlement of refugees, but you aren't sure how or where? Here are some options for connecting with programs and services that welcome volunteers.

Volunteer directly for a settlement agency

The agencies of the LASI coalition (Local Agencies Serving Immigrants) work with refugees and other immigrants every day, providing vital settlement counselling, housing assistance, career mentoring and much more. Here are the links to their volunteer pages:


Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO)  

Catholic Centre for Immigrants  

Jewish Family Services 

Immigrant Women Services Ottawa 

YMCA-YWCA Newcomer Information Centre  

Volunteer for Refugee 613

Our mission is to provide communications and connections that support the work of our partners in sponsorship and settlement. We rely on volunteers to provide our wide range of information services, events and task forces. We welcome volunteers to reach us through Kindness Connect, a web platform that allows us to match volunteers with opportunities.

To create a profile on Kindness Connect, view our current volunteer positions and apply for them directly online, click here.

Volunteer for other community organizations

The demand for opportunities to volunteer with refugees is extremely high — so high, it is hard to accommodate everyone. Consider directing your energy, talent and goodwill to the many other local organizations needing volunteer support. Visit the web site of Volunteer Ottawa  to find opportunities in the broader community. Volunteer Ottawa has extensive listings of positions throughout Ottawa, for every age, skill level and interest.

Become a partner

We're looking for partners from business, tech, research and non-profits to join the Refugee 613 movement. If you're willing to donate time, money or resources to support Ottawa’s refugee response, contact us. We'll help you get started.

Sign up to learn more about partnering