Ways to help
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
We hope that the federal government will soon expand the number of refugees allowed to enter Canada and facilitate resettlement on a large scale. But many of us don’t want to wait.
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:
- Refugee Sponsorship Training Program
- Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Application Guide
- Private Sponsorship Financial Guidelines
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:
- Catholic Centre for Immigrants
- Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO)
- Jewish Family Services
Volunteer your time
It takes more than money to make a new life after fleeing conflict or persecution. It takes advice, opportunity, and friendship – all of which you can help provide. Share your time and expertise with organizations that help refugees build new careers, navigate the health system, or experience Canadian culture. Refugee 613 can connect you with agencies looking for volunteers.
Canada is a generous country, but we could be doing more. One of the best ways to advocate for improvements to the refugee sponsorship system is with federal election candidates.
Visit Elections Canada to find candidates in your riding. Elections Canada will provide you with their office number, but you can also do a Google search for their email address and Twitter handle.
Call your candidates’ offices, send them an email, and tweet your message to them. Tell them that you want to see Canada do more to aid the more than four million Syrians now living outside the war-torn country, and refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
Here are some points to discuss:
- We want to and can resettle more refugees. Canada's current commitment is to resettle 10,000 refugees, most of them from Syria, by the end of 2016. Germany has pledged to take 800,000. Tell your political candidates you would like to see Canada be a leader in resettling refugees.
- We want to expedite the settlement process. Call on the federal government to devote more people to processing applications and creating efficiencies.
- We need to prioritize children and families. This can be done in two ways: (a) identify and resettle families with children; and (b) resettle people who already have family members in Canada, including extended family members.
- We need to facilitate matching Canadians to refugees. Tell them Canadians are ready to sponsor refugees, and you want the federal government to give more resources to organizations that help match Canadians to refugees.
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.