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

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:


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

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.

Sign up to receive more information about volunteering


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:

Sign up to learn more about advocacy

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