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Diocese of B.C. urges Canada to accept more refugees

By André Forget on February, 09 2017

Rebecca Siemens (right), diocesan refugee program co-ordinator, speaks with a woman hoping to sponsor as refugees members of her family who are still in Syria.
Photo: Contributed

The Anglican diocese of British Columbia has urged the Canadian government to increase its targets for refugee resettlement to allow at least 7,000 more refugees to enter the country this year.

In a statement released February 7, the diocese noted that Canada has set a target for 25,000 refugees to be resettled in 2017, compared to the previous year’s target of 44,800.

Given the “unprecedented need for refugee resettlement” in the wake of a U.S. government executive order suspending refugee admissions for 120 days, the statement urged Ottawa to “continue to show leadership” in refugee resettlement.

“We recognize that we cannot fill the vacuum the U.S. government has left, but we must do what we can,” it said.

Using statistics from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the statement noted that of the 25,000 refugees to be resettled in Canada, the government plans to sponsor 7,500. Of the remainder, 16,000 will be sponsored privately, and 1,500 will be Blended Visa Office-Referred refugees (BVOR), supported by both government and private sponsors.

These numbers indicate a significant decline from the targets set in 2016, when, according to IRCC, the government promised to resettle 25,000 government-assisted refugees, and help support 3,000 BVOR refugees.

The statement  urged Canada to increase resettlement efforts so that government and BVOR refugee sponsorships in 2017 are “at least equal to” the number of privately sponsored refugees.  

Following the U.S. executive order, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that Canada would welcome those “fleeing persecution, terror & war,” but his government has yet to announce any changes to its refugee resettlement targets.

The diocese of British Columbia said it is currently sponsoring 268 refugees, an effort being supported by “over 500” volunteers. This includes a partnership with the Islamic Centre of Nanaimo and Al-Iman Mosque in Victoria that has focused on supporting Muslim refugees.

The statement also denounced the January 29 attack on a Quebec City mosque that left six worshippers dead, and expressed “outrage” at the U.S. executive order, which, in addition to suspending refugee admissions, temporarily bans entry to the U.S. for citizens of Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Libya.

In an interview with the Anglican Journal, diocesan communications officer Catherine Pate said that while the diocese has been involved in refugee work for some time, in 2016 it took the additional step of hiring a refugee co-ordinator, Rebecca Siebert.

“There is a lot of energy in the diocese for refugee resettlement and support,” said Pate, noting that the diocese sees refugee resettlement as part of a larger commitment to local and global reconciliation efforts.

Pate and Siebert both noted that the energy behind the statement came predominantly from volunteers involved in working with and advocating on behalf of refugees.

Pate said they are considering redrafting the statement as a letter to the government.

“I assume that that is the next step,” she said.

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By André Forget| February, 09 2017
Categories:  News|National News

About the Author

André Forget

André Forget

André Forget joined the Anglican Journal in 2014 as staff writer and social media lead. He also serves as managing editor of Whether Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Winnipeg Review, and the Town Crier.

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