Q: Why are you partnering with a religious organization?
A: As private citizens, there are 2 basic paths to sponsoring a refugee to Canada. The first is for a group of 5 citizens to form a group (called a G5) and submit their applications, including tax, income and liability information to the Canadian Government. They assess the group’s ability to handle a refugee sponsorship and either approve or deny the application. Once the approval has been made, you either choose a specific refugee case or are matched with one.
The approval rate for G5 applications is currently running at around 2%.
Which brings us to the second major way that private citizens can sponsor refugees. There are groups that are Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) that have pre-arranged contracts with the government to sponsor refugees. These are primarily religious organizations but also include many specific ethnic organizations as well. Examples of SAH’s are the Afghan Association of Ontario, the Catholic Church, United Church, MCC, etc. The sponsorship agreements that the SAHs have with the government basically state that the SAH will be responsible financially for the refugees that they sponsor. The SAHs can then allow Constituent Groups (CG) to sponsor individual refugees. Most CGs are things like church congregations etc.
MCC is a SAH that does not require its CG’s to be members of the organization. They just require you to have a plan, and the money, up front for your sponsorship. The amount of money varies with the size of family that the CG is planning to sponsor, and is based on the minimum guidelines that the government publishes.
Our group has chosen to partner with MCC to sponsor a family to come to Guelph. MCC provides the paperwork expertise and financial tools to us free of charge, and can also provide support services once the family arrives (translators, job counseling, etc). Because MCC is a charitable organization, all donations to the family are issued a tax receipt. It varies by province, but between 35 and 50% of the money you donate turns into a tax credit (ie, a $2000 donation turns into a $800-1000 refund at tax time). Due to the huge increase in constituent groups like ours utilizing MCC as their SAH, MCC saw a massive influx of paperwork and other work that needed doing, so they recently (October 2015) had to begin collecting a 5% processing fee. This goes to cover their administrative costs, and does not go back to their other, more religiously motivated work.
Online charitable tax calculator: Revenue Canada charity tax credit calculator
CIC list of Sponsorship Agreement Holders: Database of SAHs in Canada
Q: I saw online that the recommended level of support for a family of 4 is $27,000 dollars. Why are you trying to raise $40,000?
Click here to see the Government CIC financial sponsorship table
A: The $27000 is the minimum acceptable level of support for a refugee sponsorship to be approved, based on a family of 4. It is determined by the Government of Canada, and is based on a minimum standard of social assistance. If you have rented a place to live and fed your family over the last 12 months, you know that working with this number could be a challenge. Add in the costs of medical care, winter clothing, transportation, heat, water etc, and it quickly becomes very difficult to make the budget work. We are hoping to exceed the minimum standard to create a buffer for any unexpected expenses or problems.
Also, many of the refugee families have more than 4 members, sometimes with multiple generations. By keeping the support networks that families have together, there is a greater chance of successful integration into Canada. For example, if there is a grandparent who is able to provide child care, both parents are then able to work and support the family.
Finally, if there is enough support we are hoping that other groups of sponsors can support more families and create a larger community in Guelph.
Q: What happens to my donation if you do not raise enough money to support a family?
A: Because the donations have been issued a tax receipt by MCC, they must remain under the MCC umbrella. There are other groups in Guelph who are also raising funds to sponsor families, so the money donated would be combined to sponsor a family.
Q: How long is the process? What happens next?
A: The process length varies widely. More resources are being devoted to the processing of refugee from Syria by the Canadian Government, and some of the documentation requirements have been relaxed. All refugees must still undergo a background security check, and a health screening before the are permitted to travel to Canada.
As a minimum, CIC provides 10 days advance notice to the date the refugee family will be arriving. Once the family arrives, the sponsor group is responsible for taking care of them, right from picking them up at the airport.