Following every Canadian federal election, as new ministers are being installed in their posts, the Centre for Public Dialogue sends letters of introduction.
These letters allow the Center to begin a relationship with ministers in a positive way, building a foundation for ongoing dialogue, and they provide an opportunity to bear witness to the perspectives of those affected by issues the minister is likely to deal with.
“Intro letters are a good first step to opening conversation on important issues in a new Parliament,” CPD director Mike Hogeterp said. “Ongoing dialogue that addresses sponsorship challenges is important for refugee welcome.”
This was the context for a letter the Centre for Public Dialogue and World Renew sent to Sean Fraser, Canada’s new minister for immigration, refugees, and citizenship. The CRCNA has a long history of supporting refugees. World Renew is a sponsorship agreement holder with the government of Canada. This is the system by which churches are able to sponsor refugees directly to resettle in provinces across the country.
COVID protocols and travel restrictions have made it especially difficult for sponsored refugees to make it to Canada. Churches are experiencing months-long delays between a refugee being approved to come and finally arriving.
Throughout the pandemic, however, sponsors have proven that they can provide the resources needed to welcome newcomers safely according to local COVID guidelines. Delays are now mostly related to paperwork processing and the growing backlog in the refugee settlement system.
In the letter to Fraser, the Centre for Public Dialogue and World Renew brought up these delays alongside issues such as the increasingly complex program requirements for groups who wish to sponsor refugees. This makes it difficult for organizations with limited specialized knowledge, such as churches to complete necessary paperwork and interpret the financial requirements.
This type of advocacy followed by letters, phone calls, and in-person visits from individual church members is an important part of Christian witness in the public sphere and the effective welcome of refugees to local communities.