As celebrations of the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund's 50th anniversary get under way, PWRDF representatives and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, met with Jason Kenney, minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, to discuss the federal government's support for one of PWRDF's anniversary programs that will help parishes and dioceses across the country sponsor 50 refugee families.
PWRDF is providing about CAN$2,000 (US$1640) for each family sponsored by a parish, and the federal agreement has agreed to match those funds. The exact amount will be pro-rated depending on the size of the family, says Carolyn Vanderlip, PWRDF's 50th anniversary facilitator. "A larger family obviously is going to require more financial support, but it averages to $2,000 per family," she said. Combined with the matching government funds, Vanderlip says the money should provide about three months of income support to each family.
PWRDF invited Kenney to come to General Synod offices in Toronto on April 24. "We want to establish a positive working relationship with the minister," said Vanderlip.
The project "is an important expression of Canada's humanitarian tradition of resettling victims of persecution. The Anglican church has always been a leader in this," said Kenney. "We are happy to contribute matching funds to the seed funding for the 50 refugee families that Anglican parishes and dioceses across the country will be sponsoring, and we just think that is a beautiful, practical expression of what's best about the church and what's best about Canada."
Three families have already arrived -- a Colombian family in Edmonton; an ethnic Karen family from Burma in Ottawa; and an Ethiopian-Sudanese family in London, Ontario. "We're not focusing on any one area; we're just focusing on where there is a need," Vanderlip said. All of the families are "visa office-referred families, which means that they have already been selected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for resettlement," she added. This means that there won't be a delay while the families go through an interview process, which, in some cases, can take four or five years, said Vanderlip.
About six other parishes have requested profiles for families that they could sponsor, but more parishes willing to sponsor a family are still needed for this program which will run over the next year or two. Vanderlip pointed out that PWRDF "doesn't do sponsorship directly and we never have, but the dioceses do." There are 18 dioceses that have sponsorship agreements with the government, she said. "What this program is really doing is facilitating the diocesan sponsorship work by helping with the funding, for one thing, but we're also hoping that this is going to help increase awareness of sponsorship (nationally)," she added.
Cheryl Curtis, executive director of PWRDF, said she was encouraged by the minister's interest in refugee issues. PWRDF representatives made a special mention of the plight of a group of 3,000 Palestinian refugees who were forced out of Iraq in the violence following the U.S. invasion. Curtis said she hopes that some of the families in the 50th anniversary program might come from this group of refugees who are now living in very precarious conditions on the Iraq-Syria border.