By Ryan Weston
As much as $392,000 in grants will be distributed to parishes across all four episcopal areas to support refugee sponsorships in the Diocese of Toronto. These grants, approved by Diocesan Council at its March 31 meeting, are provided through a $500,000 tithe from the Ministry Allocation Fund earmarked for refugee work. They will help to offset costs associated with private sponsorship of refugees.
Grants have been approved for 19 parishes in Toronto, Lindsay and Orono, with provisional approval given for an additional six grants in a number of communities, subject to the parishes submitting additional information or clarification to the Refugee Support Allocation Committee. Grants will be distributed to parishes once they have raised a minimum of 80 per cent of their contribution to the sponsorship costs and been matched with a refugee case through the Anglican United Refugee Alliance (AURA). AURA is a FaithWorks ministry that administers the sponsorship agreement on behalf of the diocese.
The amount of the grants ranges from $5,000 to $40,000, and the proposed sponsorships will welcome as many as 160 individuals to Canada with vital financial and community supports to help them transition to their new homes. These applications represent only a portion of the more than 65 parishes in the diocese working toward some form of refugee sponsorship.
Ian McBride, executive director of AURA, was happy to receive news of the grants. “I’m exceedingly pleased,” he said. “I hope that these very generous grants from the diocese will lead immediately to wonderful refugee sponsorships and help to build future refugee sponsorships. The grants help parishes, particularly smaller parishes, to have a degree of confidence in going forward that they otherwise may not have.”
Sixteen parishes that applied for funding are undertaking sponsorship for the first time. The sponsorship assistance grants are providing strong motivation and support as parishes consider taking on the commitment necessary to welcome refugees to a new life in Canada.
“Sponsorship in the diocese has grown immensely, particularly in the last year,” Mr. McBride said. “We applaud those parishes who’ve been involved for a long time and those who have recently become involved. We salute them for their efforts in this ministry.”
The 28 applications received by March 15, the first-round deadline, reflected a variety of creative collaborations between parishes and their wider communities. Eighteen applications involved some form of partnership with other Anglican parishes, ecumenical and interfaith partners, or community groups. Partners included local Lutheran, United Church and Christian Reform congregations, an Islamic centre, and several networks of neighbours engaging with Anglican churches to pursue refugee sponsorship.
The announcement of these grants comes in the midst of significant discussion regarding changes to federal government policy related to the private refugee sponsorship program in Canada that may result in a slowing down of approval for refugee cases. Mr. McBride encourages parishes to be patient, but also to continue to engage in the process to make sure as many people in need are brought to Canada as possible.
“The current situation is extremely fluid and in some ways more challenging than we thought it might be,” he said. “However, it is very important that we continue our work, because our calling to this should not be dissuaded due to bureaucratic challenges. The work is the work is the work.”
A second round of applications for parish sponsorship support grants will be accepted until May 15. Information and application forms can be found on the diocesan website.
Ryan Weston is the diocese’s Social Justice and Advocacy consultant.