Since the democratic uprising of the Arab Spring in 2011 Syria has been ravaged by civil war. The unrest has allowed fundamentalist groups like the Islamic State rise and spread terror across the region. Millions of families have been displaced to refugee camps across the region.
Earlier this year the photo of young Alan Kurdi's death rocked the world. That led to an outpouring of compassion and within our own community more and more members started asking me if the BC Humanist Association could help sponsor a refugee family to come to Vancouver.
While I can't promise anything yet, we've had a number of significant pledges and we have a chance to bring a family to Canada.
Refugees coming to Canada are either sponsored by the government or private organizations. However, the list of private organizations approved to sponsor refugees by the government is dominated by Christian churches. Very few secular options exist.
Our allies at Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC), after significant fundraising and paperwork, successfully sponsored two bloggers fleeing persecution from Islamists in Bangladesh. Read their story in The Globe and Mail today to see why this is so important.
CFIC is now looking at whether they can become an approved organization to take on more refugees in the future. But the process is long and difficult. It's also just one organization that can only realistically bring in a couple families per year.
The Humanist community needs to step up in support of those fleeing persecution.
Despite the fact we've never sponsored a refugee before, the BC Humanists receives several unsolicited emails each year from people around the globe asking if we can help them.
To sponsor a family, we would be on the hook for all of the time and financial costs involved in providing care, lodging, settlement assistance and support until the family becomes self-sufficient (up to three years). The Government of Canada estimates that this can easily cost $27 000 per year for a family of four. The cost of living in Vancouver is higher than the Canadian average and we would have some (minor) administrative costs to bear. This means we'd realistically need an additional $30 000.
We are a small charity and have historically operated on a shoestring budget. We have never had the resources to support these people and we have not been in a position to screen the real requests from the possible scams.
That is, until now.
First, the government's commitment to bring tens of thousands of refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Syria and Iraq affords us the ability to bypass much of the bureaucracy while ensuring that refugees have been screened by the United Nations.
Second, we've had significant pledges come forward.
- A member has offered to rent out their two-bedroom basement suite.
- A donor has graciously pledged $12 000 to cover the rent for that suite.
- Another donor has pledged $5000.
- An immigration lawyer has agreed to provide us with pro-bono support to navigate the necessary paperwork.
- A social worker is willing to volunteer their time.
We're over halfway to the $30 000 we need. If we can secure that funding before the end of January, we can do this.
So here is what I'm asking:
- If you can help with a donation of any size, from $10 to $10 000 (or more), please make a tax-deductible donation today using the secure form below or at this link. You can also send a cheque made payable to "BC Humanist Association" to 400-3381 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4R3
- If you're not yet in a position to help, make a pledge to donate early next year when we're sure we can reach our goal.
- Finally, if you can help us organize the logistics of settling a family, email me at [email protected]
I know I've asked you for a lot this year and every time members have come forward with compassion and generosity. I wouldn't be asking you again so soon if this wasn't one of the most important things we could do in 2016.
If this works, and we're able to help one family next year, we will do everything we can to replicate that success for other refugees and people fleeing persecution around the world.
Thank you so much,
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director