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Wait Times: A Systemic Issue in Canada's Refugee System...and How You Can Help

Welcoming refugees has galvanized the Christian Reformed Church for decades. On both sides of the border, churches have stood in the gap for people fleeing persecution, whether by sponsoring refugees, supporting community organizations that address refugee needs, welcoming refugees to their churches, or sharing a cup of chai. In some churches, the list of the countries of origin of the refugees they have sponsored reads like a history of the world’s conflicts of the last 50 years: Vietnam, Cambodia, Eastern Europe, Colombia, Congo, Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria.  

Care for refugees is one of the things that comes to mind for me when I think about CRC identity.

In a time when the CRC, along with many other denominations, is looking for its place in a rapidly changing cultural context, care for refugees is one of the things that comes to mind for me when I think about CRC identity, regardless of the increased political furor of the last couple years. Churches of various theological stances, containing members with various political views, have welcomed refugees. Many have been transformed by people that they set out to help. In our communications, we see this show up clearly in response rates to online action alerts—without fail, our top alerts call for greater refugee welcome.

We also know about the challenges of refugee sponsorship in Canada, especially the long wait times that discourage sponsors and further traumatize refugees.

Because churches have been faithful in this way, with World Renew’s Refugee Office, we also know about the challenges of refugee sponsorship in Canada, especially the long wait times that discourage sponsors and further traumatize refugees. Privately sponsored refugees can often wait, without updates on the progress of their application, for more than 16 months! Our system has become slow and inefficient.

Other refugee sponsorship organizations (called Sponsorship Agreement Holders) in Canada, like the Mennonite Central Committee, or organizations advocating with refugees, like Citizens for Public Justice, have also seen the effects of wait times and the way this systemic issue undermines the good work being done by churches.

This is an excellent time to gather a small group from your church or community to talk with your MP about wait times.

If you’re Canadian, you have an opportunity right now to advocate for strengthened refugee sponsorship in Canada. Members of Parliament are in their ridings, away from Ottawa for the winter break—this is an excellent time to gather a small group from your church or community to talk with your MP about wait times.

We’ve gathered talking points for you below, as well as a training video that we put together with our partners at World Renew, Citizens for Public Justice, and the Mennonite Central Committee.

Advocate with refugees 

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