Why Canadian leaders are heading to the UK to inspire communities to resettle vulnerable refugee families


At a time when many people feel powerless to act against the refugee crisis, next week a group of Canadian ministers, government officials and civil society leaders will be joining a UK wide roadshow to motivate and inspire communities to help resettle vulnerable refugee families.

The roadshow, hosted by The Good Faith Partnership, Social Finance, the Home Office, Canadian Government as well as a host of local churches, faith groups and civil society organisations will provide a special opportunity to hear the life-changing, community-transforming stories of sponsorship from Canada and the UK.

The community sponsorship scheme in Canada started in 1979, when the Mayor of Ottawa, Marion Dewar, was shocked by scenes of men, women and children in peril on the sea. She wasted little time in confronting the Canadian Immigration Minister on her country's response to the Vietnamese Boat crisis. Having already committed to resettle four thousand refugees, the minister conceded that he could take a further four thousand if only he had somewhere to put them. Marion Dewar declared, 'We'll take the other four'. In the next three years churches and community groups in Ottawa resettled more than four thousand refugees. To date, Canadian communities and citizens have resettled almost 288,000 refugees.

Following the Canadian experience, in 2016 the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd launched the UK's Community Sponsorship Scheme. The first family of refugees resettled under the scheme was welcomed to the UK by the Archbishop of Canterbury in July 2016. So far families have been welcomed by Anglicans, Catholics and Salvationists, with more than 50 congregations from the widest possible array of denominations and networks now seeking to join the scheme. Communities across the UK are already seeing how welcoming a refugee family into their local area can transform lives.

As Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, says: 'I believe that we are witnessing the beginning of a movement that will change lives from across the world and communities throughout our country. I can only commend churches in every village, city and town to get on board.'

From 17 July, over 300 representatives from interested churches and local groups are expected to attend this unique week of events to explore the special opportunity to sponsor a refugee family in their community. From Kingston upon Thames, to Manchester, Bristol and Aberystwyth, David Henderson (Mayor of Brockville, Ontario), Chris Gregory (Head of Immigration and Refugee Protection for the Government of Canada), Professor Jennifer Bond (chair, Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative), will be joined by Russell Rook (Good Faith Partnership), members of the Home Office, civic leaders and some of the UK's first community sponsors to show how community sponsorship allows ordinary people to take a stand and provide a welcome for refugees.

From the earliest times, the Church has played an important role in welcoming the refugee and the stranger. It can now play a leading role in transforming the lives of thousands of refugees through community sponsorship, as Canadian communities did during the Vietnamese Boat crisis 40 years ago, and continue to do today. The Church has much to offer and everything to gain in using its resources to welcome people to a place of sanctuary and safety.

If your Church or community is interesting in learning more about sponsorship you can join the tour at one of the events below:

  • July 17th Kingston Upon Thames, Guildhall, St James St, KT1 1EU at 10:30am
  • July 18th Manchester, !Audacious Church, Trinity Way, Salford M3 7BD at 6pm
  • July 19th Birmingham, Selly Oak Methodist, Langleys Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 6HT at 5pm
  • July 19th Bristol, Engine Shed, Station Approach, Bristol BS1 6QH at 5pm
  • July 20th Aberystwyth Old College, Yr Hen Goleg, King Street Aberystwyth SY23 2AY at 10:30am

For further information contact: rumbie.mugadza@goodfaith.org.uk

Bex Evans is an analyst at Social Finance and Russell Rook is partner of The Good Faith Partnership.