Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A balance of excitement and apprehension

We're more or less ready, as a group. We've had several meetings to get to know each other, learn about the process, and discuss how we will function. We seem to have some commonalities of what motivates us: a variable blend of social action, civic responsibility, and a chafing to do something to alleviate suffering. For myself, I think I've found a balance of excitement and apprehension about embarking on this journey.

Currently, however, what's delaying us is that we have not yet been accepted by a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). The SAH is something of the guarantor with the Canadian government, signing the contract on our behalf, saying that we will fulfill our end of the bargain to settle a refugee family. I find it strange that the SAH's recognized by Citizenship and Immigration Canada are almost all either religious groups or ethnically-based. We, as a group of secular-minded, socially-motivated, concerned citizens who are ethnically diverse and not religiously-inclined... don't seem to quite fit the mold. But surely we are not alone in our willingness to help? We will likely end up working with one of the churches, in an arrangement of convenience, but I am uneasy about the "fit" of this relationship.

Then there is the irony of the Syrian refugees. Our group--I think like many--started because we were moved to action by the continued terrible desperation in Syria. Four million Syrians have now fled their country since the conflict began. The Canadian government announced early this year that they would accept an additional 10 000 Syrian refugees. But there are no Syrians "available" on the lists of government-approved refugees awaiting settlement, despite that many other groups are waiting and willing to help them settle. There is a bureaucratic bottleneck somewhere. I think it's tragic. 

We've decided that there are many people in great need, so we will not insist on Syrians. Indeed, there are many hidden conflicts and forgotten human rights issues. The lists include Eritreans, Congolese, Burmese, and others. The Syrian crisis motivated many of us; I can only hope that our motivation can also benefit the Syrian people who have been affected.

By Wendy Lai


  1. I have a Syrian friend, currently living in Erbil but his family is in Kobani. If you have any ideas how I might get him and his wife moved, I'd appreciate it. He is Kurdish by race, speaks English and is not Muslim. Decent man. In the last few months I have been trying to talk him out of using human traffickers.

  2. Hi Robert, I suggest you get in touch with Lifeline Syria (