The role of private sponsors is crucial in the refugee resettlement process. While care should be taken to avoid paternalism and to allow sponsored refugees to embrace their own cultural expression, it is important for sponsoring groups to make themselves available for financial and social support, especially during the refugees’ first year in Canada.
Responsibilities of sponsoring groups
A large component of a sponsoring group’s responsibility is financial. Groups supporting privately sponsored refugees (PSRs) have taken on the commitment to provide income support for 12 months or until the refugees are self-supporting, whichever comes first. This money should cover costs associated with housing, food, clothing, transportation, a living allowance, and any applicable start-up costs. Estimates of the annual cost for sponsors of PSRs can be found here. Groups sponsoring Blended Visa Office Referrals (BVOR) are responsible for providing 6 months of income support (during months 1 and 8-12 after their arrival), as well as the applicable start-up costs. The Canadian government will provide income support for the other 6 months, months 2-7, through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP). The costs to sponsors of BVORs are estimated here.
As well, sponsoring groups should be involved in socially and emotionally supporting refugees. This includes finding them English or French language training if necessary, enrolling children in school, helping them find jobs and develop friendships, introducing them to Canadian culture and values, providing orientation to the neighbourhood/city, assisting in opening a bank account and with other applications (for provincial health care, Social Insurance Numbers, Child Tax Benefits), and linking them with services offered in the community.
A summary chart of sponsors’ responsibilities is available here.
Health care needs of refugees
Sponsored refugees should have health coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) upon their arrival in Canada. If this is not the case, please contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) at 1-888-242-2100. In order to access health care, refugees should bring either their Refugee Protection Claimant Document or their Interim Federal Health Certificate with them to appointments as an alternative to a health card – these documents contain a specific Client ID number for the IFHP.
Sponsored refugees are also eligible for OHIP upon arrival, although they still need to complete the application process to receive a health card. It is usually very helpful for sponsors to assist refugees in completing the application form, finding the correct documents, and getting to a Service Ontario centre to apply in person. This process is outlined in more detail here.
Sometimes refugees arrive in Canada with instructions from overseas about the health care they need to receive here – when they need to see a specialist, for example. These instructions are helpful, but often the timeline is not as urgent as was communicated to them. In any case, the best thing to do as a sponsor is to get refugees connected to a family doctor as soon as possible. We are happy to work with these individuals to develop a treatment plan that meets their needs.