We don’t know. Which means, in a very small way, we are living an uncertain future alongside the people we are hoping to welcome to safety and new life here. We are ready and the need is great, but keeping up with – and waiting on — changes in federal government programs, focus, and procedures has been a challenge and is the current bottleneck. Additional temporary visa offices opened abroad to process and screen Syrian refugees in a fast and focused way were closed once the government met its initial resettlement commitment early in 2016.
Canada is receiving international attention for its extraordinary response to the Syrian crisis, and a spirit of compassion continues to move across this land. Cultivating patience, persistence, and flexibility is where we’re at right now, as the government figures out what to do with compassion that has exceeded their expectations.
So where does this leave us?
The planning team at NeST has been working towards the sponsorship of a travel-ready family from Syria through the pre-screened BVOR (Blended Visa Office-Referred) private sponsorship, a partially-government funded refugee program; however, many other Canadian groups are ready and waiting too, and BVOR refugees are being selected for sponsorship literally within seconds of being made available. We needed to have our funding and committees in place before we could submit an application to sponsor, so we are ready to go – but the timeline for being matched with a family is unknown. With changing conditions, even once we are matched it may well be late 2016 or 2017 before the people we hope to sponsor will arrive. NeST is exploring how we might responsibly accelerate that. Meanwhile, if you’ve offered to volunteer and support the NeST program, we thank you and promise to keep you informed as we move forward.
Carol Rose-Skelly and Jennifer Solem