An Update from the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada 

Following the announcement of the Prime Minister on March 16, 2020, travel to Canada has been restricted in response to COVID-19, allowing entry only to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, with certain exceptions. 

Detailed information on these exceptions have been outlined and include family members of Canadian citizens and residents, and foreign nationals, including privately-sponsored refugees (PSR), who were already in possession of permanent resident visas for Canada at the time of the imposition of the travel restriction measures. 

As you may be aware, all PSR cases booked for arrival in March and April by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), have been cancelled and remain as such until further notice. 

We recognize that while holders of valid permanent resident visas may be able to enter Canada, the ability to travel to Canada ultimately relies on various factors, including, but not limited to:

·         capacity of the IOM to facilitate travel and pre-departure medical services;

·         availability of flights;

·         conditions in the refugee's country of residence/asylum;

·         ability of foreign governments to issue exit permits; and

the sponsor and refugee's mutual interest to proceed with travel to Canada at this time, in light of the COVID-19 situation.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is actively working with various partners to plan travel where possible, and for the eventual resumption of refugee arrivals. The Resettlement Operations Centre – Ottawa (ROC-O) will contact you directly by e-mail when the refugee(s) you sponsored may be able to travel to Canada and you will be requested to clearly confirm your continued ability to receive and support them. 

If the refugee(s) you are sponsoring are able to travel, there will be additional requirements with which you will be asked to comply.  Upon arrival, as with all international travelers, the refugee(s) will be asked to adhere to guidelines on self-isolation and COVID-19, as defined by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). 

As this may also put you in close physical contact with individuals arriving from outside Canada, you may also need to adhere to the same guidelines.   

Until you receive correspondence from the ROC-O in this regard, we ask that you limit correspondence with IRCC. 

Additionally, we would like to take this opportunity to share the following information:

·              Due to the current disruption to normal operations, which began on March 17, 2020, ROC-O continues to process e-mailed sponsorship applications. In order to avoid duplication, sponsorship applications already submitted by mail should NOT be resubmitted by email. The mailed applications will be processed when IRCC resumes normal operations.

·              Moreover, some Canadian embassies and consulates have either reduced their operations or closed their offices until further notice. Due to the evolving situation, there may be delays in the processing of applications, regardless of type/category.



·COVID-19:  How to Protect Yourself

Please click on the following link to learn about how you can protect yourself from the COVID-19 virus.  Important excerpts from the same website are presented below.

https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-health-advice/

1.       Practise physical distancing: To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our community, Toronto Public Health encourages everyone to stay home and reduce their physical contact with others. Physical distancing means limiting the number of people you come into close contact with;

·         Cancel group gatherings:  Cancel all group gatherings; No parties or playdates with other children; Connect with friends by phone, email, video or social media; Do not visit friends or family in long-term care homes, retirement homes or other care settings;

·         Limit your trips outdoors: Go outside for essential trips only such as groceries, work and exercise; Keep a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others; Avoid crowded parks and playgrounds, which are not cleaned or sanitized; Greet others with a wave, a bow or a nod (in place of handshakes or hugs); Sanitize or wash your hands when entering and exiting buildings; No more than three people per elevator and use an elbow to press buttons if you can; Avoid long lineups; Use tap to pay rather than handling money; When taking public transit, avoid prolonged close contact with others and consider travel during non-peak hours;

2.       Wash your hands often: Use soap and water for at least 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;

3.      Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; 

4.      Avoid close contact with people who are ill;                      

5.      Stay home when you are ill; 

6.       Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands.  If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm; 

7.       Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

For general, day-to-day activities, there is no need to wear a surgical or N95 mask.


COVID-19 Related Support for Employees, Self-Employed Individuals, and Small Businesses

Please click on the following links to find further information about government programs that are available for employees and self-employed individuals affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

https://helpingnewcomerswork.ca/

https://mailchi.mp/7df5542efb82/leads-and-links-edition-40?e=6c35893566

Newcomers who are eligible to receive Employment Insurance (EI) benefits may be able to access this support during their sponsorship period (i.e., first year of arrival to Canada). The receipt of EI benefits during the sponsorship period is comparable to employment earnings and therefore is allowed under the Private Sponsorship or Refugees (PSR) program.   EI benefits are not considered the same as receiving social assistance, which newcomers under the PSR program are not allowed to receive during their sponsorship period.  

Sponsors may treat EI benefits as employment income, and support may be adjusted if needed.  As EI is considered to be earned income, sponsors can make dollar for dollar deductions from the monthly income support they provide for any income received (e.g., Employment Income, EI benefits…) that exceeds 50% of the monthly Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) support. 

While cosponsors for family linked cases have this option available to them, we ask that Constituent Groups (CG) who are settling a Project Hope family make this adjustment to funding where possible.  This will ensure that donated funds are preserved to enable us to sponsor another refugee family who currently live in dire circumstances.  


UPDATED ORAT Action Plan in Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In response to the extraordinary step taken by the Premier of Ontario to declare a State of Emergency, we have taken the following steps to help contain the spread of COVID-19:

1.       Office Closure:  The office is closed to staff and visitors until further notice.  However, while the office remains closed to staff and visitors, the important work of this office continues. Staff are working off-site and are accessible by phone and email.  General enquiries related to refugee sponsorship or case updates should be directed to (416) 934-3400, x804, or oratrefugeeoffice@archtoronto.org

    • Automatic Newcomer Disbursements for Cosponsor (Family Linked) Cases:  All quarterly cheque disbursements to newcomers for family-linked cases are being automatically calculated and mailed out to the Principal Applicant (PA) or Cosponsor.  Because we have taken the step to automatically calculate the disbursement amount, we do not require the Cosponsor to complete the cheque request form.
       
    • Cheque Request Required for Project Hope Cases: Constituent Groups (CGs) who are sponsoring Project Hope cases are asked to continue to submit a completed cheque request form to oratoutreach@archtoronto.org.  Information needed to complete the form can be obtained by using the Budget Workbook, which we ask accompany the request for funds.  Please ensure that cheques requests are submitted at least 30 days before the funds are required.
       
    • Cheque Drop-Off by Mail Only:  For those required to make a liability payment (i.e., sponsorship funds), we ask that you send your cheque by mail to:

      Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT)
      1220 Yonge St., Suite 203,
      Toronto ON M4T 1W1 

2.      No In-Person Information Sessions: Until further notice, the office will not be holding in-person information sessions.  Instead, we are offering information sessions via a live on-line webinar format. Users will require a computer/smartphone/tablet and internet to be able to access these on-line sessions.  Join this live interactive format and have your questions answered. Registration for these events can be completed through ORAT's Eventbrite page.  Registrants will be provided a confirmation link that allows them to join the webinar 48 hours in advance of the webinar start time

While challenging days lay ahead, it is our hope and prayer that the steps taken will contribute in some small way to mitigating the spread of this virus. 



Update on Canada's Response to COVID-19

The Prime Minister announced that Canada will bar entry to all foreign travellers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents, with certain exceptions. IRCC is working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to cancel all refugee arrivals in March and April.

Individual notices on flight cancellations are being sent via email over the coming days. The Resettlement Operations Centre – Ottawa (ROC-O) will contact you directly if the refugees you are preparing to receive will not be travelling. However, a limited number of refugees are already in transit and will arrive on March 17 and 18, 2020. Please note that there will be no additional arrivals or new flight bookings after these dates until further notice.

Per the advice of the Public Health Agency of Canada all international travelers arriving in Canada are to follow the guidance published by the Public Health Agency of Canada to:

  • Self-isolate for 14 days after arrival in Canada.
  • Monitor their health for fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
  • Wash their hands often for 20 seconds and cover their mouth and nose with their arm when coughing or sneezing. 

If they develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing within 14 days:

  • Continue to isolate themselves from others
  • Immediately call a health care professional or public health authority and:
    • describe symptoms and travel history
    • follow the instructions of health professionals or public health authority carefully. 

Resettlement Assistance Provider Service Provider Organizations and sponsors are advised to assist refugees in seeking and explaining the appropriate services available to them if they develop symptoms. 

For questions on Canada's response to COVID-19, please refer to the primary authoritative source of information for all Canadians at the website Canada.ca/coronavirus as well as the COVID-19 Information Line at 1-833-784-4397. 


ORAT Action Plan in Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In response to the evolving coronavirus situation and out of an abundance of caution, we will be taking the following steps to minimize the transmission of the virus:

  • Information Sessions:  Until further notice, we will be discontinuing in-person Information Sessions.  In the interim, we will be offering live on-line Information Sessions, which we encourage cosponsors and Constituent Group (CG) members to register for.  To register, please click on the following link to find out about upcoming sessions: Eventbrite.  We have also provided a number of on-line tutorials, which are available on our website.
  • General Enquiries:  In recognition that many enquiries are adequately addressed by phone or by email, we kindly ask that enquiries related to refugee sponsorship or case updates be made either by phone (416-934-3400, x804) or by email (oratrefugeeoffice@archtoronto.org).
  • Cheque Drop-Off:  For those who are dropping off cheques to our office, we ask that you send your cheques by mail or by courier.  Our mailing address is 1220 Yonge St., Suite 203, Toronto ON M4T 1W1;
  • Newcomer Disbursements:  All quarterly cheque disbursements to newcomers will be mailed out.  As such, we remind cosponsors and CG members to email their cheque request to oratoutreach@archtoronto.org at least 30 days in advance of when the monies will be required.  The cheque request is accessible by clicking on the following links:

Should the cheque request not be received in a timely fashion, resulting in insufficient time to process and mail the cheque, we will ask that you arrange for a courier pick-up.  To arrange a courier pick-up, please contact any of the couriers listed below:

DHL:  Call 1-855-345-7447, then press 1 for pickup;

FedEx:  Call 1-800-463-3339, then follow the voice prompts; or

UPS:  Call 1-800-742-5877, then press 1 for pickup. 

You will notice that the cheque request form has changed, requiring some specific funding information to be included.  This change was necessary to ensure that funding is in-line with Immigration Canada requirements. The information needed to complete the form can be obtained by using the Budget Workbook that we have developed.  Please click on the following link to access this document Budget Workbook.

While challenging days lay ahead, it is our hope and prayer that the steps taken will contribute in some small way to mitigating the spread of this virus. 




ORAT and CRSC's Continued Advocacy Efforts:

Deacon Rudy Ovcjak from the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office for Refugees (ORAT), along with Brian Dwyer and Rabea Allos of the Catholic Refugees Sponsorship Council (CRSC) met with the Honourable Peter Kent, Member of Parliament for Thornhill and the Conservative Immigration Critic, to discuss the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program in Canada.  A very productive meeting.




Wishing all Christians a blessed and fruitful Lent.  May it be a fruitful season of preparing for the great feast of the Church, the Resurrection of the Lord 

Lent is the 40-day season of preparation for Easter that ends on Holy Thursday, three days before Easter Sunday. During Lent, Catholics recall their baptism and do penance – fasting, prayer, and alms-giving as they commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ.


2020 Allocation and Public Information Session

Please note that we are currently awaiting our 2020 allocation from Immigration Canada, which we expect to receive on the first two weeks of March. In either April or May, we plan to announce details about an online  registration event that we will arrange  for members of the general public who wish to sponsor a refugee. The online registration will be open for several days.  We anticipate a high level of demand for the limited allocation that we will receive. To manage this, we will be holding a random draw to select a number of registrants who we will then invite to an Introduction to Resettlement Information Session.  This marks the first step in sponsoring a refugee through this office and attendance is mandatory for all selected registrants.  







105th World Day of Migrants & Refugees

Sunday, September 29, 2019 marked the 105th World Day of Migrants & Refugees, a day dedicated by the Catholic Church to remember and pray for those who suffer as migrants and refugees. The theme announced by His Holiness Pope Francis for this year's World Day of Migrants and Refugees is "It is not just about migrants". In his message, Pope Francis reminds us that "every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age. The Lord entrusts to the Church's motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future.  This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience… This is a great responsibility, which the church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will…"

In the Archdiocese of Toronto, this day was commemorated with a Solemn Mass, which took place at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in North York.  Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore Pakistan, Lawrence Saldanha presided, with Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick, Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto, and a large number of clergy concelebrating.  In his homily, Bishop Kirkpatrick spoke on the Gospel parable of Lazarus and the rich man, and on Pope Francis' message for this day.  He exhorted the faithful to continue their work to care for and protect those who suffer as migrants and refugees.

The presentation that immediately followed the Mass, focused on the suffering of the Pakistani Christian refugee community, many of whom have fled to Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.  A video that was created specifically for this event was presented to the roughly 250 people in attendance.  The video and accompanying presentation by Archbishop Saldanha underscored the suffering of this community and the various factors driving the oftentimes brutal persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.

Mr. Garnett Genuis, Conservative MP for the riding of Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, shared the Conservative Party's vision for Refugee Sponsorship, and in particular the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.

Deacon Rudy Ovcjak, Director of the Office for Refugees at the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) highlighted the work being done by the office to address the plight of the roughly 400 Pakistani Christian refugee families stranded in Thailand.  In July, a small team from the office travelled to Bangkok to meet with 65 of these Pakistani Christian families, both Catholic and Protestant. His Eminence, Thomas Cardinal Collins, the Archbishop of 

Toronto, set aside $250,000 to

assist with the cost of resettling someof these families to Canada.  An additional $250,000 is expected to be contributed by Catholic parishes throughout the Archdiocese.  The combined funds will support the sponsorship of 18 of the 65 families.  Work is underway to reach out to Catholic bishops and sponsoring organizations across Canada, to ask for their assistance to sponsor the remaining families.  To date, eight Catholic Dioceses have indicated their willingness to sponsor one or more families. These include the Dioceses of: Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Peterborough, Halifax and others.  Efforts are also underway to reach out to Protestant communities and to potential donors to ask for their assistance.

The event marked an important milestone on the way to saving these 400 desperate and suffering Pakistani Christian families.

If you are interested in sponsoring a family or in contributing towards this cause, please contact the Office for Refugees at (416) 934-3400 x804 or by email at oratrefugeeoffice@archtoronto.org.


  



Volunteer Opportunity at ORAT

Volunteers Job Description

Summary of the ICMC's 2018 plenary meeting 

Please click  on the attached link to view a video, Summary of the International Catholic Migration Commission's (ICMC) 2018 Council plenary meeting  

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNu0QTJQR9Q&feature=youtu.be


Vatican Releases Anti-Trafficking Resource

Geneva, 22 January 2019 - A new resource aims to inspire Catholics in their ministries both to eliminate human trafficking and to support its survivors.

The Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking were released in January by the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section. The publication provides in-depth insight into the issue of human trafficking, which Pope Francis has called a “crime against humanity.”

Migrant women who survived human trafficking playing soccer at an Italian reception center managed by nuns. © UNHCR/Jordi Matas “One of the darkest aspects of contemporary history,” states the new publication, “human trafficking victimizes millions of people all over the world.” Amongst its victims are the most vulnerable in society, including women, children, the disabled, the poorest and those who come from difficult family and social situations.

Human trafficking takes different forms, including sexual exploitation, forced marriage, slave labor, servitude, forced begging, organ-harvesting and reproductive exploitation among others.

Examining ten dimensions of this complex phenomenon as defined by international law, the new resource outlines a framework for the Church to respond. Its ten chapters explore the causes of human trafficking and why it persists today. They also examine how it operates and why it remains hidden from public view.

In the document’s preface, Frs. Fabio Baggio and Michael Czerny, Undersecretaries of the Migration and Refugees Section, explain that the publication aims to “motivate and sustain the much-needed long-term struggle” to eradicate human trafficking.

The new resource responds to Pope Francis’ declaration that “the Catholic Church intends to intervene in every phase of the trafficking of human beings.” Its development took six months of church-wide consultation with leadership, scholars and organizations working in the field.

Invited by the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) contributed insights for the development of the resource based on its past and present experience in responding to survivors of trafficking and of sexual and gender-based violence.

“ICMC and our national member organizations in many countries are committed to serve those who have been subjected to such abuse and to take strong action to eliminate these crimes. The Vatican resource will help us to become more effective in our efforts,” says ICMC Secretary General Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo.

Frs. Baggio and Czerny note that the publication’s guidelines are “deeply grounded in the Church’s reflection and teaching and its longstanding practical experience responding to the needs of men, women, boys and girls caught up in human trafficking and in slavery, both past and present.”

They hope the new resource will motivate and inspire the Church’s anti-trafficking ministries in dioceses, parishes, religious congregations, schools, universities and other organizations. The guidelines will also be useful as key messages for use in pastoral and educational work.

https://www.icmc.net/newsroom/church-news/vatican-releases-anti-trafficking-resource


2018 ICMC Conference

In his message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees Pope Francis expressed the Church’s concern for migrants, displaced people, refugees and victims of human trafficking, and encouraged efforts at all levels of Government (Ecclesial and Political ) to help welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees. Like ORAT, many Catholic organizations strive to heed Pope Francis’ call to be like Christ, who identifies Himself with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.

One particular organization to highlight is the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC). ICMC is an international non-governmental organization whose mission is to protect and serve uprooted people, including refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people, victims of human trafficking, and migrants - regardless of faith, race, ethnicity or nationality.

At the ICMC Council meeting in Rome from March 6 – 8, Pope Francis affirmed and encouraged ICMC members to continue the vital work they do saying “I would like to reaffirm that the cause of this organization is the cause of Christ Himself.” The ICMC Council, composed of representatives of all bishop’s conferences, met to accomplish a number of items, including the election of ICMC’s President, and approve membership of ICMC’s Governing Committee. His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, continues to be a member of ICMC’s Governing Committee. Video highlights of this year’s meeting are available on our Facebook page.  The videos showcase some of the efforts that the Church continues to make to address the plight of migrants and refugees.

 


Moral Sponsorship for Refugee Sponsorship Applications

 

ORAT recently held an information session for members of the general public (potential cosponsors) who wished to sponsor a refugee(s) for resettlement. One of the requirements that we placed on the attendees to the Information Session is that they secure a pledge of Moral Sponsorship from a parish within the Archdiocese.

Important Note: The member of the general public approaching a pastor should have attended ORAT's recent, mandatory information session, entitled "Introduction to Resettlement".  When a pastor is approached by a member of the general public who has not attended the Introduction to Resettlement Information Session, or by an overseas refugee seeking sponsorship, we would encourage that they be directed to contact ORAT.

By providing a Moral Sponsorship, a parish commits to assisting the cosponsor with the logistical elements of resettlement in the unlikely event that he or she is unable to do so. If your parish has or is planning to form a Resettlement/Constituent Group, I would ask that you please consider providing a Moral Sponsorship if you are approached by a member of the public who has attended the Information Session.

It is important for a parish to recognize that there is no financial obligation associated with a Moral Sponsorship. The full financial liability is deposited with the Archdiocese by the cosponsor at the time that the sponsorship application is submitted to Immigration Canada.

Please note that it is not ORAT's policy to direct potential cosponsors to a particular parish. We have asked that each potential cosponsor arrange to meet with a pastor in a parish near their residence and ask if they would be willing to provide moral sponsorship of their refugee sponsorship application.

If you have any questions about Moral Sponsorship, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 416-934-3400 x804 and ask to speak with someone from our Outreach team.


Cheque Requisition Form

Throughout the years ORAT has made several changes to the Cheque Requisition Form, which is used by Cosponsors and Constituent Groups alike to access monies that they have deposited with the Archdiocese of Toronto for the settlement of their newcomer.  Unfortunately, many cosponsors and Constituent Groups are making use of older and out-of-date forms.  This has introduced an unnecessary level of complexity into the process. 

As such, we are asking that all Cosponsors and Constituent Groups use the current Cheque Requisition Form that is available on our website.  Please click on the following link to access this document Resettlement funds deposit release - public.

For those that are accessing Project Hope funds, we would ask that you make use of the Project Hope Cheque Requisition Form, which is also available on our website at Resettlement funds deposit release - Project Hope

Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.

h

Support available from ORAT

  • Provides information sessions for the general public regarding refugee resettlement as well as other Canadian immigration options.

  • Is the liaison between parishes, the Archdiocese and Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in refugee resettlement.

  • Assesses resettlement applications and settlement plans.

  • Monitors all procedures before and after submission of a resettlement application and the integration process.

  • Invites you to enroll in the resettlement email distribution to receive information about refugee related issues regularly.


Mission

ORAT assists the faithful and enables them to provide assistance for uprooted people by helping parishes, religious orders, Catholic institutions and others to find durable solutions for refugees in need. Additionally the ORAT provides similar services to Christian communities in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Toronto. 
ORAT is a venue of communication, cooperation and collaboration for refugee serving organizations in the Archdiocese to improve the level of services provided by Catholic organizations.

ORAT works with partners nationally and internationally to ameliorate the situation of uprooted people.


Values

ORAT operates in accordance with the Ten Building Blocks of Catholic Social Teachings and with the generally respected values, philosophy and principles of the Catholic Church.


Mandate

ORAT facilitates the Sponsorship Agreement of the Archdiocese of Toronto; animates and coordinates the Catholic network on refugee assistance; liaises with other civic sponsors, dioceses and archdioceses, and international organizations such as ICMC (International Catholic Migration Commission), UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and other refugee serving members of the international community on issues such as 

resettlement, protection and social justice.

ORAT's mandate covers the entire geographic area of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto and where members of resettlement groups reside beyond these geographical boundaries.

ORAT is also mandated to link and network with organizations nationally and internationally for greater cooperation.


Services Offered

Information Sessions: ORAT provides general immigration and refugee information sessions open to the public on a regular basis. The goal of these sessions is not only to ensure that people understand the Civic Resettlement of Refugees (CRR) Program, but that they are also empowered with the knowledge on all the ways a person can legally enter into Canada.

Parish Information Events: ORAT is available to provide support with information nights to parish councils, committees or just simply, interested parishioners, on general refugee issues, on civic sponsorship opportunities, etc. Please inquire with the Resettlement Educator if you are interested in hosting information sharing event or the monthly seminar.

Training: ORAT provides training to those interested in learning more about settlement and integration on an ongoing basis. Additionally, ORAT publishes a newsletter to give updates regularly.

Referrals: Although ORAT's main focus is the civic sponsorship work, ORAT can assist parishes, religious orders, chaplaincies, Catholic institutions and related groups in finding professional service providers with regard to refugee and immigrations issues or advocacy needs.


ORAT is funded by:

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