September 27, 2018 — On September 17, the Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity, and Inclusion (MIDI) ended the moratorium that forbade groups and organizations wishing to sponsor refugees privately to present any new requests to the authorities with the intention of “unclogging” the system and optimizing the handling of the files. But it is largely insufficient, explains Fr. Mario Brisson, S.J., the person responsible for sponsorships at the Mission Office of the Jesuits of Canada.
In what way is this new mechanism insufficient?
MB: The requests didn’t stop after the imposition of the moratorium; quite the opposite. In addition to the requests of Syrians, Afghanis and Eritreans, there were also requests coming from Somalia and the Great Lakes region of Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, The Democratic Republic of Congo). So the groups and organizations had the possibility of presenting new requests, but in fact, we should rather be talking about chance, because this reopening of private sponsorships has sadly become a lottery. In effect, the groups of two to five people, the community organizations and the parishes will have to “share” the 150 private sponsorships that have been authorized by the Ministry for all of Quebec. The experienced groups for their part have had to share 350 sponsorships. Best case scenario: an organization like ours would only be able to present 30 dossiers. By way of comparison, in 2015, there were 400 requests for partnership that were authorized.
Furthermore, the requests have to be presented by messenger within a single day, first come, first served. This is very disrespectful of the organizations that have been working with refugees. And without the least regard for the very real human suffering hidden behind the “numbers”, the directives, and the bureaucratic statistics.
What impact does this have on the Mission Office of the Jesuits of Canada?
MB: The sponsoring organizations are forced to make impossible ethical choices and are confronted with no-win dilemmas. How can we respond to the real distress of refuges with such quotas? Whom to choose, to the detriment of whom else? What will we do with the delicate but essential question of reuniting families? Will we be forced to separate migrant families? If they don’t increase the limits, how will we be able to function in the face of the flood of demands for asylum.
The federal and provincial governments have underestimated the generosity of Quebecers and Canadians in the matter of welcoming migrants and refugees. They should bet on private sponsorships: tightly woven, connected, galvanized and very well organized, these small groups can play a vital role in welcoming and integrating refugees. It is even more so in the small rural communities where the agents of social transformation in their own milieu, those sponsors live a strong intercultural experience, changing the way their neighbours and fellow citizens look at migrants and refugees.
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