The Diocese of Islands and Inlets has played a pivotal role in sponsoring thousands of refugees. As a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, the diocese has established a strong record of raising money to sponsor refugee families and then financially supporting these families during their first year in Canada. We are the largest Sponsorship Agreement Holder on Vancouver Island, and we are very proud of the work we have done alongside passionate and dedicated community members.
This work has been guided by our values: to welcome the stranger, to protect the persecuted, and to act with compassion. We have undertaken this work despite the steep administrative costs because we know how important it is. In the face of growing conflicts around the world, it is more important than ever.
But due to new administrative requirements by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada that will cost us tens of thousands of dollars per year on top of the already significant costs we bear for this work, we simply will no longer be able afford to continue to act as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder. This is a difficult decision for us, and we recognize that there will be uncertainty in our community. It is not a decision we took lightly, and we make it with heavy hearts.
We want to assure you that we will honour our existing commitments and we will focus on the hundreds of applications still in process. We are also creating a Q&A for members of Vancouver Island’s refugee community in multiple languages that will provide refugee families who are pursuing family reunification with guidance. Nevertheless, we recognize that our decision will leave a gap. That is why we are exploring how we can continue to do this work in conjunction with other organizations.
We have been so touched by the way so many parishes and community groups have given of their time and resources to support refugees. So many lives have been changed for the better because of this care and compassion. Only a few weeks ago, we welcomed the first Afghan woman refugee to Vancouver Island, a woman who was a non-profit employee and a civic engagement activist. A few months before that, we had a young man come first in his age group at the Toronto Marathon within weeks of his arrival.
We are in active discussions with both local organizations and with the other dioceses in our province to explore ways that we can participate in this work moving forward and ensure that those interested can still sponsor and welcome refugees in our communities. We will continue to live by our values: welcoming the stranger, protecting the persecuted, and acting with compassion.