Community to sponsor refugee
By Chad Ingram
A group of residents have started a committee to sponsor a refugee, or family of refugees, who will call Haliburton County their home.
The Haliburton Refugee Sponsorship Committee is in the process of organizing and training as it prepares to make its application.
“In the spring, our church’s wardens contacted AURA (Anglican United Refugee Alliance),” explains David Barker, a member of Haliburton’s St. George’s Anglican Church and spokesman for the committee. “They bring together sponsors and the government.”
Barker believes images in the news in recent months have prompted county residents to action. Some 60 people showed up for an initial meeting in the spring and about 30 at an organizing meeting last week. “It was quite heart-warming to see that many people there,” he says.
As Barker explains, AURA has lists of names of refugees seeking a new start in a safe country, people who have been through the Canadian government’s screening process. “Most of them have been waiting in refugee camps for three or four years,” he explains, adding that in most cases, it is women with children who have lost their fathers.
Barker acknowledges there are some people in the community who have concerns and some tough questions have been asked.
“Most of the hard questions had to do with security,” he says. “And where are they going to find a job in Haliburton County? One could say the same thing about anywhere in Canada.”
The Syrian refugee crisis in particular has reached a fever pitch during the past few months and following the ISIS attack in Paris earlier this month, a wave of anti-Islamic hate crimes have been taking place throughout Canada.
Is Barker concerned that such attitudes may exist in Haliburton County?
“The way for us to address the issue is to get to know people,” Barker says. “When we make people feel at home, then a relationship is built. I believe we will gain more from this experience than the refugee will.”
There have been refugees in the community before. In the late 1970s, Barker, living in the Minden area, was part of a group that sponsored some refugees from Vietnam, one of the boys living with him and his wife. “We still have a really good relationship with him,” Barker says, adding that his twin sons, whom Barker considers adopted grandchildren, are now studying at university.
The committee, which is going through its own screening and organizing process and will be doing training with AURA in the new year, has a rough fundraising goal of $30,000.
“We and the government would be partners in paying for day-to-day costs during the first year,” Barker says, explaining the idea is that in their first year in Canada, the refugee or refugees concentrate on learning English, which will then allow them to seek employment.
The idea after that first year is for the sponsored refugee(s) to become self-sufficient.
Donations can be made directly to St. George’s, with the specification the donation is for the refugee fund. A special bank account is being set up for the purpose.
To learn more about the Haliburton Refugee Sponsorship Committee, visit the group’s Facebook page, or its website at haliburtonrefugee.wordpress.com.