Letter from refugee sponsor groups to the new minister of immigration

27 January 2022
The Honourable Sean Fraser
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Fraser,

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
In your role as the new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), we would like to introduce ourselves to you. We are the Evangelical Sponsorship Agreement Holders Working Group (see the full list of working group members, below), coordinated by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Our Working Group represents over 2,377 churches and their members. We meet regularly to update, strategize, and assist each other in our commitment to welcoming newcomers to Canada.
Our group formed in 2015, when evangelical denominational leaders across Canada felt a strong and clear conviction to increase refugee sponsorship within their denominations and churches in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. These leaders met with then Minister of Immigration, the Hon. Chris Alexander, to express their commitment to assist IRCC in its efforts. Since 2015, we have continued to work collaboratively to foster and facilitate the sponsorship of refugee claimants from around the world.
We look forward to continuing our partnership with IRCC to assist you in fulfilling your mandated commitments, working towards the shared goal of supporting vulnerable refugees around the world. 
We were encouraged by news at the end of 2021 regarding your government’s plans to increase landing targets for 2022 and to support these plans with a pledge of $85 million towards processing permanent resident and temporary resident applications in 2022.
The Prime Minister’s Mandate Letter to you (published December 16, 2021) holds many challenges for you and your department. We affirm your mandate to:
  • Continue to bring newcomers to Canada, to provide urgent protection, and to drive economic growth and recovery, as set out in the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan.
  • Expand the new immigration stream for human rights defenders and work with civil society groups to provide resettlement opportunities for people under threat.
  • Reduce application processing times, including to address delays that have been impacted by COVID-19.
  • Work to strengthen family reunification by introducing electronic applications for family reunification and implementing a program to issue temporary resident status to spouses and children abroad while they wait for the processing of their permanent residency application.
In addition to these priorities, we would recommend:
  1. That the sponsorship of 40,000 Afghan refugees (over two years) be in addition to previous projected targets, and not a reduction to previous commitments.
  1. Like Syria and now Afghanistan, there will likely be other regional crises in the future. Since global forced displacement has doubled since 2013, we strongly recommend that the Canadian government provide an ongoing equitable response to the world’s displaced population.
  1. With current backlog levels at the highest ever seen (e.g.., Private Sponsorship Refugee (PSR) applications over 65,000), we recommend a firm commitment to manage and maintain reasonable backlog levels, providing financial and staffing support as needed. We recommend higher landing targets for PSR refugees, especially given the added pressure of the Afghan crisis. Addressing this backlog should not come at the expense of Canada’s commitment to UNHCR referred cases.
  1. We have appreciated the opportunity to provide IRCC feedback on the Program Integrity Framework (PIF) via recent on-site interviews and ongoing engagement with the SAH Council and Navigation Unit. We understand that early concerns with the PIF have been addressed and some changes have already been made (rolling out in 2022, with implementation in 2023).
However, as SAHs we continue to be concerned with growing issues of capacity, and the potential for added burden to existing staffing and programs with the implementation of the new changes to the Program Integrity Framework (PIF). 

We recommend ongoing communication and feedback between SAHs and IRCC, implementing changes to the program that help increase our capacity, make the program more efficient and effective, while at the same time not hindering the arrival of newcomers to Canada.
As Canadian citizens, we are proud of our government’s global leadership in responding to the need of the globally displaced. We trust that we will continue to be a nation of welcome and refuge to those in need of protection and safety.
Minister Fraser, know that you and your department will be in our prayers as you endeavor to work on behalf of Canadians in fulfilling the mandate set before you.
On behalf of all the members of the Evangelical Sponsorship Agreement Holders Working Group:
  • Associated Gospel Churches, Canada (150+ churches)
  • Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada (450+ churches)
  • Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec (330+ churches)
  • Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (165 churches)
  • Kanata Baptist, Kanata, ON
  • Mennonite Central Committee (600 churches)
  • North Park Community Church, London, ON
  • The Alliance Canada - Formerly: Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada (440+ churches)
  • World Renew, Christian Reformed Church in Canada (240 churches)
  • The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Anita Levesque
Coordinator, The Evangelical Sponsorship Agreement Holders Working Group