Recommendations for a strong Canadian response to Syrian refugees

We call for:

  1. Family-linked admissions

Flexible measures (such as Temporary Resident Permits) should be introduced for Syrians with family in Canada.

  • UNHCR has long been encouraging humanitarian admissions for Syrians, in addition to formal resettlement places, including family-linked admissions.
  • It makes sense for Canada to open its doors to Syrians with family connections, since many Syrian Canadians are deeply anxious about family members, and having family here makes it is easier to settle.
  • Since UNHCR has limited capacity to make referrals of Syrians, opening the door to some Syrians on the basis of family linkages is a useful way to support the international effort.
  • Temporary visas are much quicker to process. Some family members may not want to live permanently in Canada and will want to return to Syria once the conflict is resolved.
  • Family reunification measures can respond to family members who are still in Syria (unlike refugee resettlement, which only applies to people outside Syria).
  1. The measures should apply to family members of Canadian citizens, permanent residents and accepted refugees.
  2. Family members should be defined broadly and include a child (any age), spouse, sibling or parent.
  3. Family members admitted on a temporary basis must be provided with basic rights, including to work, to study, and to health care.
  4. There must be a simple and accessible provision for the family members to apply for permanent residence from within Canada.


  1. 10,000 Government-Assisted Refugees by the end of 2015

The government should resettle a minimum of 10,000 Syrians, brought to Canada immediately.

These should be:

  1. funded by the government;
  2. additional to Canada’s regular resettlement numbers (current Syrian announcements are within existing commitments so the numbers simply displace other refugees)
  3. selected without discrimination, based on need, as determined by the UNHCR.

In 1999, the government brought 5,000 Kosovar refugees to Canada on an emergency basis, in a matter of weeks, proving that we have the capacity. Based on that experience, a refugee emergency contingency plan was developed in 2002. That plan should be implemented.


  1. Facilitation of private sponsorship of Syrians

Canadians should be encouraged and supported in resettling additional numbers of Syrian refugees. This includes:

  1. Reducing red tape for sponsorship applications.
  2. Restoring access to full Interim Federal Health coverage for privately sponsored refugees so that sponsors are not deterred by the risk of large medical costs.
  3. Eliminating the document requirements introduced in 2012 for Group of Five and Community Sponsorships. The requirement that sponsored refugees have proof of individual determination as a refugee by UNHCR or the local State prevents Syrians being sponsored under these categories. Given the scale of the crisis refugees are not receiving individual determinations in any of the countries in the region.
  4. Processing applications quickly.


  1. A dramatic increase in resources

The government must allocate significantly more resources (human, financial and logistical) in order to realize these recommendations.

  1. Additional resources are needed at the Centralized Processing Office – Winnipeg to process private sponsorship applications for Syrians without penalizing other refugees.
  2. Overseas visa offices need additional resources so that refugees can arrive quickly, whether as family-linked admissions, government-assisted refugees or privately sponsored refugees. (According to processing times published by CIC, sponsorship applications take 45 months in Turkey, 19 months in Jordan, and 11 months in Lebanon.)
  3. Pressures on the visa offices could be alleviated by transferring some of the overseas processing of visas to an office in Canada  (as was done in the wake of the Haiti earthquake when the Port-au-Prince office had limited capacity.)
  4. Resources must include those necessary to do security screenings in a timely way (we note that security screenings for refugee claimants are done in most cases within 1-2 months.)
  5. The government should provide information resources such as a hotline to answer questions and facilitate processing. (In response to the Kosovar crisis, the government provided a Kosovo Hotline as part of the expedited family reunification process.)


  1. A summit to plan medium and long term response

A national meeting should be convened involving all levels of government as well as representatives of civil society to plan Canada’s resettlement response beyond the end of 2015, and to discuss how to mobilize and coordinate contributions from all sections of society. Plans should be developed in consultation with the UNHCR, to respond to resettlement needs as identified by the UNHCR.


  1. Maintaining responses to other refugees

In responding to the urgent needs of Syrian refugees, the needs of other refugees must also be met. They should not be penalized because of the response to Syrians. (Currently Syrian private sponsorship refugee applications are expedited at the expense of processing for other refugees).

Endorsed by:


Canadian Council for Refugees
Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
Syrian Canadian Council
The Council of the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association (SAH Council)
OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Table de Concertation des organismes au service des personnes Réfugiées et Immigrantes (TCRI)
AMSSA (Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Services Agencies of BC)
Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies (AAISA)
Manitoba Immigrant and Refugee Settlement Sector Association (MIRSSA)
Atlantic Region Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies (ARAISA)
Saskatchewan Assocation of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies (SAISIA)

CISSA –ACSEI The Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance- Alliance canadienne du secteur de l’établissement des immigrants 
Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL)
Sojourn House

Immigrant and Refugee Support Centre
Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group
Dewson School Community Refugees Welcome
Don Valley Refugee Resettlers
Welcome Home Refugee House
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group


Irene Policzer                                                      
Pilar Riano                                                           
Madelaine Hron                                                  
Ann Manuel                                                         
Josee Lemoine                                                   
Cathy Campbell [the Rev'd Canon Dr.]          
Charlotte Haldenby
The Rev. Canon Vicars Hodge
Judy Haldemann
Jade Wallace
Greer Stackhouse
Patricia Bozyk
Pilar Riano
Laurie Wallace
Lynda Collins
Aditya Rao
Robyn Read
Kathleen Gallagher Ross
Vivian Lewin
Adam Policzer
Jamie Liew
Cindy Klassen
K Elmer
Oroub Jijakli
Jeff Kugler
Jennifer Bisch
Shannon McAlorum
Allison Matichuk

Virginia Johnson
Nadia Heyd
Jose Aguirre

Luis van Isschot
James Acheson
Beth Srinivasan
Sydney Campbell
Houssam Alchawa
Sonia Perna
Jasmine McMorran​
Wesley Galt
Kate Armstrong
Alex Schrott

Eibhlinn Lynam
Lisa Montgomery
Lisa Hayes
Sarah Evett
Beatrice Kabeya
Adel Zawati
Isaiah Littley
Eduardo Queiruga
Linda Yang
Daniel Bishara

Rafaël Khoury
Giselle Groskleg
Jairan Jahani