Academic journal article Refuge

Private Sponsorship: Complementary or Conflicting Interests?

Academic journal article Refuge

Private Sponsorship: Complementary or Conflicting Interests?

Article excerpt


Canada's Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program commenced before the Indochinese refugee flow began, and it has continued for almost 40 years since it subsided. Although conceived of as a complementary partnership, private sponsorship plays out more as a tug-of-war between the conflicting interests of government and sponsors over selection control and numbers. While guided by additionality, sponsors have been confronted with administrative and regulatory changes that challenge them to do more with less, and the fear that overall Canadian resettlement will reduce if their efforts are not expanded. A federal election and change of government in October 2015 may have reset government-sponsor relations but highlights the vulnerability and interpretative malleability of the program. With the pillars of the Indochinese and now Syrian resettlement efforts bookending the analysis, the article provides a historical and contextual understanding of recent changes to private sponsorship and the tensions and conflicting interests in maintaining a voluntary program premised on the resettlement of additional refugees.


Le Programme de parrainage prive de refugies du Canada avait debute avant l'influx des refugies indochinois, et a continue d'exister pendant presque 40 ans depuis la fin de cet influx. Le parrainage prive, bien que concu comme un partenariat complementaire, se manifeste en realite plutot comme un tiraillement constant entre les interets contradictoires du gouvernement et ceux des repondants en ce qui concerne la selection et le nombre de refugies. Malgre le fait que les repondants sont regis par le principe d'additionnalite, ils font face a des changements administratifs ainsi que reglementaires qui exigent qu'ils fassent davantage avec moins de ressources, et se trouvent confrontes a la crainte qu'il se produise une reduction generale dans le nombre de reinstallations au Canada s'ils ne redoublent pas l'ampleur de leurs efforts. L'election federale et le changement du gouvernement en octobre 2015 a sans doute relance les relations entre le gouvernement et les repondants, mais cela souligne en meme temps la vidnerabilite ainsi que l'ambiguite d'interpretation qui caracterise le programme. Avec les piliers des initiatives de reinstallation des refugies indochinois dans le passe et ceux des refugies syriens dans le present servant comme balises aux deux extremites de l'analyse, l'article fournit une perspective historique et contextuelle des changements recents au parrainage prive, et des tensions ainsi qu interets contradictoires qui resident dans le maintien d'un programme volontaire fonde sur le principe d'additionnalite pour la reinstallation de refugies supplementaires.


In the meantime, we would ask that all members of the House reach out to private sponsors and sponsorship agreement holders across this country to make sure that we fill the 1,300 places available.

--Chris Alexander Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, 27 February 2014

Private sponsorship is unique to Canada. Created out of the will of individual Canadians to help refugees and those in need, it was made possible through the willingness of Canadian politicians and immigration officials. The formal program was conceived of almost 40 years ago as a complement to the Canadian government program of refugee resettlement. Resettlement is itself situated as a voluntary complement to the government's commitment in international and domestic law to the concept of refugee asylum and the principle of non-refoulement. (1) Resettlement represents the recognition that not all refugees can access asylum and that certain geographic regions face greater refugee flows than others. For private sponsors, their efforts are framed in the concept of "additionality"--making resettlement available to additional refugees beyond government commitments.

This article traces private sponsorship from its origins in advance of the Indochinese crisis of the 1970s to Canada's Syrian resettlement response in December 2015. …

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