press and opinions

Letter to the Editor by Tom Denton

  • / Sep 7, 2012 / by Tom Denton / Hospitality House /
  • The Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association

    August 8, 2012

    The Honourable Jason Kenney, MP
    Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
    325 East Block - House of Commons
    Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6


    Dear Minister Kenney;

    The Council of the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association wishes to follow up to our letter of May 7, 2012, concerning the Interim Federal Health Care Program (IFHP).

    In that letter, we expressed our appreciation for your continued commitment to resettle as many as 14,500 refugees from overseas, and for the new blended Visa Office Referred (VOR) program which will begin to take shape in 2013. We also expressed concern about how the IFHP changes would impact overall resettlement and the VOR program in particular. We were therefore relieved to learn that Government Assisted Refugees as well as refugees under the Blended VOR program will continue to receive full IFHP benefits, including supplemental benefits for prescription drugs, dental, vision care, etc.

    We continue to be deeply concerned, however, about the 5500 privately sponsored refugees who may arrive in 2012, and the approximately 31,000 in the processing queue overseas, for whom supplemental IFHP benefits will not be available. While we understand that private sponsors agree to provide for the refugees they sponsor for their first year in Canada, under the new Sponsorship Agreements signed with your government and effective on January 1 2012 as well as under the previous Agreement, IFHP benefits are the responsibility of the Government. Sponsorship undertakings have been signed with the understanding that full IFHP benefits would be available to those sponsored, and sponsors have made settlement plans and raised funds accordingly. Such a monumental change, with little notice and no consultation, has significantly increased the financial liability of sponsors for existing sponsorships and their ability to consider taking on new sponsorships.

    In a recent quote in Macleans magazine, you indicated that the supplemental health care cost per privately sponsored refugee is $170.00. If this was consistently the case, this would be a significant but perhaps manageable cost for most sponsors.  However, it is the unexpected and sometimes catastrophic medical conditions that make the prospect of covering these medical costs daunting, and at times, beyond the capacity of a sponsor.  Recent examples we have heard of include a refugee who arrived in need of a prosthetic leg; a refugee with a severe dental infection who required all of her teeth removed followed by a full set of dentures; and a refugee with a chronic medical condition whose drug costs are $250.00 per month. In these cases, it is not reasonable to expect sponsors or family members to be able to cover these additional, unplanned for expenses.

    We are certain that the intention of the IFHP changes is not to create two “classes” of resettled refugees – those who are provided with needed medical care, and those who are not. All resettled refugees, whether privately or government sponsored, are Permanent Residents of Canada and future productive Canadian citizens, and we know that your government welcomes them and wants to ensure a smooth transition into Canadian society. Sponsors share that goal.  We would welcome an opportunity to discuss this with you further, and to consider options that will ensure that privately sponsored refugees are given the best possible foundation to successfully begin new lives in our communities.

    Yours truly,


    Brian Dyck                           Alexandra Kotyk                   JW (Bill) Campbell                          Heddie Driegen

    Ellen Woolaver                    Martin Mark                          Adeena Niazi                                 Aslam Daud


    cc:           Debra Presse, Citizenship and Immigration Canada

                    Wally Boxhill, Citizenship and Immigration Canada

        ????Chad Prowse, Citizenship and Immigration Canada

                    Ron Parent, Citizenship and Immigration Canada