Though the generous effort and hard work continue, Valemount’s Syrian refugee family has yet to arrive.
The last update from the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) predicted the family to “arrive in a few months,” according to Jared Smith, ESL and Literacy Coordinator, and he says that was a few months ago.
The family – a man and woman in their 20s and their 1-year-old baby – is en-route to Valemount from a refugee camp in Turkey via the IRCC’s Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program.
“I wish I had more information to share,” he says.
The IRCC doesn’t comment on specific cases due to legislation, according to Rémi Larivère, media spokesperson for the IRCC.
What Larivère did say, though, is that due to an “overwhelming interest” in the BVOR program during the Syrian resettlement initiative, the department started offering cases — cases that were not yet ready to offer — to sponsorship groups with the understanding there was a chance of being delayed, or being refused all together.
Sponsors were advised of this at the time, according Larivère.
“Some of these cases are currently awaiting security, criminality and/or medical checks,” says Larivère. “
“The cases are in the midst of being processed, and are awaiting completion of all requirements. We need to ensure that individuals are admissible to Canada before their cases can be finalized,” he says.
In the meantime, Smith says that he, along with a few others on the organizing committee, are still raising money and organizing integration efforts for when the family arrives.
“It’s difficult for the organizing committee to make plans when we just don’t know whether it will be a month or four months,” says Smith.
As a result, and in response to repeated requests from some sponsors, Larivère says the IRCC is offering Syrian BVOR replacement cases, with priority being given to refugees with smaller numbers of refused or withdrawn cases, followed by those currently awaiting finalization.
The process could take several months to complete, according to Larivère, as not every case is suitable for the BVOR Program.
“For example, there are cases with high medical needs, other cases have extremely large families — which exceeds the family size most sponsors can support… And the individual must be ready to travel,” says Larivère.
“Every effort will be made to provide a replacement case with a similar profile of the family originally sponsored,” he says.
The organizing committee’s current efforts is mostly seeking English tutors, as Smith says learning English will be Valemount’s newest community member’s biggest challenge upon their arrival, though the family will attend Valemount Learning Centre for classes a few days per week.
Ideally, Smith says there will be enough tutors available to the family to have them meet with the family on a regular basis, something like two or three days per week.
“Just so they have English interaction on a regular schedule,” he says.