by EVAN MATTHEWS
Valemount has been patiently waiting for a refugee family to arrive, having raised the necessary funds and in-kind donations, but it turns out the matched family isn’t coming.
Valemount had initially been matched with a Syrian refugee family – a young couple and their baby. But since the match, Jared Smith, ESL and literacy coordinator at the Valemount Learning Centre (VLC), says that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has informed him the Syrian family will not be settling in the Village, as they have been reunited with family members in Ontario instead.
“In an effort to re-unite families, the matching centre decided it is in the family’s best interest to send them to the same location,” Smith says.
Smith says he understands the matching centre’s rationale, and he supports the IRCC decision.
Unfortunately for Valemount, it means there is no Syrian refugee family to sponsor currently.
Smith says the Valemount Learning Centre is in discussions with the matching centre to determine the likelihood of being matched with a family in the near future through the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program.
“In an effort to re-unite families, the matching centre decided it is in the family’s best interest to send them to the same location,” — Jared Smith, ESL and literacy coordinator at the Valemount Learning Centre
The BVOR program requires a group of five people or more, or an organization, to raise roughly half the anticipated living expenses for the sponsored refugees for a year. The group is also required to set up a support system for the refugees to help them integrate into Canadian life.
Donations have poured in – in cash, household goods and pledged volunteer hours.
Due to privacy laws, IRCC cannot comment on specific cases, but a spokesperson told the Goat some BVOR profiles were made available to Sponsorship Agreement Holders in January 2017.
“We are continuing to finalize the plan for posting profiles for the remainder of 2017,” a spokesperson said.
IRCC says some refugees only identify family in Canada after they are approved for resettlement, which results in the sponsored family going to a different destination. In this scenario, a “replacement case” is not offered.
IRCC did not say why another family could not be slotted where the old one was originally destined, nor did it specify whether its 2017 sponsorship “target” of 1,500 refugees was a minimum or maximum.
The number of cases made available each year is determined by the Annual Immigration Levels Plan. In 2017, the target is to welcome 1,500 refugees through the BVOR Program.
If the program does not have any new refugee profiles available by May 1, 2017, Smith says VLC will assume there will be no family matched with Valemount, and will return the funds to donors and end the organization’s role as a community sponsor.
Smith says he’s thankful for the community’s efforts to date.
“It has truly been a community wide response and the generous donations and patience up to this point has made it possible,” says Smith.
Smith says if the lack of new profiles is due to government fiscal constraints, then the possibility Valemount may start seeing new profiles again after Apr. 1 exists because of the new fiscal year.
The Goat asked IRCC what the likelihood would be of Valemount being matched, but did not receive an answer by presstime.