Cranbrook group preparing for refugee arrival

The co-chair of the Cranbrook Hub for Refugees (CHR) says he looks forward to the day when the first refugee family arrives in Cranbrook.

  • Dec. 23, 2015 1:00 p.m.

Girls are pictured cooking in the Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border.

For the Townsman

With the first wave of Syrian refugees beginning to arrive in Canada, the co-chair of the Cranbrook Hub for Refugees  (CHR) says he looks forward to the day when the first refugee family arrives in Cranbrook.

But that happy day is likely a few months away and the family that arrives will not necessarily be Syrian, says Gerry Warner.

“CHR’s position from the beginning is that we would welcome any refugee family that has been screened by UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees) and IRCC (Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada) because no matter where the refugees come from their desperate lives will be vastly improved by coming to Canada.”

Warner says Cranbrook residents are already responding generously to the plight of the refugees with close to $6,000 donated so far towards the $15,000 needed for CHR’s sponsorship agreement to be approved by the IRCC.

“Anyone wanting to donate now can write a cheque to Christ Church Anglican indicating it goes to the CHR account and drop it off at 46 – 13th Avenue South near downtown during church office hours Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to noon except for Wednesday,” Warner says.

By doing that, people will have made a much-appreciated contribution for the Christmas season and also earn themselves a charitable tax receipt for the 2015 taxation year, he says.

The Anglican Church Diocese of Kootenay is an official Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) with IRCC which allows CHR the right to sponsor refugees as a constituent group of the church.

Refugees arriving from Syria are a mix of government-assisted refugees (GARs), privately sponsored refugees (PSRs), and blended visa office-referred refugees (BVORs). CHR will be getting refugees from the BVOR stream, but few of these have arrived in Canada yet, says Rev. Elizabeth Huether of St. David’s Church in Castlegar, Diocese of Kootenay Refugee Coordinator.

“Basically we’re in a holding pattern now but my advice in the meantime is to raise your money and get a settlement plan in place for when the BVOR’s begin to arrive,” she says.

Rev. Huether says most of the Syrian refugees that have arrived so far are privately sponsored refugees by different groups and organizations with the BVOR’s not expected to arrive in significant numbers until at least March.  “So let us all take a deep breath and do our due diligence to be ready and hospitable to the strangers whenever they may come to be with us.”

CHR Co-Chair Bonnie Spence-Vinge says CHR  is doing everything it can to prepare for the refugees’ arrival and has scheduled a public meeting  7 p.m., Jan. 6 at  Christ Church to update the community on its plans and to get local volunteers involved in preparing for when the refugees arrive.

Spence-Vinge says the Jan. 6 meeting will outline settlement plan tasks to be filled by volunteers.  The Settlement Plan will provide a framework for working through the details of who will do what with the resources and where the resources will come from, she says.

“We will need to develop our cultural awareness skills and learn about our rights and responsibilities as a sponsoring group to prepare the community of Cranbrook for the refugee’s arrival,” she says.

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