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Blending, Bargaining, and Burden-Sharing: Canada’s Resettlement Programs

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In this piece, we offer a comment on the most recent addition to the Canadian resettlement scheme, the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program. The BVOR program was introduced in 2013 as a modified version of private sponsorship and middle ground between sponsorship and government-assisted resettlement. While the program was met with criticism and skepticism that the government was off-loading more resettlement responsibility to private sponsors, the Syrian crisis significantly impacted and changed the Canadian resettlement landscape. This comment outlines the program and surveys the benefits and concerns with such a model. BVOR is examined in relation to both private and government resettlement, in the current moment of Syrian resettlement, and in comparison to the historical use of private sponsorship for Indochinese refugees. Through an examination of the challenges BVOR is intended to address and the division of public and private responsibility, the comment serves to assess the direction of Canada’s future resettlement.

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  1. The total number of resettlement states jumped from 22 in 2011 to 31 in 2014 and 30 in 2015 (UNHCR 2016a).

  2. Project FOCUS Afghanistan, a 3/9 model resettled 1800 sponsor-selected Afghan Ismaili refugees between 1994 and 1998. A Special 3/9 Sponsorship Pilot Program for refugees from the former Yugoslavia was similarly designed but with the referrals coming from the government. With the Sierra Leonean community in 2001, the government offered a 4/8 model where the community could name its own referrals. The Anglican Primate reached a similar agreement with the government in 2009 that likewise followed this 4/8 financial sharing. A blended 3/9 program for Iraqi refugees was announced in March 2011. Another blended 3/9 project with Rainbow Refugee Committee was announced the following week for the sponsorship of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer/questioning refugees. This program was extended for an additional 2 years in March 2015 (See Labman 2016: 69).

  3. The #WelcomeRefugees website was the official website of the government’s Syrian resettlement initiative. It provided regularly updated statistics on all three streams of resettled refugees. Information stopped being updated as of January 29, 2017.

  4. Formed in 1978, the Standing Conference of Organizations Concerned for Refugees was the original name of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

  5. According to CIC statistics, only 5661 GARs were resettled in 2013 (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2013).

  6. The 83 articles found were all written between September 2014 and December 2016. It should be noted that a subsequent search of media articles was done in November 2017, with only two additional articles having been written on the BVOR program since December 2016.

  7. There are several instances of communities who felt they had no option, until they heard about the BVOR program (McPhail 2016).

  8. The Government provides a “Sponsorship Cost Table” which sets the annual cost of sponsoring a refugee family of four at $28,200.00, recently increased from $27,000, inclusive of income support and start-up costs (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2017c).

  9. See, for example: Levitz, S “Syrian Refugee Sponsors Upset with Slowing Pace of Arrivals,” CBC News (29 March 2016); Zak Markan, “Nova Scotia Refugee Sponsorship Groups Wait for placements,” CBC News (30 March 2016); “Sponsors Willing to Fund Resettlements Ask Liberals to Reconsider Cuts, Caps,” Chronicle Herald (30 March 2016) A.6; Jona Zyfi, “Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Canada: An Auto-Ethnographic Account of Sponsorship” (2016) Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies Working Paper No 2016/2 at 11; Debi Goodwin, “Let’s get all the Syrian Refugees into the Homes Awaiting Them” The Globe and Mail (01 April 2016) A.12; Cave, “Apartment Ready for Syrian Refugee Family” CBC News (25 May 2016); Stephanie Levitz, “Syrian Refugee Sponsors Upset with Slowing Pace of Arrivals,” CBC News (29 March 2016)

  10. See Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (2016), “Blended VOR Program Frequently Asked Questions” (2016) online: < at 2; Zak Markan,“Nova Scotia Refugee Sponsorship Groups Wait for placements,” CBC News (30 March 2016); Sheena Goodyear, “Syrian Refugees Not Always Available for sponsorship, Canadians Learn,” CBC News (23 December 2015); Nicholas Keung, “Group Anxious to Connect with Syrian Families” Toronto Star (19 January 2016) A.8.

  11. Letter from David Manicom, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy Sector, and Dawn Edlund Associate Assistant Deputy Minister Operations Sector to SAH Council, August 2016, on file with authors.


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Correspondence to Shauna Labman.

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Labman, S., Pearlman, M. Blending, Bargaining, and Burden-Sharing: Canada’s Resettlement Programs. Int. Migration & Integration 19, 439–449 (2018).

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