3.I Organizing Sponsorship Agreement Holders in Canada
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba; National
Name of Sponsoring Group: Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association; Mennonite Central Committee
Type of Sponsoring Group: Association of Sponsorship Agreement Holders in Canada
Interviewee: Brian Dyck
What are Sponsorship Agreement Holders?
Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) are organizations that have an agreement with the government to facilitate refugee sponsorship. Usually they work with Constituent Groups (CGs) that animate the settlement.
When were SAHs first formed and how?
The first SAH was Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in April 1979, but it was followed within weeks by a number of other groups. In early 1979, MCC representatives sat down with staff from Employment and Immigration Canada to negotiate the agreement. The goal was to work out responsibilities that SAHs would take in terms of oversight and monitoring. This allowed the government to handle a higher volume of sponsorship applications.
How do SAHs across the country work together?
SAHs have an Association that has existed since 2011. SAHs also connect through an email list for information and advice. The Refugee Sponsorship Training Program provides some connections with groups. Finally, in some regions, SAHs periodically meet to share experiences, information, and best practices.
How are individual SAHs structured?
There are two types of SAHs: national and local. However, these two groups of SAHs are not defined anywhere in the sponsorship agreement with the Government of Canada. The national SAHs are typically religious denominations. They support sponsorships in a variety of regions from a central office through their CGs. In some cases, they have regional staff or volunteers to support the resettlement locally. Local SAHs typically work with CGs as well. The SAH provides an oversight and support function and the CG does the hands-on settlement work.
What is the SAH Association?
The SAH Association is an organization that SAHs may join. Its role is to represent the interests of SAHs and support them in relating to the Government of Canada. It also sometimes speaks on behalf of SAHs in the media and tries to support networking and training.
How and why was the SAH Association formed?
The SAH Association was officially formed in May 2011. There was talk for years about forming an association and there was a loose organization structure that met with the immigration department. It was able to form because the government provided support for gathering to discuss the development of an association, and because the government provides ongoing administrative support through the SAH Secretariat.
How does the SAH Association work?
The Association elects a council of eight every year. Each Councilor is elected to a two-year term. There is an annual general meeting (AGM) associated with an annual training event. Between the AGMs, Council surveys and consults members on specific issues. It also monitors the SAH email list for issues of concern.
What is the SAH Association’s relationship with the Government of Canada?
The SAH Council is part of the “NGO-Government Committee.” This committee is co-chaired by the Director of the Refugee Affairs Branch of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Chair of the SAH Council. The committee meets via phone about once a month and face-to-face two-to-three times a year. The Association is also supported by the SAH Secretariat which is funded by the government through a contribution agreement.
What is the best part of your sponsorship experience?
I think one of the most rewarding parts for me is helping groups think through the process of being involved in refugee resettlement.