Our History

Between November 2015 and December 2016, close to 40,000 Syrians arrived in Canada. Forty-five per cent of those newcomers were privately sponsored. Data collected from a variety of sources documented the challenges in both government- assisted refugee settlement and settlement by private sponsors.


Private sponsors who were looking for immediate answers to challenges found them by working together — sharing experiences and determining those areas they needed to learn more about. Experienced sponsors began to mentor first-time sponsors on post-arrival issues leading to a resource around best practice. An informal network was born.


Since 2016, more than 450 sponsor groups have been working together. We incorporated and formed the Ontario provincial network in 2021. There is potential, using this model, to grow this network concept across Canada in other provinces and territories.


We are a volunteer-driven organization that responds to sponsor need and are focussed on information-sharing and problem-solving as well as training through connection, learning and sharing.

Our Leadership

A ten-person board of directors with members who are sponsors, representatives of the settlement and business sectors provide governance and financial accountability.

Marika Elek, Chair
Sponsor, The Beach Cares

Karen Scott, Vice Chair 
Sponsor, Refugee Support Ministry, Islington United Church 

Aurelie Olives, CPA, CMA, Secretary-Treasurer
Consulting Partner, Workday Practice

Mustafa Alio
Managing Director of R-SEAT (Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table)

Dima Amad
Executive Director, Arab Community Centre Toronto

Ruba Bilal
Former Chair, CultureLink

William Croson

G5 Sponsor

Christie MacDonald

BMO Capital Markets and private sponsor

Darrell Pinto 

Financial Consultant and G5 Sponsor 

Sieg R. Will

Retired Vice President, Sustainability, Sleep Country Canada

Our Committees

Our committees, responsible to the Board, conduct work covering a broad cross section of activity that is important to sponsors, and are led by those with subject content experience. New committee members are always welcome.

Kathleen Magladry, Chair, Marketing Communications

William Croson, Chair, Knowledge Exchange

Gail Brown and Carol Smiley, Co-Chairs, Skills Development

Anna Bolotnov, Chair, Services

Ruba Billal, Chair, Partnership

Marika Elek, Chair, Sustainability

Our Advisory Council

The advisory council, representative of the business and refugee sectors, provides perspectives on issues to assist the board in its planning, sustainability and program development. The Council is chaired by Barbara Sheffield, one of the founding members of the Network.

Our Partners

We believe in partnership with others in the sector and those beyond to connect, learn and share.


We particularly work with partners from the refugee settlement sector in developing training workshops and those partners at universities who conduct research. Our  partners have included:

  • Arab Community Centre, Toronto
  • MAS Pro Bono Consulting for Non-Profits, Toronto
  • Bonnie Hoy Consultants, Mississauga
  • Ontario College of Trades, Toronto
  • North York Community House, Toronto
  • West Neighbourhood House, Toronto
  • World Education Services, Toronto
  • Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Adult Education, Toronto
  • Darzee Project, Toronto
  • Together Project, Toronto
  • Career Jumpstart, Toronto
  • Welcome Home TO, Toronto
  • RSTP, Toronto
  • Catholic CrossCultural Services, Mississauga
  • Toronto Metropolitan (Ryerson) Centre for Immigration and Settlement, Toronto
  • YWCA Immigration & Settlement Services, Hamilton
  • YMCA Language Assessment & Referral, Toronto
  • COSTI, Toronto
  • Nevy’s Language, Toronto
  • CultureLink, Toronto
  • Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), Toronto
  • JobStart, Toronto
  • Paramount Fine Foods, Toronto
  • TRIEC Mentoring Partnership, Toronto
  • Toronto Employment Social Services, Toronto
  • Ontario Works, Toronto
  • YMCA Owen Sound/Grey Bruce
  • Wellington County
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Ottawa
  • Wilfrid Laurier University
  • York University
  • Ryerson University (Toronto Metropolitan)
  • Refugee 613
  • Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
Our Awards

In 2020, we received a community service award from Etobicoke Centre MP, Yvan Baker. The award recognizes individuals and organizations for the inspirational work they do and encourages others to get involved, to give back, to make our communities and the country stronger. The award focusses on the importance of volunteering and the impact it has on changing lives. Barbara Sheffield accepted the award on behalf of the Network in January 2021.