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. In 2021, a formal organization, The Private Refugee Sponsor Network (Ontario) was incorporated federally by the Canadian government with provision for networks in all jurisdictions across Canada. Using our model, a national organization could make a significant difference to the settlement of newcomers by private sponsors.
We connect, learn and share through problem-solving, training, and sharing best practice.
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 and Metropolitan United Church
Anna Nguyen, MBA, CPA, CGA, secretary-treasurer
An independent Accountant
Executive Director, Arab Community Centre Toronto
Executive Director, North York Community House
BMO Capital Markets and a private sponsor
Employment Counsellor and G5 Sponsor
Sieg R. Will
Retired Vice President, Sustainability, Sleep Country Canada
Jennifer Kett, Chair, Marketing/Communications
William Croson, Chair, Knowledge Exchange
Gail Brown and Carol Smiley, Co-Chairs, Skills Development
Anna Bolotnov, Chair, Services
Jemima Sabapathy, Chair, Partnership
Marika Elek, Chair, Sustainability
The advisory council reflecting perspectives from both the business and refugee sectors, will offer insights to the Board of Directors in planning and sustainability. It is scheduled to be launched in 2024, and will be chaired by Barbara Sheffield, one of the founding members of the Network.
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:
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.