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 400 sponsor groups working together have become an incorporated Ontario provincial network. 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.
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
Patrick O’Leary, Vice Chair
Sponsor, St. James Cathedral Community Refugee Committee
Aurelie Olives, CPA, CMA, Secretary-Treasurer
Consulting Partner, Workday Practice
Managing Director of R-SEAT (Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table)
Executive Director, Arab Community Centre Toronto
Former Chair, CultureLink
Sponsor, Lamp Lifeboat Ladder
Human Resources Leader, Zynga Inc
Sponsor, Refugee Support Ministry, Islington United Church
Owner, MAC Real Estate Services Inc.
Our committees, responsible to the Board, conduct work covering a broad cross section of activity that is important to sponsors, are led by those with subject content experience. New committee members are always welcome.
Evrim Calt, Chair, Marketing Communications
Karen Scott, Chair, Knowledge Exchange
Gail Brown and Carol Smiley, Co-Chairs, Skills Development
Anna Bolotnov, Chair, Services
Ruba Billal, Chair, Partnership
Patrick O’Leary, Chair, Sustainability
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.
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.