The Syrian Refugee Crisis – What Christian Ministries Need To Know

Authored by Barry Bussey, Director of Legal Affairs

The plight of the Syrian refugees has moved the hearts of many Canadians. In recent weeks CCCC has received many questions from Members asking how they can help and whether there are any concerns or risks that should be taken into consideration.     We have summarized a number of points to consider below.

 Ways to Be Involved

  • Become familiar with Canada’s Refugee Sponsorship and Syrian/Iraqi exemptions. There is a lot of information in this document, and it is very comprehensive. Take the time to get to know the latest information from the Government of Canada.
  • Donate to a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). A number of organizations have signed sponsorship agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees when they resettle in Canada. These organizations are known as Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs), and they can sponsor refugees themselves or work with others in the community to sponsor refugees. You can find a list of SAHs on this Government website.   
  • Apply to become a Sponsorship Agreement Holder. To be eligible to become a sponsorship agreement holder (SAH), an organization must be incorporated (a legally created organization) and sign a sponsorship agreement with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Determine your eligibility and follow these steps to become an SAH.
  • Arrange for church Sponsorship as a Constituent Group (CG) through an approved SAH. CGs are based in the sponsored refugees’ expected community of settlement and must have their sponsorship application and settlement plan approved by their SAH before the undertaking is submitted to the Centralized Processing Office in Winnipeg (CPO-W).  See Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Application Guide.

Get Insurance

SAHs, CGs, and community groups should contact their insurance provider before signing agreements to sponsor a refugee family. They should also ensure that all who are directly working with the refugees have had Abuse Prevention screening and training. Plan to Protect is offering Refugee Sponsorship Training on a limited basis. Contact Melodie Bissell for more information.
CGs should ensure that they have Directors & Officers (D&O) Liability Insurance along with their General Liability policy.
Caution: Some types of insurance may not provide related coverage (e.g., individual home owner’s policy), and some coverage may not be insurable (e.g., claims from acts of terrorism).
Churches or charities should also be cautious about funding private groups, trust funds, or individuals that are not registered charities, since this could constitute private benevolence, which is not permitted for registered charities. CRA cautions on lending registration numbers to other organizations.  This is often done when charities are being (mis-)used as a conduit for private benevolence. CRA states:  
Under no circumstances should a registered charity lend its registration number to another organization for receipting purposes. A registered charity is responsible for all tax receipts issued under its name and number and must account for the corresponding donations on its annual information return. A charity that lends its registration number risks losing its charitable registration. (See http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/prtng/)

CCCC Recommends

CCCC recommends that, at least initially, charities only work through organizations experienced with sponsoring refugees that are a Sponsorship Agreement Holder or a registered charity (Constituent Group) working with a SAH.
It is also recommended that both SAH and CG organizations specifically inquire with their insurance provider with respect to exclusions for terrorism and terrorist acts.  Terrorism Exclusions have formed part of every Commercial General Liability policy issued in Canada and the United States since 2002, in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. 

Related Links

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada – Refugee Sponsorship Summary

MCC Canada – Refugee Sponsorship Information

Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA)

Conclusion

The need is great. The need is now. There is a temptation in such a crisis to overlook the issues of risk. Our recommendations will allow you to assess your risk potential and give you an opportunity to determine how you can mitigate such risks. Your responsibility to your donors, to your constituents, and to government regulators should not be forgotten in your overall assessment of how you will participate in this worthy cause. 

Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.