Introduction: Special Issue on Private Sponsorship in Canada.

Author:Reynolds, Johanna


The Canadian government, community organizations, sponsorship agreement holders, and ordinary people have invested significant time, energy, and resources in the resettlement of refugees to Canada since the establishment of the private sponsorship program in 1979. Other countries are beginning to adopt and adapt private sponsorship in very different contexts. However, there has been limited research to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of sponsorship as a resettlement process.

The Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program provides Canadian citizens the opportunity to identify and sponsor refugees for resettlement to Canada. For twelve months or more, sponsored refugees receive settlement and financial support from their sponsorship group. A sponsorship group can be formed in various ways: by five or more permanent residents or citizens, also called a Group of Five ([G.sub.5]), who collectively arrange to sponsor a particular refugee living abroad; or by community sponsors, such as an organization, corporation, or association; and a constituent group, working with a sponsorship agreement holder (SAH), can also support a refugee or family in their community of settlement. Support during this first year of sponsorship (both through direct service provision and financial support) is provided by the sponsorship group in partnership with service providers. (1) The Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program, launched in 2013, is a new category of hybrid sponsorship, a cost-sharing initiative between the Canadian government and sponsorship groups, through which refugees are referred for resettlement by UNHCR and approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

To complement a previous Refuge special issue focusing on the historic establishment of Canada's private sponsorship and a forthcoming edited volume by Shauna Labman and Geoffrey Cameron, this special issue focuses specifically on lessons learned from sponsorship efforts and concrete suggestions for future policy and programming. The articles in this issue make empirical and conceptual contributions to understanding the diversity and context specificity of sponsorship, particularly in relation to the variability of "success," as well as the ways in which Canadian-specific examples can or cannot be "exported" to other countries.

Literature Review: Private Sponsorship in Canada

While Canada's private sponsorship program has existed for forty years, until recently there was little academic literature evaluating the program and its impacts. Shortly after the large-scale sponsorship and resettlement of Indochinese refugees to Canada in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a few articles described and analyzed the process (2) and evaluated refugees' integration. (3) In the early 2000s some practitioners published reflections on private sponsorship, (4) while scholars analyzed resettlement outcomes of sponsored refugees (5) and relationships and partnerships amongst actors involved in sponsorship. (6) There was also limited literature 011 the World University Service of Canada's (WUSC) Student Refugee Program (SRP). (7) Despite these important efforts, there was no comprehensive systematic account and evaluation of Canada's private sponsorship system. (8)

To partially redress this gap, a special issue of Refuge (9) focused on the historical establishment of private sponsorship in response to Indochinese refugees. Subsequently Molloy and colleagues published a book (10) recounting the experiences of Canadian government officials who set up and implemented those early private sponsorship efforts.

In the context of relatively large-scale resettlement of Syrian refugees to Canada through private sponsorship, government assistance, and BVOR channels in 2015-16, and efforts to "export" the Canadian sponsorship model, (11) new research has emerged. Scholars have focused on motivations and experiences of sponsors, (12) peer networks, (13) regional variations, (14) and new administrative processes and categories of sponsorship. (15) A forthcoming edited volume by Labman and Cameron will use case studies to explore the conceptual and historical basis for sponsorship and prospects for successful "exportation" of the program.

This research has established several important findings about private sponsorship as a resettlement strategy The discretionary decision-making involved by UNHCR, government actors, and private sponsors naming specific persons to resettle has resulted in some variability in who gets chosen, from what areas, and what resources they have once they arrive in Canada. For example, Turner has critiqued the exclusion of single Syrian men from recent resettlement efforts. (16) Hyndman, Payne, and Jimenez demonstrate how the prioritization of private sponsorship of Syrians by the Canadian government in 2015-16 caused delays in the resettlement of refugees from other regions. (17) Sponsorship groups have variable experience in sponsorship, (18) resulting in uneven support to, and resettlement outcomes of, refugees. (19) The introduction of a new BVOR sponsorship category also blurs private sponsorship with government assistance. (20) Relatedly, some critique the privatization of refugee protection. (21)

This special issue complements this literature in three ways. First, while much of the literature has focused on the legal and bureaucratic process of private sponsorship, Kyriakides et al.; Hynie et al.; McKee et al.; Lenard; Good Gingrich and Enns; and Haugen in this issue turn their attention to the micro-level human relationships at the heart of sponsorship. Second, two articles in this issue (Kwadrans and Bond; Hirsch, Hoang, and Vogl) provide a comparative...

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