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Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Canada

The Syrian Refugee Crisis in Global Context


Since the 1980s, humanitarianism, multiculturalism, and system-wide adherence to administrative due process in immigration have been officially presented as trademark features of Canada's immigration policy framework. While this trilogy informs the formally stated direction of the Canadian state in immigration-related matters, since the early 1990s, other factors such as economic imperatives and divided public opinion led to a far more selective approach to immigration, prioritizing Canada’s immediate economic and political interests over humanitarian needs of vulnerable populations. In light of the projected demand to increase annual newcomer intake from 250,000 to over 400,000 by 2030, issues of immigration policy are likely to remain at the forefront of both political and policy-related debates and the Canadian public will have to make some challenging decisions. 

The global trend in the exponential increase of displaced populations and forced migration indeed requires us not just to engage in new ways of thinking regarding resettlement and new technologies for streamlining admissions but also fortification of the political will to address the institutional fragmentation that currently frames refugee acceptance. Concerning the Syrian case, the Canadian model of private sponsorship has opened up the possibility of leveraging government resources with significant investments of time and money by private sector partners and individual citizens. This model of “shared economy” platform to support the admission and integration of immigrants and refugees is worthy of critical note. Public and policy debates predating the official endorsement of this model are also of particular importance as they shed light on the conflicting agendas and future directives that currently dominate Canadian administrative and legal discourses.
 
In this broader context, this web archive strives to offer a documented commentary on the most recent addition to the Canadian resettlement scheme, the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program. The BVOR program was introduced in 2013 as a calculated mixture of private sponsorship and government-assisted resettlement and constitutes a modified version of private sponsorship of refugee and immigrant applicants. While the program was met with significant criticism and skepticism indicating that the government was practically off-loading its resettlement responsibilities to private sponsors, there is also the counter argument that without the program, the Syrian crisis significantly impacting the Canadian resettlement landscape could not have been addressed. In this regard, BVOR has to be examined in relation to both private and government resettlement schemes, and, in comparison to the historical use of private sponsorship for Indochinese refugees. The documents presented to the reader here allow for an examination of the background debates that led to the institutionalization of the BVOR program, the challenges BVOR is intended to address, public and political debates concerning the proposed division of public and private responsibility, and, the links made between this particular model and the public acceptance of the en masse resettlement of select Syrian refugees in Canada​. These debates are essential for assessing the direction of Canada’s future resettlement and refugee policies.


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