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Growing help for refugees from Leaside churches

In 1979 our family was part of a small group sponsoring a 20-year-old Vietnamese man, one of the thousands of Boat People fleeing Vietnam.

All these years later, our young man is still employed at the same bank where we first found work for him. He is married, owns a house and has two adult sons, one of whom has graduated from Laurier University in commerce and is now a CPA, the younger one in third year bioscience at Western University.

Their success story is what led me to this story.

The federal government has a Group of Five Sponsorship, where a small group can take on the same responsibilities to sponsor an individual or a group, without the need for formal incorporation. 

The ongoing champion of a local sponsoring group has to be Leaside United Church at Millwood and McRae. Starting in 1979, with a family of five from Vietnam, their latest is a family of four from Iraq, with another 11 families in between, in addition to three families who were not sponsored refugees but received a lot of help from the LUC congregation.

Renee MacCarthy, of Bayview Ave., a parishioner at St. Monica’s Church on Broadway Ave., went to a parish information meeting about refugee sponsorship two summers ago, firmly intending to listen, but not get involved. That changed when she was at the meeting, especially when she recalled that her father, who had recently died, had been involved with the sponsorship of Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970s.

She ended up being the person who stands up at the end of a church service to ask for donations towards the sponsorship.

The first time she made her plea, the collection was $3,500! They needed a total of $12,000. It took nearly a year to raise the money, and get others involved.

When their young man arrived in Canada, they were ready to get his paperwork in order for a SIN number and an OHIP card, but also to explore the city, go on bicycle rides, host him for regular dinners as well as special occasions like Thanksgiving.

They found him housing and helped with his job-search. In all, more than 80 members of the parish were providing practical help.

The pastor of St. Anselm’s Church at MacNaughton and Millwood, Msgr. Marco Laurencic, intends that his parish will be involved in refugee sponsorship a bit later this year. They have already held a meeting with the Roman Catholic Office of Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) to get information and advice on how to proceed.

At that meeting there were representatives from the Mandaean and Yezidi communities already in Toronto telling of the plight of their fellows still in the Middle East, waiting for sponsorship.

St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church on Bayview is near the beginning of the process, investigating whether to proceed with the help of the Anglican United Refugee Alliance (AURA).