Development of a reasonable cost structure: A clear difference between the Canadian private sponsorship program and the Australian Community Support Program is the very high cost of participating in the Australian program. The Canadian program is committed to asking sponsors to cover the actual costs of assisting refugees for the first year. This is about one-third of the cost of the Australian program.5 The Australian government cannot reasonably charge high visa application fees, while insisting on insurance for social benefits assistance. Accountability of voluntary groups: With relatively limited regulation, Canada`s private sponsorship system relies heavily on sponsorship groups because of its effectiveness and integrity. The 108 organizations registered as promoters of Sponsoring Agreement Holders (SAHs) have demonstrated beforehand that they have the financial means, planning and obligation to coordinate sponsorships. Because HSAs monitor the work of constituents who work with them, HSAs are responsible for ensuring that these groups meet the financial, housing and criminal record control requirements for volunteers. The challenge of working with groups of 5 people is greater, as the system allows the five permanent residents to come together to file a single application with the sponsor. While each group must meet the requirements for finances, comparison plans and criminal record checks, the uneven nature of these groups complicates the monitoring of their activities. The Canadian government is funding a small secretariat and an annual conference for SAH as a forum for dialogue with THE SAHs.
Resources for the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (coordinated by Catholic Crosscultural Services in Toronto) have been increased, extending the four-employee program to a network of trainers in seven cities. The program`s role in building social cohesion: many people involved in the sponsorship program talk enthusiastically about how it benefits Canadian society by bringing people together to work for a common cause. As members of the larger community can participate easily, “the sponsorship program, as Gregory Maniatis of the Open Society Foundations put it in his ATCR presentation in Geneva, “reanits life at the community level by addressing one of the problems we have today is the breakdown of the community and the feeling of individual loneliness.” Mr. Maniatis spoke about how volunteers involved in refugee sponsorship are invited to seek the support and skills of other members of the community, how to build alliances between religious and secular organizations and partnerships between local communities and government. One organization in Ottawa cited the idea of a local volunteer being part of a sponsorship group: “I met the most wonderful Syrians, and I also met the most wonderful Canadians.” Links with housing services: Private sponsors are required to develop settlement plans for refugees they must resettle. This should include linking to publicly funded resolution services. However, government officials found that many family members involved in the sponsorship process and inexperienced groups of 5 did not bring newcomers into these services in the first few months in Canada, when services were most needed.