Canada celebrates 40 years of the refugee sponsorship program

More than 327,000 refugees have found safe haven in Canada

Published 31/05/2019









News release

As Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program marks 40 years, Canadians are being celebrated for their immense contributions and dedication to provide a safe haven for vulnerable refugees around the world.

Canada has also become a model for other countries across the globe. The success of the program is a direct result of the extraordinary partnerships and cooperation among Canadian organizations, businesses, governments, communities and individuals.

Private sponsors have welcomed more than 327,000 refugees since the start of the program in the late 1970s and it is one of the oldest and best known resettlement programs in the world.

Up until 2016, Canada was the only country in the entire world with such a program. Through the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, sponsorship programs have grown significantly with Argentina, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany now developing or operating new community sponsorship programs for refugees.

“Thank you to all Canadians for opening both their hearts and homes to welcome more than 327,000 refugees over the last four decades from coast to coast to coast. We can all take pride in the example Canadians set for the world. It is truly emblematic of the character of Canadians and the fabric of our great country”, said The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Quick facts

  • The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program officially began in 1978 and marked the first time Canadians were able to get involved in the resettlement of vulnerable refugees.
  • Between 1979 and 1980, more than 60,000 people found refuge in Canada after the Vietnam War. Of those, over half were supported by private sponsorship groups.
  • Since 1980, more than 160 communities have welcomed privately sponsored refugees from more than 175 countries.
  • Since 2015, more than half of the 62,000 Syrian refugees who have been resettled to Canada were privately sponsored.
  • Launched in 2016, the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative – a partnership between Canada, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Open Society Foundations, the Giustra Foundation and the University of Ottawa – aims to increase global refugee resettlement spaces, strengthen host communities, and improve the narrative about refugees by engaging governments and private citizens in refugee sponsorship.

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Leila Monteiro LIns

Leila has more than 35 years of experience in journalism and marketing. In April 2010, LML launched Discover magazine in Canada.

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