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Mobilization of the SNJMs regarding immigrants and refugees

Taking the pulse of the situation on the South Shore 

Unable to remain insensitive to the global crisis of migration and the polarization of anti-immigration statements, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) unveiled their corporate stand regarding migrants and refugees. They accompanied their words with action by seeking the collaboration of organizations to provide a profile of the situation on the South Shore, in a context where the number of families of refugees and asylum seekers has increased exceptionally over the last two years.

“We realize the importance of becoming aware ourselves and of raising the awareness of all people to the reality being played out in the field so as to put things in perspective," said Sister Denise Riel, SNJM Provincial Animator. In the current context, the SNJM Provincial Animator for Quebec wants the citizens of the South Shore "to discover the small and large successful experiences of the various organizations as well as the challenges which we all face: migrants, refugees and we, as a host society.”

500 asylum seekers on the South Shore

Last summer, the massive arrival of people crossing the border seeking Canada’s protection necessitated the setting up of several emergency shelter sites, including the one in Boucherville, called Havre Providence. With the collaboration of the CISSS-ME Emergency Response Teams, this site welcomed nearly 500 people from August to mid-September.

During this same period, Carrefour le Moutier provided support to more than 400 people including 111 families. "We mainly supported these people so they could attain housing, material resources, food assistance, work permit applications and school enrollment," said Amalia Suarez, Project Manager for the asylum seekers at Carrefour le Moutier, who hailed the openness and the invaluable collaboration of Longueuil property owners in offering housing to these newcomers.

State sponsorship - Syrian Refugees

While Canada welcomed more than 45,000 Syrian refugees in 2015-16, Canadian state sponsorship plans to welcome 9,000 refugees in 2017 * (including 1,700 in Quebec). Admitting that the situation last year was exceptional, Nasrin Neda, a benefactor at the Maison internationale de la Rive-Sud (MIRS), emphasized the significant challenges facing refugees. "Depending on their history and circumstances, it is difficult for these refugees to become autonomous and independent within a year. Developing language skills and understanding the habits and customs of the host society are not easy for the majority of refugees, Syrians or others, who have little schooling and many of whom come from rural areas. "

Even though government assistance ceases after 12 months, MIRS continues its work with immigrant and refugee clients. To ensure this continuity, the organization diversifies its sources of funding and is constantly strengthening its bank of volunteers so as to respond to the ongoing needs. Past experience has shown that it requires time and support to enable immigrants and refugees from the state sponsorship program to take charge of their own lives and become active members of society.



Private sponsorship: autonomous refugee 

The mobilization of the public in the face of the Syrian crisis made it possible to welcome to Quebec 4,500 refugees through private sponsorship, an approach that is unique in the world. On the South Shore of Montreal, numerous private sponsorship committees were established in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Saint-Lambert, Saint-Hubert and Longueuil. The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) contributed to the establishment of the private sponsorship committee, ''Chemins d'accueil de Longueuil'', which hosted two Syrian families of 3 and 4 people, respectively.

The young Marcel Alhanout, 18, also witnessed to this desire to integrate and to take advantage of the chance offered to give them a new life. Pointing out the daily challenges which all the members of his family are facing, Marcel said he was happy to live in Quebec. "The first thing that surprised us and that we really appreciated was the freedom that we find here. We are very grateful to our welcoming society."

"In one year, the first family of Syrian refugees has become autonomous. The husband has found a job while his wife is continuing her training in French and her studies so as to soon begin a new career," said Jacques Morin, coordinator of the group Chemins d’accueil de Longueuil. The second family, who arrived last winter, relies on two young adults who are already working while continuing level 3 of the francization program this fall. According to the speaker, beyond the refugees’ first objective to quickly become independent, the active commitment of volunteers to their committees and the strength of their network of contacts contribute significantly to the success of private sponsorships that are attracting the attention of several researchers and organizations, even European ones.

Admitting that they do not yet know how their commitment to migrants and refugees will take shape in the future, the SNJMs want to "collaborate with others to build a better society where interculturality is possible and where everyone has the right to live fully," concluded Sister Denise Riel.
A few facts 
• 22.5 million refugees worldwide*
• 1.2 million of them are in danger of death*
• Canada sponsored 9000 refugees in 2017*
• Canada needs 300 000 immigrants per year to renew its population*
• Within 5 to 10 years, refugees resettled in a welcoming society become full-fledged citizens and contribute to society in numerous ways*
• Quebec has welcomed 17 205 asylum seekers since the beginning of the year (5525 in 2016)**
• 500 asylum seekers between August and mid-September at the Havre-Providence shelter in Boucherville**


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About the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM)

The first Congregation of teachers founded by a Canadian in Longueuil in 1843, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) are currently working in five countries. In Quebec, they are responsible for the establishment of many renowned institutions including the Vincent-d'Indy School of Music and Collège Durocher Saint-Lambert, and are known as well for their significant presence in almost all schools in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve-Mercier districts. After taking corporate stands on "Water is a human right and public good" and against "Human trafficking", the SNJMs recognized the urgent need to declare their solidarity and to give public testimony by acting in favor of migrants and refugees. In addition to participating in the Chemins d’accueil de Longueuil Committee, the Congregation is also participating in the private sponsorship committee from Saint Monica Parish in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Montreal.

About Carrefour le Moutier

Founded in 1969, the Carrefour le Moutier is a community-based front-line organization with a regional focus that, by the nature and quality of its various services, contributes to the promotion of the person, the prevention of psychological distress as well as social inclusion. Among its front-line services, the organization is mandated by the Ministry of Immigration for the reception and integration of newcomers, with a specific component for accompanying asylum seekers in their search for housing.

About the Maison internationale de la Rive-Sud (MIRS)

Created in 1975, the Maison Internationale de la Rive-Sud is an organization entirely dedicated to supporting newcomers, including public refugees (supported by the State). Its action focuses mainly on support for the settlement, francization, employability and integration into the host society. The organization has developed strong expertise and has established itself as a key player in the field of integration of migrants and refugees on the South Shore. In light of this, it participates in several round tables. It is the only organization on the territory of the South Shore, to be mandated by the Immigration Department to accompany State-sponsored refugees.

About the group Chemins d’accueil de Longueuil

Initially, the group consisted of a core group of 13 individuals from different backgrounds, including religious communities, representatives from the St-Jean-Longueuil Diocese, representatives from community groups and some citizens sensitive to the cause. Since then, some 30 people have been contributing in various ways to support the two sponsored families. Chemin d'accueil de Longueuil is one of the 12 groups involved in private sponsorship in the territory of the Diocese St-Jean-Longueuil.

* Jean-Nicolas Beuze, Representative in Canada of The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), interviewed by the Le Devoir newspaper, July 7, 2017

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