Category: Refugee

News from the refugee committee or related to refugees

Volunteer Reporters for Refugee Committee and Visual Arts


The communications committee is looking for “reporters” (one or two) to write up news, collect/take photos and post on the website updates for the Refugee Committee and the Visual Arts committee.
This would involve talking with committee news, writing up an article, sending to the committee for any additions or corrections, asking for photos, taking some (with permission of course) or finding images online to illustrate the content. For the arts committee, the article could be in the style of a review and ideally interviewing and photographing that month’s artist. (You do not need to attend meetings but of course you could.) Most if not all of this work could be done from home with a phone and computer. You would need to take the Feb. 23 workshop on how to post an article to the website. Apply to

Iraqi Refugee Family Arriving Next Week

from Huguette Sansonnet, Refugee Committee

An Iraqi family of a couple with a two-and-a-half year old child will be arriving from Jordan by way of Frankfurt on January 22nd. The refugee committee has been busy assembling furniture and household items to move into the new apartment for them. If you have or know someone who has 4 chairs and a bed appropriate for a young child, please contact Huguette right away or phone the congregation’s office at 604-261-7204.

The family is originally from Iraq.

Donations to support the Refugee Committee’s sponsorship efforts can be made to the church, marked “refugees” and are tax deductible.

How Refugee Sponsorship Works at UCV

By Kaitlin Duck Sherwood, Leader of a Refugee Sponsorship group

The Refugee Committee helps refugees in two different categories:

Private Sponsorship, where the refugees are named and known (what I call the “let’s bring in grandma” category) and

the Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR) program, where you want to help somebody but you don’t care so much who.

With the Private Sponsorship, the sponsors are legally responsible for 100% of the financial support for the first year; with BVOR, the sponsors are legally responsible for a portion (around 60%) of the financial support. With both Private and BVOR, the sponsorship group is responsible for 100% of the logistical and emotional support.

While the Vancouver Unitarians Refugee Committee does all of the support for some of the refugee families, a very important role is to facilitate sponsorship for other sponsorship groups, such as my own group of private individuals. To sponsor a BVOR family, a sponsorship group must partner with a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) such as CUC. By facilitating the work of other sponsorship groups, the Vancouver Unitarians Refugee Committee acts as a “force multiplier”, allowing sponsorship of many more refugees than the Refugee Committee members could handle by themselves

The Unitarian Church of Vancouver, as a constituent of Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC), makes sure the sponsorship groups raise enough money to support the family, vets the sponsorship groups, holds the money, advises the sponsorship group, helps pick a family off an anonymized list (that only the SAH has access to), coordinates communication between the sponsorship group, CUC, and IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), meets the family and signs the legal documents to formally take responsibility of the family at YVR airport, and passes along in-kind physical donations (like clothing/furniture/kitchen supplies) from UCV members, and provides more advice. And more advice.

Ultimately the Unitarian Church of Vancouver is responsible if for any reason the sponsorship group is not able to meet the government requirements. And the Canadian Unitarian Council is responsible if UCV is not able to meet the requirements. So we all work closely together to make sure everything is done well. And this works.

Once the sponsorship group (which might be the Refugee Committee itself) finds out when the family’s plane will arrive, it kicks into high gear.

For example, we got the news seven days in advance that the Eritream family of three would arrive on March 6, 2018. After we got the news, we arranged temporary housing, got them a phone and cell plan, stocked their temporary housing with some food, found a permanent apartment, helped them fill out a massive number of forms, helped them get Social Insurance (SIN) cards and a bank account, got them winter coats, took the father to a medical appointment, showed them how to use their debit cards to buy transit Compass Cards, took them shopping for essentials (like underwear!), helped them phone their friends back in the camps, took them to the Ethiopian Church, and did a lot of talking, orienting, and many other details too minor to call out explicitly.

Shortly after those urgent matters, we will co-sign the lease on their apartment, move donated furniture into the apartment, buy a small amount of furniture, help them buy groceries and cleaning supplies, help them register the boy for school, register for English classes, take a bus/Skytrain ride, get library cards, and get to eye and dental exams.

Longer-term, we will check in periodically to make sure they are adjusting well and give help as needed (e.g. to help mediate disputes or help them find trauma counselling), and help them find jobs.

As the leader of a sponsorship group, I am deeply grateful to the work the Refugee Committee does. Not only would it not be possible for us to sponsor a BVOR family without the Refugee Committee’s legal umbrella, it would have been much more difficult to muddle through without easy access to their institutional knowledge and large stockpile of donated objects.

People ask: How can I help?

For the family who just arrived, things are pretty much in hand. There are always expenses before, during and after the settlement, so donations to the UCV Refugee Fund is the most obvious way of helping. (Yes, tax receipts are issued). If you attend on Sundays, bring stuff for the thrift sale table and buy stuff. Julia absolutely refuses to give a “price”– it’s all by donation. All items that are donated find a good home. If they’re not needed by our refugee families, they’re sold at UCV. If they’re not sold after a while, they’re donated to the Mennonite Central Committee who ensure they’re used.

Now, speaking of that table, Julia and George do a huge job storing, setting up, distributing items. If you have storage space or a way to transport items around, I’m sure they could use help.

Help out at a fundraising lunch or event.

The big ask is: When we have families arrive, they need temporary housing for about two weeks. On short notice.

An even bigger ask: Form a group of five and take on the responsibility (and joy) of sponsoring a family. We can put you in touch with other leaders who can show you the ropes. It’s a big job–and a very rewarding one.

The committee meets monthly: show up and learn more and you’ll see where the needs are.

Do you have other questions or offers? Send an email and we’ll forward to the right people.


Stand Up to Racism

From Rev. Steven Epperson, Parish Minister

Photo and story from the UUA President

Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver

Please join me at the anti-racism rally at City Hall this Saturday sponsored by Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver. The rally begins at 12:45 pm.

(Facebook Event click here.)

Thanks, Steven

Some thought on “False Equivalence”  (Rev. Steven Epperson)

Given what many of us have been reading/seeing in the media this past week regarding events in Charlottesville, Virginia , I wanted to share some thoughts. On Tuesday, August 15th, the sitting President of the United States said: “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.”   Subsequently, I’ve read the expression “false equivalence” to describe his remarks.

When I hear the expression “false equivalence,” the first thing that comes to mind is messed up ways of thinking/reasoning.  False equivalence is a mistaken belief that since two very different things (or arguments) may share a common trait that means they are basically similar/equal.


1)            A dog race is about to start.  The two hounds running (a greyhound and a dachshund) are equal favorites to win. Ridiculous? Yes. That’s false equivalence at work where sharing a trait—dogs that are hounds—means there are no other essential differences between them. Under false equivalence, each has an equal chance to win the race.

2)            “Gang bangers cover their heads with hoodies.  Nuns cover their heads with habits.  Therefore, nuns are no better than gang bangers.”  Just because both cover their heads does not necessarily mean they are equally as likely to rob a gas station at gunpoint.

3)            Racism says other races are essentially different.  Anti-racism says other races are not essentially different.  False equivalence states both are absolutist claims. Therefore, there is no difference between them.  Put simply, this mistaken way of thinking/arguing claims apples and oranges are the same fruit simply because they both have seeds.

Examples of false equivalence are seemingly without end (e.g. “creationism and evolution both explain how we got here, so teach both sides,” etc, etc.).  False equivalence is contributing to a slippery world of BS and “truthiness.”   In fact, far-right protesters went to Charlottesville primed for violence in word and act; most counter-protesters adopted an entirely defensive posture. An adult should know the difference.

Let’s value and use our Unitarian Principle of a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning;” that search means knowing there’s a difference between an apple and an orange, a neo-Nazi and an antifascist, and that the difference means something; that it matters.