Scholars Give Sanctuary (SGS)

A brief progress report
By Peter Hajnal

The Scholars Give Sanctuary (SGS), an informal refugee support group of Senior College Fellows, at its meeting on November 14, 2017, discussed options and next steps now that the application of our refugee candidate was turned down in a final ruling. To clarify our remaining options, Diana Baxter, Margrit Eichler and Peter Hajnal asked for and had a meeting on November 28 with Kerith Paul, Senior Project Coordinator, Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge. Ryerson Lifeline Syria coordinates refugee activities of various support groups, including ours. It also holds the money we previously collected, a little under $25,000.

Several options were presented to us by Ryerson, but they did not suit our current requirements and capacity.   Ryerson then promised to find another group for us to join but that, too, turned out to be the wrong approach.   Fortunately, we were alerted to a new opportunity to work with Humanity First Canada, a large NGO with extensive activities including assistance to refugees. A representative group of our SGS met with the chairman of Humanity First and we were able to reach a positive conclusion. As a result, a small refugee family (mother, son and adult daughter from Pakistan who arrived in Toronto this past January) was identified. As they were not yet being helped by anyone else, an email poll of all members of our Scholars Give Sanctuary group was conducted. The majority agreed that we should undertake financial and settlement support for this family.

Currently Ryerson Lifeline Syria and Humanity First are completing the formalities to transfer of our previously collected funds held by Ryerson, so we can begin giving much-needed assistance to this mother, daughter and son. So the long saga is finally coming to fruition. Meantime, some SGS members have taken the initiative outside the Ryerson process to help refugees or others needing assistance; for example, support for the Romero House and for the Daughters for Life, a foundation that assists young Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian and Syrian women students with scholarships and study awards; individual commitment to work with another refugee settlement group, and other ways to assist refugees. We may be getting older and less energetic but our group’s commitment to help refugees or others in need has not diminished.