By Vancouver Sun |

Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen came to Windsor Wednesday to celebrate the four decades of success of the country’s private refugee sponsorship program.

“This month we are celebrating 40 years since the privately-sponsored refugee program came into existence in Canada,” said Hussen, himself a refugee who came to Canada in 1993 from Somalia at the age of 16.

Hussen addressed about 200 people at an event at the University of Windsor School of Creative Arts Concert Hall in the former Armouries. The event was organized by the Muslim Law Association of Windsor, the Black Law Students’ Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers Windsor Chapter.

“A program that has now been able to calculate, in addition to the government sponsored refugees, 327,000 refugees that have been resettled in Canada since the 1970s,” Hussen said.

Hussen also took time to acknowledge Windsor’s effort in helping resettle hundreds of Syrian refugees in late 2015 and early 2016.

“And Windsor has played its part and I want to congratulate many in this university who played a role in the resettlement of Syrian refugees to Windsor and the co-operation that you had that showcased the best of Windsor and the openness and embrace of newcomers, but specifically in this case of vulnerable people, who were seeking protection,” Hussen said.

The Canadian system was introduced due largely to the influx of “boat people” fleeing wars in Southeast Asia in the 1970s.

“Privately-sponsored refugees are not only transformed by their experience, the folks who sponsor them are equally or more transformed by the experience,” Hussen said.

“They turn out to be the most passionate advocates for refugee protection, because for them, refugees are no longer an abstract, they are a new family that they have acquired.”

Canada’s system has been so successful that it has become a model that countries around the world are now taking notice of, Hussen said.

“Many countries have quietly been learning now from Canada — even though the program is 40 years old, the program started getting interest from other countries very recently,” Hussen said.

“And since 2017, the UK, Belgium, Germany, Australia, New Zealand have adopted the Canadian model. And now other countries are about to follow — Ireland, three South American countries, the Netherlands — they are all looking at this model.

“They like the fact that it costs less than the government-sponsored model but the outcomes tend to be much, much better, because of the community embrace.”

Hussen also refuted the wave of resistance to newcomers that had been gaining traction around the world.

“Unfortunately now through anti-immigrant rhetoric coming now from other parts of the world, that very system that worked so well for Canada, that enables us to grow our economy, to grow our population, to meet our labour market needs, that system is under attack,” Hussen said.

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