1. Introduction

One of the important duties of a sponsoring group in the post-arrival period is monitoring. Often there is less talk about this task though it is an essential responsibility of the sponsoring group.

According to the Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) agreement signed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and SAHs, CIC and SAHs have responsibilities to monitor to ensure that a sponsorship undertaking is implemented and sponsorship breakdown is avoided. While a SAH monitors the activities of its Constituent Groups (CGs) and co-sponsors, CIC monitors the activities of a SAH and its Constituent Groups.

The SAH agreement does not offer a definition of monitoring. Monitoring can be defined as “supervising activities in progress to ensure they are on-course and on-schedule in meeting the objectives and performance targets.”

In the context of private sponsorship of refugees, monitoring entails ensuring that activities established in the sponsorship undertaking and settlement plans are put into effect according to the agreed schedule, and they are contributing to the successful settlement of sponsored refugees.

As stated earlier, SAHs and CIC have the responsibility to make sure that a settlement plan submitted at the outset of the sponsorship process is in fact implemented. Although bringing refugees to a safe and peaceful country is a primary motivation for sponsors, the settlement assistance that is offered to refugees upon their arrival in Canada is equally important. The planned settlement assistance is as good as its implementation. If the sponsoring group does not have a mechanism for following up and making sure that these plans are executed, the sponsorship undertakings may be good only on paper. Lack of monitoring can lead to unmet needs and, as a result, to a possible sponsorship breakdown or default.

2. Monitoring by a SAH

The SAH agreement states:

“The SAH is responsible for monitoring its CGs or Cosponsors and their individual undertakings. The purpose of the monitoring will be to provide support to the sponsor and the refugee in meeting respective commitments and responsibilities. When issues and problems arise which could lead to possible breakdown, the SAH will work cooperatively with CIC to resolve them.”

Since several SAHs either authorize CGs to work on their behalf or jointly sponsor with a co-sponsor, they have a responsibility to monitor their CGs and co-sponsors to ensure they are delivering on their sponsorship commitments and responsibilities.

As stated earlier, the main reason for the follow-up is to provide support and take action to avoid sponsorship breakdown. For instance, if the SAH realizes that its CG and co-sponsor are not meeting their sponsorship commitments, it may provide training and moral and emotionally support that could assist them to continue with the sponsorship work. After providing the needed help, if the CGs and co-sponsor do not seem to be carrying out their duties, the SAH may have to take other actions, including finding an alternative, group to avoid a sponsorship breakdown.

3. Current Practices

The SAH agreement does not stipulate how SAHs should monitor their CGs or co-sponsors. Since SAHs are at liberty to set their own criteria on recognizing and authorizing their CGs, one can argue they also have the freedom to design their own monitoring schemes. In addition, the diversity in size and composition of SAHs makes it hard to come up with a one-size-fits-all monitoring mechanism.

Anecdotal information shows there are a range practices that could be and are being followed by SAHs:

i. Revisiting the Settlement Plan

A prudent SAH should revisit the settlement plan with its CG and co-sponsor either shortly before the expected arrival of the refugees or shortly after the arrival together with the refugee. This could be done as soon as the refugee passes the selection interview, submits the medical check forms, the notice of arrival is received, or a few days following the arrival of the refugee inCanada. Since some refugees arrive inCanadaseveral years or months after the original sponsorship application and settlement plan have been submitted and approved, there could be changes in the composition of the sponsoring group or the sponsored refugees which need to be taken into account. For example, some members of the sponsoring group may have moved to a different location, have become unavailable, are no longer able to carry out their duties because of sickness or incapacitation, or have backed out of the sponsorship commitment.

As some of the human changes are unpredictable and sometimes just happen, a SAH should plan to revisit the settlement plan and ensure original commitment and plans are still in place. Reviewing the settlement plan will also allow members of the sponsoring group to renew their vow of honouring the original responsibilities and to update the settlement plan and to incorporate added responsibilities emanating from any additional members such as a new spouse or child in the refugee family.

Revising the settlement plan could also happen during the course of the sponsorship if unexpected issues arise that will hinder the implementation of the original agreement. This may take place if a conflict arises among members of the sponsoring group or if the original constituent group is unable to fulfill its undertaking and the SAH has to find an alternative group.

ii. Home Visits

SAHs may also pay a visit to resettled refugees’ homes to observe personally the living conditions of the refugees. The visit may happen at the early stage of the sponsorship, once the sponsored refugees is housed in a permanent accommodation. Paying a visit to refugees’ home enables the SAH to see first hand whether the accommodation is suitable and appropriate given the size of the family and the needs of family members, such as children, young women, and the elderly; whether the furniture and utensils are at par with acceptable Canadian standards; and whether the housing is safe and fit to live in during the cold and hot seasons. Doing more than one visit without being intrusive may be a good way for SAHs to ensure that the sponsorship is being carried out in accordance with the word and spirit of the settlement plan, and to check in with the family to see if there are any concerns.

iii. Individual Intervention

A SAH has a right and an obligation to intervene and take any action required to avoid any sponsorship breakdown. A sponsorship breakdown may happen if the CG or co-sponsor are unable to live up to their commitments because of interpersonal conflict or other reasons. In case of a conflict, SAHs need to find a way to mediate and try to help solve the conflict. Despite best efforts by SAHs, if a sponsoring group is unable to continue its task because the cause of the conflict is incorrigible, the SAHs may need to look for another sponsor and attempt to salvage the sponsorship. Not only the sponsored refugees but also the SAH will benefit if sponsorship breakdowns are avoided.

iv. Survey

Some SAHs have developed a survey tool aimed for gathering information about the settlement experience of the refugees and the sponsors. For example, one SAH has a survey that is filled out by a sponsored refugee during the initial stage of the sponsorship and another survey at the end of the sponsorship. The information gathered from these surveys provides some idea of how the CG and co-sponsor have met or tried to meet their needs and honour their commitments at the outset and towards the end of the undertaking.

As it was stated earlier, every SAH and its CG and co-sponsor is different and every sponsorship is unique, it may not be easy to come up with a universal way of monitoring sponsorship endeavours. A mix of some of the above-mentioned practices and others may help sponsors with checking whether sponsorship activities are implemented in accordance with the agreed time-lines and are facilitating a successful settlement experience.

For a smooth settlement experience and settlement plan implementation process, it is very helpful for the SAH to keep its doors open for its CGs, co-sponsors and even refugees and to encourage them to stay in contact in case of any eventualities. Maintaining a close and collegial working relationship with CGs, co-sponsors and sponsored refugees during good and bad times of the sponsorship will enable a SAH to be on top of its sponsorship and take timely actions when needed to avoid sponsorship breakdown.

4. Monitoring by CIC

As mentioned earlier, like a SAH, CIC has an obligation to monitor SAHs, their CGs and co-sponsors to ensure sponsorship undertakings singed by them are followed through and the needs of sponsored refugees are met.

The SAH agreement states

“CIC is responsible for monitoring the SAH, their CGs or Cosponsors and individual undertakings. The purpose of monitoring will be to provide support to the sponsor and the refugee in meeting their respective commitments and responsibilities. CIC will ensure that the monitoring process is communicated with SAHs and will work cooperatively with the SAH to anticipate and/or resolve problems or issues that may arise.”

According to CIC’s Operation Manual IP-3 – In Canada Processing Of Convention Refugees Abroad and Members Of The Humanitarian Protected Person Abroad Classes, after the arrival of a sponsored refugee, the local CIC office monitors sponsoring groups and refugees

“to verify that the sponsoring group is fulfilling its responsibilities including financial, moral support and settlement assistance as outlined in the settlement plan and in the sponsorship undertaking. “

The need for monitoring may arise because of different reasons, and CIC may take various actions to deal with specific issues that arise in the course of sponsorship work.

Some of the actions may include, but may not be limited to,

  • interviewing refugees
  • requesting refugees and/or CGs to fill out a survey
  • engaging in mediation and conflict resolutions to avoid sponsorship breakdown
  • taking various actions to ensure sponsors carry out sponsorship duties outlined in the sponsorship undertaking and settlement plan
  • taking required actions in case of sponsorship breakdown and defaults

For more information, refer to IP 3

5. Monitoring in the Context of Sponsorship by Groups of Five and Community Sponsors

Although the duty to monitor the performance of members of the sponsoring group is not clearly stipulated in the context of sponsorships done by Groups of Five and Community Sponsors, it goes without saying that the duty is inherently relevant in these types of sponsorship as well.

i. Groups of Five

In Groups of Five, a group representative acts as liaison between CIC and the sponsoring group. He or she will be contacted in any matter related to the sponsorship process and issues that may arise during the sponsorship period.

Nominating someone as a group representative does not automatically confer an obligation to monitor if the members of the sponsoring group are doing what they pledge to do when they signed the sponsorship undertaking.

However, it is in the best interest of the group to empower the group representative to follow through with each group member and ensure the settlement plan is in fact implemented. The group representative may be a close relative of the sponsored refugee or someone who can communicate effectively with CIC and group members.

ii. Community Sponsors

In sponsorships by community sponsors, the president or executive director of the organization or someone with a signing authority takes the responsibility for making sure that the sponsorship undertaking commitments are put to task. Since the high ranking authority of the community sponsor is ultimately responsible for all activities of the organization including its involvement in sponsorship, he or she bears the responsibility to oversee the sponsorship activities to determine whether activities are on the right course, on schedule and will result in the successful settlement of refugees.

Both Groups of Five and Community Sponsors can draw from the experiences of SAHs and utilize some of practices that are being followed by some SAHs. As discussed in detailed earlier, these may include:

  • Revising the settlement plan
  • Making home visits
  • Conducting individual intervention
  • Using surveys