The AURA Bulletin
~ news & updates for refugee supporters ~
March 2020 | AURA's Quarterly Newsletter
Welcome to the latest edition of the AURA newsletter. These are extraordinary and challenging times, and we think of the millions of displaced people around the world whose situations are now shaped by even more uncertainty.

Newcomers also face additional challenges as the Government of Canada tries to slow the spread of COVID-19, and we encourage all our sponsors to keep communicating regularly. We have 25 refugee sponsoring groups supporting 75 refugees right now, and many more working towards submitting applications in 2020.

At AURA, we are working remotely for now. Please continue to phone or email us as you would regularly, and do not hesitate to contact us with any specific inquiries or concerns related to COVID-19. Scroll down for updates from IRCC, CRA, health resources in other languages, and more.

Even during these difficult and stressful times, it is amazing to see refugee sponsors continue their exemplary work supporting refugees. THANK YOU for being part of the AURA community!
~ Alex and Marin (your AURA team)
COVID-19 Updates for Sponsors
With the series of announcements made by the Government of Canada last week in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, you may have questions about how it all affects refugee sponsorship. We have collected some of the most pertinent information for refugee sponsors.
From Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC):
  • All refugee arrivals after March 18th through to the end of April have been cancelled. There will be no additional arrivals or new flight bookings until further notice.
  • We can expect delays in processing of applications abroad because Canadian embassies and visa offices, the IOM (International Organization for Migration) and the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) have all seen their operations affected.
  • All area trips (to interview refugees who are far from visa offices) are cancelled, so too are most interviews and medicals. 
  • No visas or travel documents will be issued until further notice. 
  • When privately sponsored refugees are allowed to travel into Canada again, there will be a system put in place to triage based on exit permits, urgent needs, and expiry of medicals.
  • Ottawa is still accepting refugee applications submitted by email and continuing the “in Canada” portion of processing. However, where possible, their staff are working from home.
  • Settlement Agencies have stopped providing all non-essential services.
  • The government has decided to suspend its immigrant loan collection activities for a period of 6 months, until September 2020.
From the Public Health Agency of Canada:
At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, but we can all work together to slow down the spread of the virus. We encourage all sponsors to take the time to ensure that the newcomers you are supporting understand what the Canadian government is doing. To read more, please click the link below to connect to the Public Health Agency of Canada information:
Commit to Social Distancing:
We are all adjusting and changing our routines. As refugee sponsors who work in groups to support newcomers, PLEASE COMMIT TO SOCIAL DISTANCING. Keep connecting, but safely. With tons of information (and for most newcomers, it's not in their first language,) be sure to explain the details of social distancing and how you can help by minimizing close contact with others, including:
  • avoiding non-essential gatherings
  • avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes
  • avoiding crowded places
  • limiting contact with people at higher risk like older adults and those in poor health
  • keeping a distance of at least 2 arms-length (~2 metres) from other.
Online Sponsor Meetings:
AURA is offering the use of our online meeting software to all refugee sponsors to arrange meetings while following social distancing recommendations. We use GoToMeeting which allows video meetings and conference call.

To have us schedule an online meeting for your group, please email a request with the following information to admin@auraforrefugees.org:
  • Date
  • Time
  • Email addresses of who you want invited

CRA and Taxes:

We recently sent a reminder to all active group leaders about helping newcomers file their taxes, as we do every year. However, there have been changes in the last week. Please make sure the newcomers you are supporting know:
  • The deadline to file 2019 taxes has been extended to June 1st.
  • They should still try to file as soon as possible to ensure benefits are not interrupted.
  • They may be eligible for some New Tax Benefits - for parents who need to take care of children while school is closed, people who are (or taking care of a family member who is) quarantined or sick.
  • They should register with CRA's My Account and direct deposit for easier access.
COVID-19 Support for Current Sponsorships:
During social distancing is is important to stay in contact with your group members and the newcomer families you are supporting. Ensure you have taken the time to explain the need for extra care when washing your hands and staying away from each other for the time being. It is also important to stress that life will get back to normal and that this is extremely unusual.
Telehealth:
Telehealth Ontario is a free, confidential service you can call to get health advice or information. A Registered Nurse will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Telehealth Ontario is only offered over the phone (not email).
They offer translation in some languages.

*This is a great resource for newcomers, especially now!
Things to do Online:
Refugee sponsorship is a hands on activity, but during this time as we all try and limit contact from each other, you may be looking for activities to recommend. Here are a few:

More than 45,000 of the ROM's objects  can be viewed on its website  rather than in-person.

The AGO's  entire collection is also available online , including some special exhibitions.

Bata's shoes can be viewed up-close and in 3-D in its  All About Shoes  online exhibit.

Offers more than 600 virtual exhibits and nearly one million images to explore.

Scholastic offers a Learn at Home Program for kids.

The Daily 20 Program offers family-friendly daily home workouts.

Live Animal Cams: Jelly Fish Cam or Panda Cam

The Together Project has shared several interesting ideas:

Mango is an online reading/speaking program that is available for free for library card holders though almost all Ontario Public Libraries. The link above sends you to the Toronto Public Library, but the free program that is available in several languages is available through other libraries as well.
COVID-19 Information Sheets:
The following awareness resources are available from the Public Health Agency of Canada:
From RSTP
About COVID-19 in Arabic
About COVID-19 in Farsi