How Action Réfugiés Montréal has Helped So Far

The Cub Scout pack at St. Barnabas Anglican Church in St. Lambert has a new recruit.

Those involved are wary of making details public, but not long ago the boy’s parents fled from Syria to Lebanon with him and his sister. There they were in touch with an agency that was at one end of a chain linked ultimately to an ecumenical group of seven churches in the South Shore community of St. Lambert—Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, United, Lutheran and Anglican—that for a year had been looking at how they could make a contribution in the face of the Syrian crisis.

The chartered plane that a volunteer from St. Barnabas’ met last December came early in a trickle that has since become a stream. Other passengers on the plane were also generally refugees from, ultimately Syria, but generally coming to join anxious relatives already living in Quebec, says the Rev. Gwenda Wells of St. Barnabas’.

Now the St. Lambert ecumenical group expect to welcome a second family and quite possibly a third from the Middle East—perhaps Iraq in at least one case.

St. Barnabas’ is one of at least a dozen Anglican parishes in Quec at various stages of ventures, some of them ecumenical, to welcome refugees, most but not all from Syria.

For some of these Anglicans, the galvanizing effects of media reports were reinforced by personal links between Anglicans or their Montreal friends and particular refugees abroad. A number of the refugees are Christian, but at least a few parishes are making a point of avoiding any confessional criteria for the refugees they are prepared to welcome.

A lot of the Anglican parishes are drawing on the knowhow of, Action Réfugiés Montréal, established with core funding from the diocese and Presbyterian sources in 1994. Which since last fall has been deeply involved with Montrealers who want to help relatives flee the Middle East, parishes seeking ways to help and others who want to get involved. In some cases Action Réfugiés gives advice and helps make contacts, sometimes to find refugees. The Syrian refugee crisis, which has been acute since the fall of 2014, has had a major effect on Action Réfugiés Montréal. It has been struggling to keep up with demands for help and and offers of various kinds of help—some of them more than it can deal with. And it has begun to try keep abreast of the Syrian refugees who are beginning to actually arrive.

At the same time, Action Réfugiés is striving to keep the crisis from overwhelming its activities on behalf of refugees from other countries, such as Eritria, and refugees already in Montreal, some of them in detention, seeking to be recognized as refugees and to integrate into Quebec society.