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Toronto's Mayor Is Personally Sponsoring A Syrian Family Of Refugees

He is also working with other mayors to expand refugee resettlement efforts.

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Toronto Mayor John Tory is getting personally involved in the plight of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria by sponsoring a family's resettlement to Canada.

John Tory / Via Facebook

The Toronto mayor is part of a group of citizens who are contributing $27,000 to privately sponsor a family, as well as taking responsibility for the family's integration for the first year. They are working through the non-profit group Lifeline Syria, which facilitates refugee resettlement to the Greater Toronto Area.

Calling on #Toronto residents to welcome/sponsor Syrian refugees. Let's provide opportunity to live in this blessed city & country. #topoli

Tory told the Toronto Star that images of desperate migrants making the dangerous trek to Europe reminded him of the Vietnamese refugee crisis of the 1970s, when Canada took in about 60,000 refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam war.

"I just hope that people will realize that something similar is going on here and step up to help because they can," he said Thursday.


Tory is calling on other Torontonians to pitch in and help sponsor Syrian families. "This is who we are as Canadians," he tweeted on Friday.

He says he's also working with the mayors of Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Vancouver to expand refugee resettlement efforts.

The Syrian refugee crisis has become a pressing issue in Canada and many other destination countries after the now-famous photo of a toddler found dead on a Turkish beach became the iconic symbol of the humanitarian crisis. There are currently about four million Syrian refugees who have been displaced by the brutal civil war, and 60 million refugees worldwide, making this the biggest refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War.

Canadians who want to help can donate time and money to designated organizations working to resettle refugees in Canada, or they can privately sponsor a family themselves.

Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP / Getty Images

Mayor Tory's effort to bring a family to Canada appears to be a Group of Five, or G5, sponsorship. Any five Canadians over the age of 18 who can raise enough money to support refugees can apply.

According to Lifeline Syria, a family of four requires $27,000.

Front-line organizations like the UN Refugee Agency and Doctors Without Borders are also soliciting donations.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada is "the most generous country in the world" in taking in refugees, although that claim doesn't really hold up to scrutiny.

Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press

Canada has pledged to take in 11,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017. According to government figures, only 2,374 Syrian refugees have so far been resettled, and a majority of those through private sponsorships rather than with direct government assistance.

Critics of the government's record, like the Canadian Council of Refugees, say the pace at which people are being allowed into Canada is too slow, and that there are too many bureaucratic hurdles for refugees to clear.

Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at

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