Refute False Claims about Refugees

Have you heard rumours that refugees in Canada receive greater assistance from the government than pensioners? This is an urban myth with devastating and racist consequences. Sending on this email spreads false rumours, hurting people who have already suffered in their home countries. Let’s offer them a better welcome to Canada than unfounded stigmas and prejudices.

The myth that refugees make more money than seniors is false

For many years, a persistent chain email has been circulating claiming that refugees receive significantly more money in income assistance than Canadians collecting a pension.  The information, which is based on a letter published in the Toronto Star, is false. The record has been set straight by the federal government and the Canadian Council for Refugees.

All refugees must repay loans made to them to pay for their initial medical exams and their transportation to Canada. This often leaves them thousands of dollars in debt. Privately-sponsored refugees receive no government assistance at all. Government-sponsored refugees receive the equivalent income to social assistance recipients, which is far below the poverty line.

Far too many seniors live in poverty in Canada. For that reason, the labour movement in Canada has been advocating for years for an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan. We need to lift all seniors out of poverty, AND we need to do our part to help refugees settle in this country.

debunking the chain email comparing refugees to pensioners

A History of Labour Support for Refugees and Justice

The labour movement has a long history of supporting refugees and standing up for fairer and more equitable policies in Canada. 

For example, in 2002, the CLC headed the Colombia Pilot Project, which brought Colombian union members and their families faced with persecution and assassination to Canada. This was a ground-breaking achievement for unions in Canada who, with the help of the CLC, became designated Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) with the responsibility of acting as private refugee sponsors. 

Canadian unions have continued this work, developing policies and advocating for the rights and protection of refugees. 

As the Syrian refugee crisis escalated, the CLC joined with many other organizations to call on our former federal government to do more to help. For example, the CLC and its affiliates wanted Canada to stop hindering, the efforts of private citizens and organizations and remove barriers to the private refugee sponsorship. 

Unions have also been strong advocates for the full restoration of coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program. They have also demanded less red tape around private sponsorships. 

In October 2015, the CLC established a special fund, in partnership with the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), to help support the settlement of Syrian refugees in Canada. That fund has raised more than $200,000 so far. 

The Waterloo Regional Labour Council intends to do its part to stand up against racism and get involved in local efforts to welcome refugees to our community. We're proud to do this work.


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  • commented 2016-03-30 17:21:02 -0400
    I so appreciate the clear messaging and wisdom. Refugees, private or government sponsored, and asylum seekers do not get a free ride. Would WRLC like to part of World Refugee Day 2016 planning? contact jhowitt@regionofwaterloo.ca
  • commented 2016-02-11 12:43:56 -0500
    I heard Marc on the radio this morning. you were very eloquent. Thank you for giving me a response to those hateful facebook posts