Mayor Jim Watson launches Refugee 613, United for Refugees at Public Forum

Ottawa – Today, Mayor Jim Watson welcomed residents, local agencies, and subject-matter experts at City Hall to mobilize the community to help refugees of the Syrian crisis. The Mayor’s Public Forum on Syrian Refugee Resettlement Efforts saw the launch of Refugee 613, a short-term project in response to the global refugee crisis, and United for Refugees, a new fundraising initiative to support local sponsorship and settlement efforts.

More than 22 community agencies and faith groups were represented at the forum, as well as an information fair featuring community organizations involved with refugees, and a dynamic panel discussion with a question and answer period.

“Ottawa has an extraordinary resource pool of experience, insight and wisdom when it comes to issues of refugee resettlement,” said Mayor Watson. “We’re not sure how many and we’re not sure when, but we want to be ready to welcome these families properly when they do arrive. Like Canada, Ottawa has the reputation of being a place that is friendly to newcomers from around the globe, regardless of their background. We want to showcase Ottawa’s generosity by getting residents to help in one of two ways: either by sponsoring a family through Refugee613, or by donating through United for Refugees.”

Refugee 613

Community groups and concerned citizens created Refugee 613 as a short-term project in response to the global refugee crisis. Refugee 613 will coordinate refugee resettlement efforts in Ottawa and act as a clearing house for information and activities related to refugee settlement. is intended to be the first point of reference for anyone interested in sponsoring refugees, volunteering their time or learning where to donate.

“The goal of Refugee 613 is to relieve the pressure on local settlement agencies and help residents who want to offer a safe haven to people caught up in the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe,” said Louisa Taylor, director of Refugee 613. “We know Ottawa has a big heart, and we’re here to help.”

United for Refugees

Launched by United Way Ottawa, Community Foundation of Ottawa, the City of Ottawa, Refugee 613 and other community partners, United for Refugees will focus on raising the necessary funds for the sponsorship and settlement of refugees affected by the Syrian crisis.

“Ottawa is uniting to welcome refugees of the Syrian crisis as an important part of our community,” said Michael Allen, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Way Ottawa. “We are so proud to be part of this important initiative. Together, we can lift these families out of despair and offer hope.We can help bring refugees to Ottawa and give them the best start in their new lives.”

People can make a contribution by visiting (#UnitedforRefugees) or calling 613-228-6767.

Refugee Sponsorship Support Program

Also present tonight were many members of the legal community who have come forward to facilitate the process for residents. These approximately 40 lawyers from the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program were matched with residents wanting to sponsor refugees, to whom they will provide pro-bono legal advice and help in navigating the application process over the coming months.

The Refugee Sponsorship Support Program (SSP) by the uOttawa Refugee Hub brings together pro-bono lawyers, law students, and sponsorship experts to offer direct support to Canadians seeking to sponsor refugees. It aims to help more Canadians help more refugees, faster, by matching sponsoring groups with trained lawyers so that each group can have a designated ‘legal guide’ help them navigate the complex sponsorship process. Information for sponsoring groups seeking support and lawyers looking to help is available at