County Council approves $1,500 for refugee family

January 20, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Last Thursday’s County Council meeting was a rather quiet and quick evening, with the largest part of the night consisting of reports from Council members on the various committee meetings. Mono Deputy Mayor Ken McGhee stood in to run the meeting for Warden Laura Ryan, who was absent due to the death of her father, William Needles.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her at this difficult time,” said Deputy Mayor McGhee, at the beginning of the meeting.

Mr. Needles, 97, was a prestigious actor at the Stratford Festival, and the stage veteran who inspired Master Thespian, a Saturday Night Live character. He worked at the Stratford Festival for 47 seasons, starting at Stratford in its inaugural season.

Entering into the County Council meeting, there was only one delegation — a group called New Neighbours which has begun the process of sponsoring a Syrian Refugee family. The family they are working with has five member, a father, mother, two sons and a daughter. After their fourth child was killed by a barrel bomb, the family fled to Jordan, where they have been living ever since.

One of the group’s members, Lori Ker, is heavily involved with the local food bank and other initiatives, and spoke on behalf of the group with member Trevor Lewis, to request that County Council help provide financial assistance for bringing the family over.

Mulmur Deputy Mayor Heather Hayes was in favour of supporting this group as well, if there were funds available following the support of the other three groups.

“I’m not sure if we have any funds left,” said Deputy Mayor McGhee. “The funding from the others came from a surplus in 2015. This was part of why we referred this to the Community Services Committee.”

He added that another part of the referral was due to the fact these groups may require additional assistance once these families arrive, outside of the financial help.

“There may be other needs, other things that need to be done, including with the family that is already here,” he said.

The Community Services Committee has been working on a draft guideline for funding when it comes to groups helping refugees, said Keith Palmer, Director of Community Services.

“The draft guideline includes a maximum amount of funding available per group that requests it,” he explained. “The Contribution will max out at $1000 per group, and we will identify in the report the suggestion that Council should draw from the grant pot to distribute the funds until September 2016.”

The reason for the deadline was that this is not a permanent policy being developed, but rather one specific to the Syrian refugee crisis. Further discussion about the draft guideline will occur at the Community Services meeting on January 28.

The New Neighbours Group has currently been able to raise $16,500 of the $30,000 needed to be able to support a Syrian refugee family. Although they have a group of five people who have committed to make up the difference of what is not obtained through fundraising, they would still like to see more raised before requesting that.

The first two groups to approach County Council were provided with $1,500 from a 2015 budget surplus, while the third group received $1,500 money remaining from the Warden’s expense account.

“The precedent has currently been set at $1500, and until the policy passes at Council, we should honour that,” said Don MacIver, Mayor of Amaranth. “Consider it so moved, that we take $1500 from the Warden’s expense account.”

Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock, who served as Warden in 2015, confirmed that he felt moving the money from the Warden’s expense account shouldn’t be an issue.

“I hardly touched the expense account for 2015, as I was fortunate that there was no need to claim mileage due to most of the meetings being in Orangeville,” said Deputy Mayor Maycock. He added that even with claiming mileage, it was highly unlikely that Warden Ryan would burn through the total amount allotted.

The motion to provide the group with the $1500 carried, and the group will receive the funding from County Council.

By Tabitha Wells

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