New Canadian Media

By: Jeremy J. Nuttall in Ottawa 

As a Vancouver society working to support refugees fears closure after being denied federal funding, a similar organization in Manitoba said Ottawa approached it to talk about providing funding earlier this year. 

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the government needs to provide consistent support as increasing numbers of people claiming refugee status cross the U.S. border. 

“That’s extremely disturbing,” Kwan said of the situation. “There needs to be consistency and fairness on the approach and they need to recognize their responsibility on this.” 

The Tyee reported Thursday on the possible closure of the Inland Refugee Society of BC, which has been overwhelmed by a wave of refugee claimants crossing into British Columbia from the U.S., many avoiding official border crossings. 

The number of people seeking support has more than doubled, executive director Mario Ayala said, and the society’s annual funding has been exhausted already. 

In the first five months of this year, the society has helped 700 undocumented refugee claimants find shelter. Ayala said if the organization closes, Metro Vancouver could see a spike in homeless refugees. 

The federal government has said it will not pitch in to close the funding gap, saying the undocumented asylum-seekers Ayala’s organization is helping don’t qualify for federal assistance. 

The B.C. government has also turned down the organization, he said. 

Ayala said Marta Morgan, the deputy minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said part of the reason the society wouldn’t receive funding is because the federal government “can’t be seen” to be helping undocumented refugees. 

Department spokesperson Nancy Chan said it does not comment on private conversations. 

Canada recognizes two broad classes of refugees: people who apply for asylum in another country before being accepted; and those who apply once in Canada, often referred to as undocumented refugees because they have not been vetted before arrival. 

Refugee claimants arriving from the U.S. can be turned away at official border crossings because Canada recognizes it as a safe country for those seeking asylum. 

As a result, an increasing number of asylum seekers have been crossing the U.S.-Canadian border between official points of entry to claim refugee status. 

Kwan said Canada has signed international agreements to recognize refugees who make a claim once in the country, and shouldn’t abandon them. 

“If the government is taking the position to say ‘no, we can’t be seen to be supporting these refugee claimants,’ then that is very troubling,” she said. 

But while the B.C. society was told the government wouldn’t provide help for such refugee claimants, the head of a Manitoba organization offering the same services said Ottawa actually approached asking them to submit a funding request.

The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council helps refugees find temporary shelter and settlement services and has assisted 618 people this year. 

Executive director Rita Chahal said the government asked her several months ago what kind of support the organization needs. 

“I was approached by a couple of project officers to submit a budget, which we did,” Chahal said. “No one has followed up on it, no one has contacted us to see if they reviewed it and what their position might be.”

Chahal said the federal government has always held the position that it would not help undocumented refugees.

Despite the request for a funding proposal, Chahal said she isn’t expecting any money. 

She said the Manitoba government helps her organization’s efforts with $110,000 per year in funding. The council also raises money from other donors. 

The Manitoba Ministry of Education and Training, citing a June 13 byelection, said it couldn’t comment on the decision to fund the council. 

But a press release in February quoted Manitoba Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister. 

“Just as we have opened our arms to newcomers for centuries, our province continues to provide significant supports to those organizations offering direct services to refugee claimants,” Pallister said. “Our focus remains on measures that will ensure both the welfare of refugee claimants and the continued safety and security of residents of border towns.” 

Kwan said the federal government can’t encourage one society struggling with lack of money to apply for funding while telling another there’s no chance of getting help.

She said she’s worried a wave of homeless refugees will be forced to the streets of Vancouver if someone doesn’t step up with support.  

Republished with permission from The Tyee.

Published in Politics

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

A graphic novel that creates awareness about sexual abuse among immigrant and refugee women has upped its print order barely a month after its launch in Ontario. The overwhelming demand has come from far beyond just refugee and immigrant-settlement groups. 

"We have requests from outside of the province, from other parts of the country as well as internationally," says Krittika Ghosh, senior coordinator of women sexual violence at Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI).

This demand is a clear indication that there is a dire need to help such women who are new to the country due to the scarcity of their resources. Smaller friend circles coupled with language barriers and limited education result in suffering in seclusion. 

Statistics tell that one in three women in Canada encounters sexual abuse or violence in one way or another.

"They range from people asking for one copy for a library, to some agencies asking for 500 copies in each language. So it's really unique."

Breaking down barriers

Titled "Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women's Resilience", the unique novel that is written by and for immigrant and refugee women looks to break down barriers that hinder the reporting of abuse. 

The project is a joint venture between the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and Le Mouvement Ontarien des Femmes Immigrantes Francophones (MOFIF).

The novel, launched on March 2, illustrates four stories of newcomer women – victims of domestic abuse, workplace abuse, and date rape. The book helps create a narrative around this deeply sensitive topic and enables victims to empower themselves to shine a light on this often unreported crime. 

Unlike other story formats, the graphic novel was written with input gathered through workshops conducted with 40 immigrant or refugee women, who shared their stories and worked with illustrator Coco Guzman.

First-person accounts

"Each story is the outcome of a four-day workshop of newcomer or refugee women and many cases were survivors of sexual and intimate kind of violence," says Ghosh.

It helps people realize that there is no need to suffer in silence as help is available. 

It also challenges stereotypes of survivors and to show that they are resilient and capable of organizing to end violence themselves. 

Explaining the choice of format, Ghosh says, "We wanted it to be in a format that would be more available and accessible and something that people would want to read."

Growing demand

Professionals and groups beyond social workers, teachers, public libraries, immigrant and refugee welcome groups and the police are reaching out for the book.

The book is available free of cost and is not meant for sale.

The novel is available in 11 languages, including French and English.

OCASI and MOFIF had 7,000 copies in English, 3,000 in French and 1,000 in nine other languages including Arabic, Tamil, Chinese, Punjabi and Somali, in the first print run. The plan is to also have the stories available online.

OCASI website has an online form, where the book can be ordered. So far, it has received around 80 orders from different individuals and settlement agencies.

"They range from people asking for one copy for a library, to some agencies asking for 500 copies in each language. So it's really unique," according to Ghosh.

Fear of blame

The novel highlights that fear of blame, along with possibilities of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination never stopped these real-life characters from acting with courage and resilience. 

Intervention brings positive twists to these live stories. 

Kose's story revolves around deceit and marital rape accompanied by threats of deportation. Magali's story is based on workplace sexual abuse, whereas, Amal's story portrays student-teacher sexual harassment and Manuela's story is an illustration of date rape. 

In all of the stories there is a caring individual, whether it be a friend or relative, who intervenes with educational information. This portrays how people can counter violence against women by beginning conversations and taking action within their communities. 

Published in Books

 

 

OTTAWA—Delays in the resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey to Canada are likely to grow even longer after a failed coup attempted there last week.

Securing exit permits for Syrians in Turkey had already been a difficult process, holding up the Liberal government’s plans last fall to resettle thousands of people from there as part of their landmark program to bring 25,000 Syrians to Canada in a matter of months.

 

Epoch Times

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Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 21 July 2016 15:01

Surrey hosts Refugee Welcome Day

THE City of Surrey hosted a Welcome Day for new refugees at City Hall on Wednesday. The family-oriented event was held to welcome the newcomers and encourage their participation in the community.  Equally important, the Welcome Day provided another opportunity for community engagement between residents and the newcomers to Surrey.

“We are proud to host this Welcome Day for the new refugees who now call Surrey home,” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner. “The City of Surrey celebrates its diversity and inclusiveness. The generosity and goodwill the new refugees have come across in Surrey will go a long way in helping them achieve success in our City.”

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National

WASHINGTON—A Canadian politician offered a positive view of the country’s experiences with Syrian refugees during a July 11 briefing session south of the border, where the current political climate is far less welcoming of migrants.

Arif Virani shared some observations about Canada’s experience during a briefing session on Capitol Hill attended by a number of U.S. congressional staffers and moderated by the Washington bureau chief of The Economist magazine.

 

Epoch Times

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Published in International

by Robin Arthur in Halifax

 

The global community will observe World Refugee Day on June 20 to call attention to the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. There are now about 60 million people displaced around the world.

 

In Canada, the Humanitarian Coalition has launched a national campaign to generate funds. The campaign “Help Them Dream Again” aims to mobilize all Canadians in support of refugees worldwide. The campaign has already enlisted the backing of key corporate and media partners and Canadian businesses are joining the effort.

 

CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Quebec, Plan International Canada and Save the Children are collaborating with partners including the UNHCR Canada, World Vision Canada, Islamic Relief Canada and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to meet the urgent needs of refugees and displaced people worldwide.

 

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Published in Top Stories

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 

Canadian writers and educators are expressing a need for more children’s books about refugee and diaspora stories that reflect Canada’s diversity. 

“It was very difficult several years ago when we tried to promote diverse kids’ books,” says Sheila Koffman, who hosted the workshop “Diverse Kid Lit” at the first-ever Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, ON. Koffman has owned and managed Another Story Bookshop, an independent bookstore in Toronto, for nearly 30 years. 

“We started in a basement of a house,” she shares. “We went around [to] schools, doing presentations and selling books.”
 
When she first began as a bookseller, Koffman was the only one showcasing diverse books – an experience that she says was “very devastating” because of the criticism she faced and the challenge of low book sales.
 
Since then, things have improved. Her bookstore has received many invitations to do presentations at different school boards, who are now very welcoming of Koffman’s diverse children's literature.  

Stories of Canada’s kids

“There weren’t nearly enough diverse kids books in Canada,” Koffman says, adding she still relies on diverse children’s literature from England and the United States to stock her shelves. 

“We have a lot diverse children books in Canada, but we need more.”

“We have a lot diverse children books in Canada, but we need more,” says author and educator Nadia Hohn.
 
At the workshop, Hohn presented her children’s picture book Malaika’s Costume, a story loosely based on her childhood. The story starts with the first Caribbean Carnival that Malaika attends as a child 
after she moved to Canada with her mother. Hohn explains that many children, like Malaika, have come to Canada with their parents who must find work abroad to provide for their family.

“This is a fact for so many kids, not only Caribbean kids, but kids from so many ethnicities . . .” explains Hohn. “Growing up in Canada, a lot of children don’t know about how some of their classmates live. That’s their reality.” 

From Joseph’s Big Ride, about a child refugee’s bicycle dream, to Sex Is a Funny Word, which is about gender identity, human bodies and sexuality, Koffman introduced a few examples of diverse children’s literature authored or published by Canadians.
 
She says there are not enough books for youth that discuss mental health – particularly mental health issues affecting immigrants and refugees.
 
Jael Richardson, Artistic Director of FOLD, introduced her new children’s book The Stone Thrower along with illustrator Matt James.
 
Based on a true story, The Stone Thrower tells of how Richardson’s father, Chuck Ealey, grew up in a poor and racially segregated community in Ohio and found refuge in Canada. The book’s cover features a photo of a young, Black man throwing a football. Ealey eventually became a professional player in the Canadian Football League.
 

“Most authors have full-time jobs and are doing this on the side.”

Supporting independent authors

Hohn attended Koffman’s presentation as the founder of Sankofa, a collective of authors of African and Caribbean descent. 

“I try to learn as much as I can to help me as an author and a writer,” explains Hohn. 

She says authors from diverse backgrounds need support to write books that fit the needs of children.

“Most authors have full-time jobs and are doing this on the side,” Hohn explains. “Especially if you are self-published, you are paying for everything out-of-pocket.”

She adds that self-published writers face the additional challenge of not having their books showcased in certain bookstores and catalogues.

“Some libraries just started to accept some independently published books, so if most of the books published by Black authors are self-published and so many doors are closed, that means those books are not getting into where they need to,” she says.

“Those books are windows to other worlds for our kids to learn about lives of kids from other ethnicities or even in their own country.”

Diverse literature gaining momentum 

Hohn says she teaches in a school that has a mandate to reflect Black or Caribbean history, and believes all schools should reflect the diversity of Canada in their books. 

“I don't think we should wait for the books to reflect the kids. Those books are windows to other worlds for our kids to learn about lives of kids from other ethnicities or even in their own country,” she explains. 
 
FOLD, which Richardson says started two years ago in a coffee shop in downtown Brampton, is working toward this.
 
“Over the past year, provincial and municipal organizations, Canadian publishers, industry professionals, local companies, and community partners have stepped up to bring nearly 40 authors and performers to Brampton, delivering more than 30 sessions and events that showcase diverse Canadian literary talent and provide training for emerging writers,” Richardson says.
 

FOLD’s inauguration took place from May 6 to 8.


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Books
Saturday, 26 March 2016 08:04

MOSAIC Awarded Refugee Readiness Funds

VANCOUVER – The BC Government has announced that MOSAIC will lead the Metro Vancouver Refugee Response Team (RRT).  The organization will convene a community RRT comprised of 38 diverse memberships, to include:  private sponsorship groups; settlement service agencies; healthcare providers; education organizations; social service agencies; the business sector; Syrian community; and municipal staff to identify [...]

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Published in National

by Beatrice Paez in Toronto

It had been such a whirlwind process, Zuhir says of the journey that he and his family took earlier this year from Jordan — where they had lived as refugees for four years — to Canada.

Now that they’re here, Zuhir and his family are one of many that have yet to settle into a normal life in Canada. For now, they remain in a state of limbo, residing at the Toronto Plaza Hotel home and unsure of their next steps in the country.

The Syrian family of seven had been given a month’s notice by the Canadian government to settle their affairs in Jordan. They had no time to even sell their furniture, only to pack their things and leave.

But he has no regrets, says Zuhir, speaking through a translator. 

“Once it happens, you don’t want to lose your chance,” he says. “I’d rather lose the furniture than lose the chance to go to Canada.” 

But the haste in which they left also meant that there was no opportunity for an in-depth orientation on life in Canada, he says. 

He was told to expect a two-week stay at a hotel in Toronto. It’s now been about a month and a half, and they’re still unaware of when they might finally find a place to call their own.

Life at the hotel

Large families like Zuhir’s run into more difficulty when persuading landlords to take them on, explains Abubaker Bennsir, who works at the TARIC Islamic Centre

Settlement groups like COSTI Immigrant Services are currently overwhelmed with cases, which hobbles its ability to help refugees like Zuhir not only find permanent housing, but navigate their new country. 

“I’d rather lose the furniture than lose the chance to go to Canada.”

Fortunately, TARIC, a convenient three-minute walk from Zuhir’s hotel, extended its community programming this year to help integrate Syrian refugees. It has opened its gym for the children to play soccer in and has held dinners and informal sessions on language training and Canadian culture. 

For Zuhir and his friend Diab-Bakora, visits to TARIC break up the routine of roaming the hotel. “It’s [usually] the restaurant, room and lobby,” says Zuhir, speaking of the places he visits on an average day.

As frustrated as they are that they haven’t quite settled yet, Diab-Bakora says the refugees are fortunate that the hotel is surrounded by a complex of shops, fast-food restaurants and a grocery store. There have also been organized trips to Harbourfront Centre and the Ontario Science Centre.

Experiencing the local community

When families meet with Dr. Paul Caulford, medical director of the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care (CRIHC), he advises them to seek out opportunities to get to know the city. 

Caulford says it can help them cope with the uncertainty of adjusting to an unfamiliar place. “I [tell them, I] want you out and about,” he says. “We’re trying to get them exercising, get them out.” 

Since they can’t just hop on the bus or subway in a city which they hardly know and whose language they can’t speak, the Islamic centre pairs families with mentors who help them understand how things work. They’re taught how to take public transit, go to a bank and shop at supermarkets, says Haroon Salamat, chairman of TARIC. 

For Zuhir and his friend Diab-Bakora, visits to TARIC break up the routine of roaming the hotel.

There are other practical lessons. For instance, the children have had to learn that garbage is tossed in the can, not on the floor, says Salamat: “We’re using this opportunity to sensitize them to Canadian customs.”

Support from the mosque — which also welcomes Syrian Christian refugees — has given families “a level of comfort” and it has done much to boost their spirits, says Bennsir. 

“They thought they would be somewhere where nobody would understand them,” he comments. 

The centre has helped act as their translators and interlocutor. It has tried, for instance, to get the kitchen to prepare food that reminded the children of home. Some refugees have volunteered to cook occasionally, but staff had to politely decline because of health and safety considerations. 

Taking steps towards integration

Although most have not been vocal in their complaints, Salamat can sense that many refugees are anxious about moving forward, and the children are eager to enrol in school. 

Zuhir's and Diab-Bakora’s children attend a school nearby, but they say they’re not formally integrated and that the school is more like a daycare because it doesn’t offer ESL training. 

Diab-Bakora is hopeful that once they secure housing, schooling won’t be an issue.

For children who have to overcome trauma, getting them back to school is the best approach to managing their PTSD, says Caulford. He’s met with a six-year-old boy who has been unable to speak since he witnessed the killing of his uncle in Syria. 

Salamat can sense that many refugees are anxious about moving forward.

“[The way] to get the boy talking is to throw him [in] with a group of his peers in a classroom,” says Caulford. “That hasn’t happened yet for four weeks now. We’re frustrated with that.”

While many adults are still reluctant to confront the trauma they’ve endured by opening up to a counsellor or seeking treatment, Caulford notes that they’re much more willing to avail of the special clinic for their children. 

“They don’t want to get bogged down. They’re focused on getting food on the table,” he says. “It’s a defence mechanism. If we were to encourage [them] to come out now, we could really hobble their progress. They would start becoming more depressed.” 

In the meantime, places like the Islamic centre are focusing their efforts on providing another refuge for the Syrians while they wait.  

“The kids play a bit of soccer. We’re teaching them a few words in English,” Salamat says. “It keeps the kids out of mischief and running around aimlessly. We want them to feel that things are moving along.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

When you think of integrating refugees into a society, providing them with access to higher education is often considered less of a priority than food, shelter and medical care.

Some experts believe, though, that it’s especially important both for the economy of the host country and for the long-term recovery of war-torn communities and states.

Over the past many years, the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa have displaced a large number of refugees aged 18 to 25 years old. These conflicts have resulted in crackdowns on universities in Egypt, closures of campuses in Yemen and Libya and bombings in Syria and Gaza, all of which have aggravated the plight of the educated youth.  

According to Hans de Wit, professor and director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, higher education for these refugees should not be considered a challenge, but an opportunity.

De Wit explains, “Higher education in particular plays an important role in stimulating the possibilities for alternative pathways [for] refugees rather than putting them into camps, where they cannot learn, work or do anything.” 

He continues, “The alternative is to use their pre-educational skills and educate them further."

“[With] education, you give them perspective. The trauma is worst when you don’t give them any hope,” he adds. “Many of them have lived in camps for years and the end result is that they cannot go back.”

Refugees as an investment

De Wit’s report, "The Syrian Refugee Crisis and Higher Education," suggests that politically-displaced victims, unlike economically-displaced refugees, are better educated and potentially easier to integrate in the labour market in receiving countries. 

This label applies to the current refugees escaping Syria, Iraq and Kurdistan, many of whom have been forced out of their countries due to violent conflict.

The report, coauthored by research professor and founding director of the Center, Philip Altbach, further suggests that while these refugees are often seen as victims and an economic burden, they offer new talent to the host country in the long run.

“Many media reports feature articulate, English-speaking young professionals from the Middle East expressing their hopes to continue their education or obtain skilled jobs and contribute to European economies,” it states. 

“Higher education in particular plays an important role in stimulating the possibilities for alternative pathways [for] refugees."

The researchers argue that this is not merely advantageous for the refugees, but for the profile of the university they attend as well. It is a way to internationalize the campus, making it more competitive as a higher education institution.

Nadia Abu-Zahra from the University of Ottawa, says that be they students, researchers or professors, Syrian refugees are often top quality academics, and calls them an “intellectual wealth." 

“Refugees either landing in Norway, Denmark or Canada — whoever gets the highest number of these academics will have an incredible increase in their intellectual wealth” she says.

She insists, “If you are wise you will incur them. Those [academics] fled their home countries, will stay connected to international trends and will not only give back to the host country, but to the world.” 

Importance of the "lost generation"

In another report on Syrian students and scholars living in Lebanon, Keith David Watenpaugh describes them as the “lost generation” of college-age students.  

"The War Follows Them" states that there are up to 70,000 displaced university-age Syrian students in Lebanon. It estimates that only 10,000 of them are enrolled in Lebanese universities. Another 60,000 college-age Syrian refugees are living in Jordan and 70,000 are in Turkey. 

Watenpaugh describes them as the  “lost generation” of college-age students.

Watenpaugh highlights the need for international policy changes regarding higher education and its role in the rebuilding of war-zones. 

He states that “the war will end, but the young people who would be integral in rebuilding the country are being left behind.”

Watenpaugh stresses the need for increased research and aid for these populations to help post-conflict countries rebuild successfully.

“The focus on elementary education is important, but we must ask who the Syrian teachers in the future will be if we neglect the university students now,” says a UNESCO education specialist in the report. 

Rebuilding for the future

In their report, "The Importance of Higher Education for Syrian Refugees," Sansom Milton and Sultan Barakat speak about the challenges of restoration and the importance of higher education for refugees: “The severe toll that regional conflicts have taken on higher education is further compounded by a failure to appreciate the strategic role of the sector in stabilizing and promoting the recovery of war-torn communities and states.”

Their paper further emphasizes the abilities of the younger generation and says, “Higher education, properly supported, is able to act as a catalyst for the recovery of war-torn countries in the Arab world, not only by supplying the skills and knowledge needed to reconstruct shattered economic and physical infrastructure, but also by supporting the restoration of collapsed governance systems and fostering social cohesion.”

Milton and Barakat are advocating for international policy changes regarding higher education.

These changes would involve greater protection of academic institutions in times of war, augmented university networks to promote academic solidarity and more funding to rebuild higher education in the aftermath of conflict. 

This question will be debated by education leaders at the British Council’s Going Global 2016 conference in Cape Town in May.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education
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The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

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