2017 Refugees Welcome Here! Week (March 6-10)

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Graduate Students in front of Centre for Refugee Studies


Refugees Welcome Here! Week (March 6-10) at the Keele Campus of York University features York students and campus groups supported by York U’s Syria Response and Refugee Initiative (www.yorku.ca/refugees) working together under a common banner to engage the campus and wider community around refugee rights and protection. Please follow the latest updates on the event’s facebook page!

The week includes student and community activism and speakers including some of the most prominent refugee advocates and human rights activists in Canada, as well as a renowned scholar and human rights activist from Mexico.

Participating groups include:  Amnesty International at York, CARL Osgoode, Centre for Refugee Studies and its Student Caucus, CERLAC, Islamic Relief, RefugeAid, Refugee Health Outreach, U of Mosaic York U Fellows, UNICEF York and WUSC Keele.

Information on most of these student groups can be found at https://www.osgoode.yorku.ca/refugees/student-initiatives/ .

The week’s activities are as follows:

Day 1: Monday, March 6 – Lower Bear Pit Activism: Fundraising for Refugee Student Travel Loans, Painting for Solidarity and Student Group Tabling

Day 2: Tuesday, March 7 – 1) “Footsteps of a Refugee” Interactive Activity and 2) Film Screening

Day 3: Wednesday, March 8 *International Women’s Day*  1) Women in Refugee and Migration Law and Advocacy Career Panel and 2) Violence in Mexico and Canadian Refugee Policy- Speaker and Panel

Day 4: Thursday, March 9 – Panel Discussion

Day 5: Friday, March 10 – Bake Sale for Refugee Food Security

Please check out and attend the week’s events and give generously to support York community sponsored refugee students! Our social media hashtags for the week are  #yurefugees , #yurefugeeweek and #refugeeswelcome .

These activities are in part inspired by a Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International Canada Refugees Welcome Here! campaign.

Day 1: Monday, March 6


10:00 am – 4:00 pm

a) Krispy Kreme Doughnuts FUNDRAISER with Unicef at York U to Abolish Refugee Transportation Loans!

To help kick off “Refugees Welcome Here!” Week, UNICEF at York will be selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts for $1 (plus any additional donation) in the lower bear pit near the Scott Library. In addition to raising awareness about a harmful public policy, the proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to help two recent WUSC (World University of Canada) sponsored refugee students on our Keele campus to pay off their transportation loans.

The Canadian government charges refugees resettled to Canada for their flight to Canada, leaving many individuals and families indebted up to several thousand dollars. As a result refugee youth often work extra long hours while going to school, or even postpone further education because of the need to pay back this debt. Along with the Canadian Council for Refugees, the organizers of Refugees Welcome Here! week are calling on the Canadian government to abolish transportation loans and cover these travel expenseshttp://ccrweb.ca/en/refugee-transportation-loan-infographic . Those visiting the doughnut sale will be invited to send a post card with this demand to the Immigration Minister or their Member of Parliament. Anyone that would like to make an donation to this cause may contact Amina Khan at khan.mina@hotmail.com .

b) PAINTING FOR SOLIDARITY with Amnesty International at York (AIY)

“To kick off a week filled with educational, insightful, and impactful events about refugee rights, Amnesty International at York invites all to join us in the Bear Pit from 10am-4pm in an art-filled day for solidarity. Sketch, write, paint, and draw to your heart’s content on our interactive canvas to make it clear that refugees are welcome here! In addition, various petitions regarding refugee rights will be available for you to sign, which will be mailed to Canadian government officials calling for a reformation of the Safe Third Country Agreement. We hope to see you there!

c) Tabling and awareness raising by participating student groups from the week’s events!

Come out and meet the student groups that have organized the week’s events and learn about refugee and policy issues!

Day 2: Tuesday, March 7

1) RefugeAid “Foot Steps of a Refugee” Interactive Activity

10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Lower Bear Pit Near Scott Library

With the world currently facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War 2, millions have fled their homes in different circumstances. The purpose of these activities is to raise awareness of the plight of refugees. Organized by RefugeAid, the purpose of this interactive activity is to help inform visitors about the reality and dangers of the journeys that many refugees face, with a focus on transportation and shelter. Stations in the activity will include statistics reflecting the number of refugees that take those routes and the dangers/consequences that may follow from taking those routes.

2) WUSC Keele & Islamic Relief Film Screening

4:30 to 6:30pm, 280N York Lanes

WUSC Keele and Islamic Relief will be screening the 2016 feature documentary Cast from the Storm. Join us to explore (through film) the extraordinary stories of a group of teenage refugees and the transformation of their experiences into a stage performance. Refreshments will be served.

“A coming of age story, this uplifting documentary shares the reality of what it means to be a teenager and a displaced person. This is the story of what comes after, and what it means to remake your home.”

Day 3: Wednesday, March 8

1) CARL-Osgoode: Women in Refugee and Migration Law and Advocacy Career Panel

3:00-4:30pm, Osgoode Hall Law School – Ignat Kaneff Building Room 2027

In recognition of the spirit and purpose of International Women’s Day, a discussion on working in the field of refugee and migration law and advocacy, with women lawyers and legal activists leading in these fields.

Panelists: Barbara Jackman (Jackman, Nazami & Associates), Maureen Silcoff (Silcoff Shacter) and Shalini Konanur (Executive Director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario)

Barbara Jackman, Maureen Silcoff and Shalini Konanur are trailblazers in the field of immigration and refugee law. They will be speaking to students about their legal activism, the challenges facing women in law and advocacy, the needs of women migrants, and what needs to be done now.


2) Violence in Mexico and Canadian Refugee Policy: The 2017 Winter Michael Baptista Lecture

5:00-8:30pm, Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theater – Accolade East Building
Dr. Sergio Aguayo and a Prestigious Panel of Canadian Immigration and Human Rights Experts

Renowned scholar and human rights activist Sergio Aguayo will speak on the deepening humanitarian crisis in Mexico, which has been marked by the targeted assassination of journalists, the mass disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers college, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands in a war between the state and powerful drug cartels. To escape criminal violence as well as poverty, millions of Mexicans and Central Americans have fled north to the United States and Canada in recent years. A panel of immigration experts will examine the implications for Canadian immigration policy, at a time when Donald Trump enacts the immigration measures he has long promised, while the Trudeau government lifts the visa requirement for Mexican citizens introduced by its predecessor.

Commentators Judy Hellman of York U, Canadian Council for Refugees President Loly Rico and Amnesty International’s Kathy Price will discuss the humanitarian challenges now facing policy makers and civil society in Canada. Discussions will be chaired by York University’s Luin Goldring and Alan Simmons.

Organized by York’s Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC). CERLAC thanks its co-sponsors: Common Frontiers, Casa Maiz, Amnesty International, the Centre for Refugee Studies.


Day 4: Thursday, March 9

RefugeAid Organized Speakers Session: Fahad Al and Mariam Hamaoui

4:00-7pm, 280N York Lanes

Fahad Al has served refugees with all 13 clusters that are identified by the United Nations. He is currently working with IDPs (internally displaced persons). He will touch on several issues, his experience on the ground, the impact of the recent travel ban announced in the United States, and briefly discuss ways students can get involved and do humanitarian aid from home in Canada.

Mariam Hamaoui, a York Religious Studies grad is currently a Settlement Counselor at Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services. She serves the Arabic-Speaking population, particularly Syrian refugees. She is also currently the Co-Founder and President of RefugeAid (www.refugeaid.com), a non-religious and non profit organization designed to raise awareness for refugees and asylum seekers around the world.

Day 5: Friday, March 10

Bake Sale for Refugee Food Security in our Community!

10:00 AM-2:00 PM  (Upper Bear Pit near Scott Library)

Refugee Health Outreach, WUSC Keele, and U of Mosaic Fellows are organizing a bake sale on Friday in the Upper Bear Pit from 10:00 AM-2:00 PM, where all proceeds will assist in supplying food vouchers to refugees in our community in an effort to address food insecurity.