Refugees are in the news: some 30,000 Syrian refugees arrived in Canada between November 2015 and August 2016, a number unprecedented since the days of Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Laotian refugees, 60,000 of whom came between 1979-1981. The year 2016 stands to receive the highest number of resettled refugees ever. Levels of private refugee sponsorship have soared. Is this a new kind of Canadian nationalism?
The federal minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, John MacCallum, has pledged to share Canadian unique expertise, experience, and success with other countries interested in exploring private sponsorship for refugees. Education is being touted as a possible protection strategy to the extent that universities across the world can offer full scholarships to qualified students from refugee-producing countries. Once again, Canada leads the way with World University Services of Canada (WUSC) taking the lead with scholarships for the strongest refugee students whose studies have been interrupted by violence and displacement. At York, these full scholarships have grown from one to four in a year, with a pledge to host 5 new students in 2017-2018.
York and Osgoode Hall have joined forces with Ryerson University’s Lifeline Syria Challenge to create ten teams of campus private sponsors (students, faculty and community members) matched with twelve Syrian families yet to arrive in Canada. CRS has been asked to host the Syria Response and Refugee Initiative for 2016-2017.
CRS also supports colleagues who lead the pioneering Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project which aims to bring Canadian (and Kenyan) education to refugees rather than refugees to education in Canada. Working in collaboration with UBC and Kenyatta and Moi universities, York courses are taught face-to-face in Dadaab refugee camps and virtually, with concurrent sections of a course in Toronto and Dadaab. See http://www.bher.org
Canada is likely to take over as chair of the Executive Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in October 2016, creating a political space to influence global refugee policy and practice. The federal government has held multiple consultations in 2016 to improve its asylum and immigration policies, and to map out its direction in relation to the international refugee regime.
The Centre for Refugee Studies is uniquely positioned to take on these challenges, with a focus on original research of displacement in so-called ‘regions of origin’, but CRS researchers also analyze how resettlement within Canada happens and where social and economic integration fails. Based in Toronto – a city where more than 49% of residents are born outside the country – CRS researchers are well-placed to conduct international research on human displacement, and study the diasporas it produces here in the GTA: the ‘world in a city’.
In that vein, CRS is delighted to announce Dr. Michaela Hynie (and her team) successful CIHR grant to be hosted by CRS: “Refugee integration and long-term health outcomes in Canada.” The project will compare how government-assisted refugee (GAR) and private-sponsored refugee (PSR) resettlement programs support long-term social integration pathways for refugees and the impact of these pathways on physical and mental health over 5 years.
In May 2017, York will host the 5th Annual Ontario Climate Symposium featuring themes of climate justice ‘a century ahead’, and highlighting indigenous perspectives. CRS is committed to understanding environmental displacement related to resource extraction, conservation practices, and development, as well as climate change.
In short, we’ve got a lot going on. Stop by and check us out.
Director, Centre for Refugee Studies