Canadians see welcoming refugees as our top international contribution, survey finds

Canada can be a role model for the world when it comes to global migration say survey respondents – but advocates question if that’s enough.

Canadians increasingly believe multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion are their country’s most notable contribution to the world — a shift away from peacekeeping and foreign aid, according to a survey of over 1,500 Canadians released today.

The 2018 Canada’s World Survey, conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, is an update to a survey they first conducted in 2008. It measures how Canadian attitudes have shifted and looks at issues that have emerged over the past decade.

Despite major world events — from the global recession, terrorist attacks, increasing tensions with North Korea and growing frustration with Western governments — Canadians’ opinions have remained mostly consistent.

A majority of Canadians continue to see Canada as an international role model with 86 per cent of respondents saying the country can have a positive impact on world affairs — both in 2008 and in 2018.

Global migration and accepting refugees is the top global issue where Canadians believe the country can make a difference. Thirty-eight per cent of those surveyed say Canada can make a big difference, 44 per cent say the country can make some difference while 16 per cent said we could make little or no difference.

At the same time, 25 per cent of respondents think the most important contribution the country can make to the world is accepting immigrants and multiculturalism, a shift from ten years ago when peacekeeping topped the list.

Consideran una “aberración” actual política de refugiados de Canadá


Toronto.- Para el asesor de procesos de refugio en Canadá, Francisco Rico, es “una aberración” la negativa del actual primer ministro Stephen Harper de abrir las puertas del país a más refugiados sirios para hacer frente a la crisis en la región. “El gobierno ha dado un cambio rotundo en la política canadiense hacia los refugiados, pues anteriormente había programas para seleccionar refugiados en los propios países con violencia, pero Harper los suspendió”, agregó el co-director del Centro para los Refugiados FCJ, con sede en Toronto.

La foto del pequeño niño sirio Aylan Kurdi, de tres años, ahogado en una playa turca, tuvo especial impacto en Canadá pues el niño y su hermano, también fallecido, iban a ser traídos a este país. El hecho conmocionó a miles de canadienses quienes se están organizando para patrocinar a más familias sirias.Según datos del Ministerio de Inmigración y Ciudadanía de Canadá, en el periodo de enero a agosto de este año el gobierno emitió 308 visas para refugiados sirios referidos por la ONU, mientras que de forma privada se patrocinó a mil 513 en el mismo lapso.Después de que el diario The Globe and Mail publicó información relativa a la intervención directa de la oficina del primer ministro de Canadá en algunos casos de refugio del Medio Oriente, Harper tuvo que admitir que su gobierno “auditó” a los refugiados seleccionados por la ONU durante 2014 y 2015.“La auditoría que solicitamos a principios de este año fue para asegurar que nuestras políticas de refugio se estaban aplicando”, dijo Harper, aunque negó que algún funcionario político haya intervenido para aprobar o negar la solicitud de refugiados de la zona.

El ministro de Inmigración, Chris Alexander, admitió que el gobierno de Harper solicitó frenar el proceso de refugio de ciudadanos sirios hasta que no se completara su auditoría.

Francisco Rico refirió que Canadá, antes del actual gobierno, tenía programas como el Source Country List, es decir que en los países “productores” de refugiados había oficiales de migración que ayudaban a quienes corrían riesgo a procesar su trámite de refugio para sacarlo del país.

“Yo estoy vivo gracias a ese programa. A mí me sacaron junto con mi familia de El Salvador y me trajeron a Canadá, pues corríamos peligro por la guerra”, especificó.

Agregó que este programa operaba también en Guatemala, Colombia, Chile y otros países.

“En Siria sería importante tenerlo, pero el actual gobierno lo suspendió”.

El gobierno canadiense ha atado su política de refugio a los criterios de seguridad nacional, por lo que el número de refugiados traídos a Canadá no ha aumentado, añadió.

“Canadá no está invirtiendo más dinero para traer a refugiados sino que hay un hambre de la sociedad canadiense por ayudar a los refugiados sirios, por lo que se están organizando y recaudando fondos para patrocinar su traslado y reubicación”.

Rico consideró como una “mentira” del actual gobierno ocultar información sobre que estaban aplicando ciertos criterios “secretos” para aceptar a unos refugiados por encima de otros.

El trabajador social se refiere a la filtración en el diario nacional de mayor influencia en el sentido de que el gobierno canadiense está aplicando ciertos criterios, como religión, edad de los niños, si los potenciales refugiados hablan inglés o francés o si la persona ha emprendido algún negocio, para favorecer algunos casos sobre otros.

“Es el colmo, nunca se había visto que una oficina del primer ministro interviniera negativamente en el proceso de selección de refugiados”.

Con más de 24 años de codirigir el centro de refugiados, Rico consideró que el gobierno canadiense está “politizando la agenda humanitaria, la está destruyendo”.

Criticó que la política migratoria esté sujeta al deseo del primer ministro, lo que, dijo, es “una política dictatorial”, porque en una democracia tiene que haber transparencia a ese nivel.

Rico afirmó que el actual gobierno está impulsando una agenda de temor por el terrorismo que está polarizando a la población multicultural y se está reflejando en actos de xenofobia.

Harper se encuentra en campaña electoral en busca de la reelección para un cuarto mandato, lo cual decidirán los canadienses el próximo lunes 19 de octubre. La mayoría de las encuestas lo colocan en un segundo lugar, superado por pequeño margen por los liberales

Giving thanks for Canada: refugees on what this holiday means for them

Source: Toronto Star

By: Michael Robinson Staff Reporter, Published on Mon Oct 12 2015

For some refugees living in Toronto, Monday will mark their very first Canadian Thanksgiving. For others, the annual feast serves as a standing reminder of their journey to a place they now call home.

The Star spoke with several refugees to learn what they are thankful for this year.

  • Matthew House, a community refugee assistance organization

She may be far from Rwanda, but the East African country still weighs heavily on Fatimah Uwineza’s mind.

“When I came to Canada, I said, ‘This is my time to do what I wished for, to go back to school and become a biotechnologist,’” said Uwineza, who arrived in the country nine months ago. “Growing up in Africa, there is famine and hunger; people do not how to use additives to create more food.

“My knowledge in biotechnology will add something useful to fighting hunger. It will be my contribution to the place where I grew up.”

Erandes Dema travelled through 28 countries before finally settling in Canada. According to him, the country’s largest city has also has the biggest heart.

“Toronto loves me, and I love Toronto,” said Dema, who hails from Albania. “I am not afraid to ask someone on the street a question, even if my English doesn’t sound Canadian.”

Seven months post-landing, he already feels apart of the city, he said, despite an apparent immunity to Blue Jays fever.

“I just don’t understand the game … still getting used to baseball,” he said, adding his love for Toronto FC is more than enough for now.

Beatrice Balinda, left and Haben Tesfai take part in Thanksgiving dinner at the FCJ Refugee Centre.


Beatrice Balinda, left and Haben Tesfai take part in Thanksgiving dinner at the FCJ Refugee Centre.

  • FCJ Refugee Centre’s Thanksgiving

New Toronto arrivals expressed many reasons to be thankful during the FCJ Refugee Centre’s Thanksgiving dinner late last week.

Haben Tesfai said she was grateful for the Toronto-based organization that had helped her settle into her new home.

“As a newcomer, you are not aware of what access you have to services in Toronto,” the Eritrean refugee said. “The FCJ Centre helped me with shelter, the basic needs of life, and from there on, work, study permit applications and volunteering experiences.”

After just over a year in Toronto, Beatrice Balinda, originally from Uganda, was thankful for a simple yet overwhelming piece of personal news.

“I’m thankful for a successful refugee hearing,” she said, adding her claim for asylum was accepted in September.

Mohammed Barakat appreciates the freedom of expression he's found in Canada.

Todd Korol

Mohammed Barakat appreciates the freedom of expression he’s found in Canada.

  • Mohammed Barakat

Western-inspired music videos depicting “girls dancing without scarves” would eventually force Mohammed Barakat to flee from Gaza.

The Palestinian arrived in Toronto late last year.

Homemade versions of Gangnam Style and the Harlem Shake that were uploaded to his YouTube channel attracted unwanted attention from authorities. “I think that the people back home either did not accept or were not used to Western culture,” he said. “It caused some trouble for me, so I had to leave the country.”

While he misses his wife and children, who are still in Gaza, Barakat is impressed with his new home’s values when it comes to freedom of speech.

“You can say anything, and it is this freedom that makes you feel normal,” he said.

Ahlam Jona, a refugee from Syria, finds the simple privilege of going out on the streets without fear something to be thankful for.


Ahlam Jona, a refugee from Syria, finds the simple privilege of going out on the streets without fear something to be thankful for.

  • Ahlam Jona

Seeking Asylum: The Agenda

Dance Steps for young immigrants

Dance imitates life in class aimed at helping migrant youth cope with challenges

Weekly program helps at-risk young immigrants, many living here alone and undocumented, find solace and confidence.

The dance hall looks nothing like a professional studio — there are no hardwood sprung floors or wall-to-wall mirrors.

But nothing can dampen the enthusiasm and determination of these youthful dancers — many of whom have come to Canada on their own, without documents — to express their inner feelings and explore their passion for any dance form, from hip hop to salsa, dancehall, traditional African, jazz and break-dance.

With Tinashe’s catchy All Hands On Deck blasting from a boombox this weeknight, the 15 young men and women gyrate their elastic bodies to the tune, carefully following guest instructor Irvin Washington’s every cue.

“Cut, push! Cut, push!” shouts Washington, a professional dancer and choreographer, tapping his toes on the plastic flooring. “You have to do it over the top. Do it! I love big moves. It is okay to feel crazy. You need to build up toward these explosions.”

For the teenage dancers in the weekly Dance Steps program, the community rec room — with plastic flooring and its furniture pushed back to the edges of the walls — is a place to find solace and sanity amid the craziness swirling around their young lives as immigrants.

“You come here and check your worries and fears at the door,” said Francois Dushimiyimana, 20, who left his family behind in Rwanda when he sought asylum here in December 2013, via the United States.

“We all go through our journey alone, and no one seems to understand. Here we meet other people in the same boat and share our stories. We have great support because we’ve been through the same, and we don’t judge one another.”

Offered weekly at the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre and St. Stephen’s Community House, the program was initiated by the FCJ Refugee Centre last fall to help some three dozen at-risk newcomer youth learn life skills through dance classes that would otherwise be out of their reach financially.

“These youth face all kinds of barriers. Some of them can’t go to school or work, and can’t advance in life. We want them to emerge and take leadership. Dance is just a vehicle,” said program co-ordinator Diana DaSilva, herself a former professional dancer and teacher.

“We run our routines and put our choreography together and perfect it. They have to be very disciplined, learn to communicate, work as a team, resolve any conflict and listen to each other. And we want them to be empowered in the process and take these skills with them outside the classroom.”

Ane’ssa Hanson, 18, was sent by her mother to Canada from Jamaica on Christmas Eve 2011, to stay with her aunt and cousins “for a better life.” Now living on her own and attending Grade 12, Hanson is an avid dancer who would like to pursue traditional African dance and dancehall as a career.

“This is the one place that I can be myself, because everyone is a friend. We can all have fun and joke around, doing all these crazy, wild moves,” said Hanson, who does housekeeping to support herself and has applied for permanent residency in Canada on humanitarian grounds.

“You got teased for your Caribbean accent in school and have a hard time fitting in. Definitely, financially it is always a challenge. Did I make the right choice to come to Canada? Yes, when I’m here (dancing). No, whenever I feel homesick.”

Washington, the guest instructor, said he was impressed by the excitement and enthusiasm shown by the youth.

“It is good to see them fight for it. It’s not like these aspiring dancers are going to be on TV dancing with Beyonce, but dance can change lives. These young people have to fight and fight and fight in their lives. This will give them the confidence they need to push through it.”

That rings true to Dushimiyimana, who had been told he looked ridiculous when he danced and has to practise his new moves in a tiny bathroom, the only place at home with a mirror.

“We have performed at a few public events. It’s nerve-wracking, but it felt great to be dancing in front of so many people, clapping and smiling at you, having a good time,” said Dushimiyimana. “It is self-empowering.”

Dance Steps will perform at a Black History Month celebration at the Davenport-Perth community centre on Feb. 26

dance program



Mohsen: A teenager on the run, dreaming of Canada

Mohsen lives illegally in a factory with dozens of other male teens. All the boys have fled Afghanistan. They are on their own, trying to illegally cross through Europe to get to Germany, Sweden or France, countries where they believe they’ll find a better life.

There is no electricity in this hollowed-out factory. No plumbing, no comfortable couch and no Xbox. In fact, there are few intact walls or rooms, let alone a kitchen or a refrigerator full of groceries. Empty takeout containers, plastic bags and other garbage litter the concrete floors. Laundry, freshly washed using water from the hose, hangs on pegs to dry.

The factory is across the street from Greece’s second-biggest port. From here, the boys can sit on the roof and watch the activity, the movement of the guards and, most important, the times the ferries load in order to cross the Gulf of Patras to Italy. Some of them dream of stowing away.

Photojournalist Giorgos Moutafis and I found the factory courtesy of some older Afghan men who live in another abandoned building in Patras. They knew we were reporting on the plight of unaccompanied child migrants fleeing conflict and poverty, so they took us to visit the boys.

It was hard to miss Mohsen taking a shower. I asked him if the water was cold. “Very cold, miss!” he yelled out.

One of the remarkable things you notice about these homeless kids is how clean they are. It was more than 100C in the late August sun, yet all of them had well-kept, short hair, all were clean shaven and none of their clothes were dirty.

Another Afghan who lives in Patras, Zahidi Mohamed, 29, comes by the factory almost daily to check on the boys. He helps them keep up appearances by cutting their hair.

Mohsen, a Hazara Afghan, told me that he left Kabul when he was just 13 at the urging of his family. The Hazara are among the most persecuted ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

He desperately misses his parents. Especially his mother, who he said was very ill. He had not spoken to her in months.

“I can’t, I don’t have any money and there is no work in Greece,” he said.

“I left to find a better life,” he said, the irony not lost on him.

He told me he missed everything about home, especially his mother’s cooking.

At the end of our talk, I gave Mohsen 20 euros and told him to call his mom from a local internet café. We also exchanged Facebook information. He promised to stay in touch as he made his way through Europe.

When I left the factory, I never expected to hear from him again. But I did. Just days later, when I was in Thessaloniki, he sent me a Facebook message that said, “Hi miss.”

Then the messages started coming over a period of days and weeks. “I’m very sick,” said one. “Can you help me?” asked another. “I need help, you know.” And then: “It is very hard to live like this,” and, “I want to come to Toronto.”

His request fell on me like a dead weight. I wanted to help him but thought the possibilities would be slim. He was in Greece and registered with Greek authorities as a migrant.

According to European Union law, the first nation in which a refugee lands is the country responsible for their paperwork and asylum. For Mohsen, that is Greece.

I begged Mohsen to check in with Praksis, a youth shelter and drop-in centre in Patras. Besides hot meals and a change of clothes, Praksis also has doctors on staff, psychologists, social workers and lawyers.

Unsure of what else I could do, I talked to Debra Black, one of the Star’s immigration reporters, who put me in contact with Francisco Rico-Martinez, the co-director of the FCJ Refugee Centre in Toronto.

The economist and lawyer was born in El Salvador, but came to Canada as a refugee in 1990 with Loly, his wife, and their two children. He now devotes his life to helping newcomers to Canada.

Read more:

1 2