Refugee advocates urge Ontario to stay at the table


Refugee advocates urge Ontario to stay at the table

Toronto/July 6, 2018/ – Ontario civil society groups and refugee advocates urge the Government of Ontario to remain engaged in intergovernmental collaboration to resettle the large numbers of refugee claimants arriving irregularly in Canada from the United States.
The Ontario government has indicated it will step back from cooperating with the federal government on resettling refugee claimants. The Ontario response was reported by media following a recent meeting of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration attended by Lisa McLeod, Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues and Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
“We believe Ontario must be at the table to speak to the interests and priorities of municipalities that are trying to resettle refugee claimants in their communities” said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. “The right of refugee claimants to seek protection is safeguarded in Canadian law, which builds on Canada’s international obligations” she added.
“Ontario has called on the federal government to cover the costs of refugee resettlement. If they really want the province and municipalities to be compensated they must be at the table” said Francisco Rico-Martinez of the Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants in Ontario. “It is inhumane to risk making refugee claimants homeless to make a political statement. It is in violation of our international obligations and tradition, and Canadian values of social justice and human rights” he added.
“We are deeply disturbed by politicians and media inaccurately describing refugee claimants as illegal entrants into Canada. Asylum seekers have the legal right to cross the border to make a refugee claim” said Lobat Sadrehashemi, President of Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.
The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States prevents asylum seekers from making a refugee claim at a regular border crossing. As a result they are entering Canada irregularly in order to ask for asylum, which is not illegal.
“Refugee claimants are among the most vulnerable in our society. We all have a responsibility to treat them with respect and dignity and ensure their rights are protected” said Shalini Konanur, Executive Director of South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. “Most importantly our own laws and the international treaties signed by Canada require us to do so” she added.
“Toronto and many of the surrounding municipalities had housing challenges long before the current increase of refugee claimant arrivals. Blaming Ontario’s housing crisis on vulnerable refugee claimants who cannot fight back is reprehensible and does great harm to claimants” said Avvy Go of Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change. “Refugee claimants should never be used as pawns by anyone, let alone our political leaders” she added.
Ontario leads the country in the resettlement of refugees, playing a prominent role in fulfilling Canada’s international humanitarian commitments. We have a strong tradition of welcoming refugees and refugee claimants, and they require coordinated assistance from all three levels of government in order to succeed.
As civil society groups and refugee advocates that support this statement, we call for leadership from all three orders of government in the resettlement of refugee claimants. We also call on political leaders and media organizations to respect the rights of refugee claimants. This includes using responsible language and factual reporting in order not to inflame anti-refugee sentiment.
Released by OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants in Ontario, Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change, OHIP For All, Refugee Lawyers Association and South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
Debbie Douglas, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants or Amy Casipullai, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Francisco Rico-Martinez – Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants in Ontario
Avvy Go – Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change
Ritika Goel – OHIP For All
Raoul Boulakia – Refugee Lawyers Association
Shalini Konanur – South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario

World Refugee Day

FCJ Refugee Centre is celebrating the strength, courage, and determination of refugees around the world. Every year, World Refugee Day marks a key moment for raise awareness and show support for refugees.

JUNE 20: World Refugee Day “Refugees Belong” Walk

We Are Proud To Announce The June 20, 2018, “Refugees Belong” Walk, In Commemoration Of World Refugee Day.

The event is being co-organized by: Neighbourhood Legal Services, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Sojourn House, Regent Park Community Health Centre, Central Neighbourhood House, FCJ Refugee Centre, COSTI, and the Oasis Centre des Femmes.

The “Refugees Belong” Walk will commence at the Yonge and Dundas intersection at 9:30 am (in front of the Refugee Law Office at 20 Dundas Street West) and will end with lunch and performances from 12-2 pm in Regent Park.

The “Refugees Belong” walk is an opportunity to reflect not only on the obligations of governments under the Refugee Convention to provide safe haven to persecuted people (and on Canada’s own track record in the Trump era), but also to dispel the myths that persist about refugees as a burden on the Canadian public.


At a time when refugee claimants in Canada continue to endure egregiously long waits to have their refugee claims determined at the Immigration and Refugee Board, and continue to face prolonged separation from their families, refugees and claimants must also contend with stereotypes – that refugees just want to take advantage of Canada’s social programmes, for example; refugees take jobs from Canadians; refugees are ‘illegal’.

The World Refugee Day “Refugees Belong” walk aims to encourage Canadians to choose facts over fears! Stops this year will be at local community organisations, so that participants get insight into the work being done on the ground to support refugees. At each stop, community members who arrived here as refugees and are now successful teachers, business owners, service providers, will map their journeys to belonging in Canada, as well as some of the challenges faced along the way. Speakers will also include community workers and lawyers.

Join us and show your support!




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

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