With a student body highly engaged in matters of social justice and home to the largest concentration of refugee and migration scholars in North America, York students, staff, faculty and alumni work to welcome refugees into our communities, raise awareness of refugee and forced migration issues and to improve the policies surrounding them.
With these goals in mind, the Syria Response and Refugee Initiative, as well as many York student groups are participating in an Amnestie internationale, Amnesty International Canada and Canadian Council for Refugees inspired “Refugees Welcome Here!” campaign, a sentiment and approach that will continue long after the immediate campaign is over. Both hyperlinks contain valuable resources on the campaign from each organization.
Refugees Welcome Here!
Amidst the global refugee crisis, this campaign calls for more refugees to be admitted into Canada and for greater fairness in their treatment and for our communities to better welcome them. It seeks to combat myths about refugees and emphasize their contributions. We see these contributions daily on the York campus through initiatives such as our campus WUSC committees and in our communities.
The goals of this student-led campaign have been to educate York students and the wider community about refugee issues and encourage students and community members to work together to address them.
In the Fall 2016 term the Muslim Students Association raised $1500 for the Glendon Collective sponsorship team through fundraising at weekly prayers to support this project. They, and subsequently the WUSC Keele Committtee have led annual winter coat and clothing drives for the FCJ Refugee Centre, bridging what is sometimes seen as a divide between “inland” refugee claimants and “overseas resettlement.” UNICEF@YorkU helped lead a drive to pay off the transportation loans of two Keele WUSC committee sponsored refugee students, support and advocacy efforts which have grown and been supported by the university community, particularly the York Federation of Students. Please explore our News and Updates page to learn of other efforts, most notably perhaps being York student efforts in collaboration with the Centre for Refugee Studies to host the 2018 National Youth Action Gathering of the Canadian Council for Refugees Youth Network.
Reflective of the strength and recognition of York’s efforts, YU Syria Response and Refugee Initiative Project Lead John Carlaw who has supported many of these efforts was invited by Amnesty International Canada to be listed as a “Canadian Refugee Champion” and student Project Ambassador Humaima Ashfaque has become a Canadian Council for Refugees Youth Leader who helped to plan and execute its 2018 national Youth Action Gathering with an incredible team of York Students. In 2018 former project co-lead (Osgoode) Pierre-André Thériault was awarded a prestigious York University Tiffin Leadership Award. York's WUSC Keele Committee was also awarded WUSC's National Committee of the Year Award, in part due to its community engagement and Awareness Efforts. However these are just the tip of the iceberg of refugee engagements on the York campus, and we encourage you to explore this site to see what our student groups are doing and that of the Centre for Refugee Studies to learn about their many amazing initiatives!
From Adversity to Action
Through a Newcomer Civic Youth Engagement Grant obtained from the Canadian Council for Refugees, this project also supported a student-led “From Adversity to Action” day of activities for newcomer youth and allies on Saturday, January 28th, 2017 run by a team of 11 York student organizers and facilitators of the event who produced resource kits on several themes. Youth participants discussed and strategized around refugee policy and four other themes of interest with experts on hand to assist. They presented both their general concerns and civic action plans to City of Toronto Newcomer Advocate and City Councillor Joe Mhevic and Canadian Council for Refugee President Loly Rico.
Refugee Awareness and Advocacy Weeks
Building on and working with the tradition of York student activist efforts that established Refugee Awareness Week in 2014, this project has annually supported and contributed programming to student-led Refugee Awareness and Advocacy Week efforts each year since 2016 with groups from across campus featuring many guests speakers and activists from the wider community. You can learn about some of these efforts from 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019 .
Community Engagement: Toronto Refugee Rights Month Planning Committee
Within Toronto, the York University Syria Response and Refugee Initiative (SRRI), the Centre for Refugee Studies, Osgoode Hall Law School and Amnesty International at York University have annually been active members of the Refugee Rights Month Planning Committee, a city-wide group organizing and highlighting a month-long series of events to highlight the importance of refugee rights in Canada since 2016. Each year at the committee’s request the City of Toronto recognizes April as Refugee Rights Awareness Month and the Mayor and City Council Newcomer Advocates typically appear as guest speakers alongside a community panel of refugees and activists.
In 2017 York’s SSRI planned and hosted a well-attended April 4th Refugee Rights Day panel discussion on York’s Keele campus and supported the month’s keynote panel- the Singh Decision Matters in 2017 . York student photographer Amina Khan of UNICEF@York captured York’s Refugee Rights Day panel and the month’s launch at City Hall on camera that year. In 2018 York contributed by helping to organize the month's keynote panel and promote the month's calender of events. In 2019, in addition to partnering in Refugee Rights Month the SRRI, the Centre for Refugee Studies and McLaughlin College are partnered to host a Refugee Rights Day panel and project closing event on campus April 4 attended by more than seventy members of the campus and wider community.