“Re-imagining refuge” for millions of people who have been displaced from their homes and their countries will require ensuring people are welcomed and valued as neighbours rather than merely accommodated, and will require action locally, nationally and internationally, according to speakers at a symposium at York University’s Glendon College today.
The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, 26th Governor General of Canada (1999-2005) and co-founder and co-chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, opened the symposium on Re-imagining Refuge.
“Refugees coming to Canada present us with a unique opportunity for Canada to gain new talent, new opportunities, and new horizons for economic prosperity,” said Mme. Clarkson, who said Canada offered her many opportunities after her family came here as refugees in 1942.
Organized by York University and York’s Centre for Refugee Studies in collaboration with Universities Canada, the Re-imagining Refuge symposium was part of a Universities Canada speaker’s series called Mindshare: Inspired thinking for real action.
"The global refugee crisis is one of the most pressing and challenging issues of our time, and given York’s historic commitment to social justice, this Mindshare symposium is consistent with our ongoing aim to contribute meaningfully to global conversations and advance solutions to global challenges," said Mamdouh Shoukri, President and Vice-Chancellor of York University. "From student and community groups who have mobilized to sponsor and welcome refugees, to the valuable work being done at our Centre for Refugee Studies and by researchers across the University to engage with issues of migration and resettlement, I am justifiably proud of York's leadership in this area."
Panellists discussed the importance of re-imagining refuge based on human rights and dignity and committing to actively engaging with people who are seeking refuge. Local and national groups, along with individual Canadians, can have a major impact in the response to an enormous international humanitarian issue, they said.
Professor Jennifer Hyndman, director of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, said local and national actions are especially important because the global refugee system, its laws and policies are based on an outdated postwar model. The term “protracted refugee situation” is a euphemism for failure, she said.
“The existing international refugee regime is sorely outdated and just not working. We have a lot of mechanics tinkering with a very old mechanism. What is needed is an inventor, an architect who can redesign the way we engage refugees.”