Category Archives: Events!

Solar Lamps for University Students in Dadaab

Support the INDIEGOGO Campaign to buy solar powered lamps for refugee and local university students in Dadaab, Kenya , These lamps will enable them to complete schoolwork at home.

The Solar Lamps for University Students in Dadaab campaign aims to provide solar-powered desk lamps to refugee and local students in Dadaab, Kenya who attend  tuition-free post-secondary education programs offered for the first time ever in Northeastern Kenya through the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project.

**Contributors who wish to receive a receipt for their tax-deductible donation should include their full name and mailing address when making their contribution.



 The Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) Project provides educational programs in one of the largest refugee camps of the world, Dadaab, Kenya. The BHER project also creates space for local Kenyan students in Dadaab to benefit from these programs. Completion of these programs keeps women and men from precarious forms of employment and wins them internationally recognized credentials and marketable skills that they can use to work in situ, to be employed in Kenya, in their country of origin, or wherever they resettle.



 A significant barrier identified by BHER students to completing their coursework is the inability to find adequate lighting during the evening. For many students, the ability to access study space with electricity and adequate lighting is often limited outside of class time. The restrictions for women students are often greater because of responsibilities that require them to be home in the evenings and also because of safety concerns faced by women when going out after dark.   

 A simple solution with a broad impact, solar-powered lamps give students the freedom to complete coursework at home and enable them to succeed in their university programs. However, the cost of lamps puts this much-needed resource out of reach for students, who already face livelihood challenges under the constraining conditions in the refugee camp and locally. While students in the refugee camps have access to meager “incentive” wages (approximately 102 CND/month for highly paid refugees), these earnings are barely enough to support themselves and their families. Students from local communities may be paid at a slightly better rate (around 200 CND/month), though this amount is still highly restrictive. For both refugee and local students, purchasing a solar lamp would mean taking away from the limited household incomes that barely meet people’s basic standards of living.

Working with d.light, an international social enterprise that specializes in solar light and power products, the BHER project will use funds raised through this campaign to secure at-cost solar-powered lamps for students in the BHER program.

Help bring light to Dadaab’s refugee and local university students’ lives, studies, and futures by contributing today.




Over the next 4 years, The BHER project will serve approximately 800 refugee students. For a contribution of about $42 CAD, you will provide one student with a solar-powered lamp that will help them through the duration of their studies. This means that for every $1,000 CAD raised, 23 students will be provided with a resource that will give them the freedom to do coursework at home during the evening. For many refugee and local students – particularly women – your contribution can make the difference that enables them to complete their education.

Participate in the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies Conference!

CARFMS14: Coherence And Incoherence In Migration Management And Integration: Policies, Practices And Perspectives

7th Annual Conference of the

Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS)

Hosted by

Centre de recherche en droit public (CRDP), University of Montreal
in collaboration with the
Research Chair in Immigration, Ethnicity and Citizenship (RCIEC), University of Quebec at Montreal
Montréal, Quebec

May 7-9, 2014

In the past decade, immigration and asylum policies in Canada and elsewhere have undergone a profound shift. Preventive and repressive measures were taken against irregular migrants, including refugees and other forced migrants. While States have sought to achieve greater coherence in their migration management and integration policies and practices both at the national, regional and international levels the resulting consequences, in many instances, have been, rather, greater incoherence. Border controls were strengthened and international cooperation was intensified. On the pretext that asylum channels were abused by migrants, authorities adopted measures which made asylum and complementary forms of international protection harder to obtain. The decision-making process was accelerated, appeals were eliminated and detention became more systematic. Many states started to deny asylum seekers basic social and economic rights as part of a deliberate policy of deterrence. This exclusionary approach to forced migration management comes at a moment when States are pursuing more and more selective and diversified policies aiming at maximizing economic benefits of immigration. For instance, since 2000 the number of temporary migrant workers in Canada has tripled. Low-skill, low-wage migrant workers represent a flexible work force with few rights. A similar trend can be observed in other countries, where temporary workers and forced migrants find themselves legally, economically and socially marginalized. These developments are not only financially counterproductive but also strain States’ domestic and international obligations to provide human rights and refugee protection. Unsurprisingly, States have failed to address the root causes of forced migration. Due to stricter border controls and a harsher asylum system, more people turn to irregular means of migrating. This, in turn, creates an environment that is conducive to migrant smuggling and human trafficking. Heated debate on migration contributes to racism and xenophobic sentiments in many countries, creating a climate in which opportunities for sensible reflection are rare.

The 2014 CARFMS Conference will bring together students, researchers, policymakers, displaced persons and advocates from diverse disciplinary and regional backgrounds with a view to better analyse and understanding how contemporary migration and asylum policies, processes and structures have produced greater coherence and/or incoherence in the management of forced migration and integration. We invite participants from a wide range of perspectives to explore practical, social, legal, policy-oriented and theoretical questions of importance to the coherence of forced migration management. We also invite studies of short and long-term options for to integration and resettlement of forced migrants taking into account challenges and achievements.

The conference will feature keynote and plenary speeches from leaders in the field and refugees, and we welcome proposals for individual posters, papers, organized panels and roundtables structured around the following broad subthemes:

1. Coherence and Incoherence in the Management of Migration: Local, National, Regional, Comparative and International Issues and Concerns
This theme analyses discourse, norms, procedures and practices regarding border security, asylum and immigration and integration policy as well as their effectiveness, consequences and compatibility with domestic and international human rights and refugee protection standards. How can we ensure more coherent migration policies at the national, regional and international levels? What are the root causes of forced migration? What are the short and long-term implications of changes in the asylum and immigration system in Canada and abroad? What are the appropriate strategies to address irregular migration? What are the best practices in the reception of asylum seekers and the integration of migrants? How do international, regional, national and local actors, institutions and agencies, employers and members of civil society promote the legal, economic and social inclusion of migrants? How are the specific needs of women, children, elderly, disabled persons and other vulnerable persons met?

2. Coherence and Incoherence in the Integration of Migrants: Local, National, Regional, Comparative and International Issues and Concerns

This theme explores States’ utilitarian approach towards migration which challenges the balance between the objective of economic development, on the one hand, and integration and the fundamental rights of migrants, on the other. It also deals with the recent changes in the reception systems and in the treatment of forced migrants. What are the strengths and the weaknesses of reception, settlement, and integration policies? How should these policies be adapted to meet the needs of increasing numbers of temporary workers and of forced migrants, and foster their legal, economic and social inclusion? What is the role played by local, national and regional authorities, employers and members of civil society dealing with issues such as health, education, social welfare, employment and law enforcement? How does gender, sex, age, race, nationality or statelessness and other factors, taken individually or collectively, affect the coherence and/or incoherence in migration management and integration?

3. Towards Greater Migration Management and Integration Coherence Without Incoherence : New Approaches, Research Methods and Theories 

This theme solicits research on innovative approaches, grounded theories and methods in migration management and integration, developed within traditional disciplines or along interdisciplinary lines. New theoretical, conceptual, methodological issues from diverse critical and institutional perspectives lead to a better understanding of recent developments and challenges in the field of migration, and, ultimately, to more coherent policies and practices affecting the migrants in local, national, regional, and international contexts. What are the practical issues and challenges of researching migration management and integration and their coherent and/or incoherent consequences? How do we do research on these issues? How does our research influence theoretical foundations of citizenship and diversity, as well as policies of management, adaptation, and integration of refugees and other forced migrants? What are the implications of positioning ourselves as academics, policy makers, displaced persons, advocates, or activists when we are looking into issues of displacement, management and integration?


The deadline to submit abstracts has passed.

For more information, please contact:
Michele Millard
Coordinator, Centre for Refugee Studies
CARFMS Secretariat
8th Floor, Kaneff Tower
4700 Keele Street Toronto, ON M3J 1P3 Tel : 416-736-2100 ext. 30391
Fax : 416-736-5688
Email :

Migration Matters Kickoff Event @ York University, Toronto

Jan 22, 2014 to Jan 29, 2014, 2:30pm-4pm

Announcing… a new York initiative called Migration Matters, which will showcase migration scholars and scholarship at York. With the support of the VPRI’s Office and the Centre for Refugee Studies, we have a number of projects underway, including: a series of seminars/roundtable discussions that will address pressing issues or questions related to migration (broadly defined) from a wide range of perspectives and fields of studies; and a Migration Matters York blog for networking and featuring migration scholarship and events at York. Watch for more details in the next few days. For more information about how you can participate, contact Luann Good Gingrich at

Join us for the following special events:

Kickoff Event
Jan. 22
2:30 to 4pm
519 Kaneff Tower

Migration at the margins: Work, profit, or nation-building?
Join the discussion with distinguished York scholars:
Leah Vosko
(Department of Political Science; Canada Research Chair, Feminist Political Economy)
Luin Goldring
(Department of Sociology; Coordinator, Research Alliance on Precarious Status)
Andrew Crane
(Schulich School of Business; Director, Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business)
Reception to follow
8th Floor Common Area, Kaneff Research Tower
Hosted by the Centre for Refugee Studies

Please join us for our second event:
Data Migration and the Search for Origins
Jan. 29
12:30 to 2pm
519 Kaneff Tower
with Julia Creet (Department of English)

ACTION ALERT: Support nearly 200 immigration detainees on strike over prison conditions

ACTION ALERT: Support nearly 200 immigration detainees on strike over prison conditions (Sourced from No One is Illegal)

La version française de cet appel est ci-dessous

Joint statement by Books to Bars Hamilton, Dignidad Migrante, Fuerza/Puwersa, No One Is Illegal-Montreal / Personne n’est illégal, No One Is Illegal Toronto, No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, Solidarity Across Borders / Solidarité sans frontières (Montréal)

Over a 180 immigration detainees in Lindsay, Ontario’s Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) began protest actions on Tuesday, September 18th against conditions of their detention. The detainees were recently moved from other prisons in the Greater Toronto Area, about two hours away, and have lost touch with families and legal support as a result. Conditions at Lindsay are substantially worse for them then before. Some prisoners began a hunger strike on Wednesday which has now ended but other strike actions are continuing.

Striking immigration detainees are asking supporters to call and write Superintendent Neil Neville (read more about him below) and immigration enforcement in support of their demands.

CALL: 705-328-6009

The striking immigration detainees in Lindsay are demanding:

– Better access to medical care and social workers
– Cheaper phone calls and access to international calling cards (many have family overseas)
– Access to better food, like the food on the non-immigration ranges
– An end to constant lockdowns
– Keep the improved canteen program going
– Better access to legal aid and legal services

Additionally, detainees are demanding that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) grant specific requests to move individuals to facilities nearer to their families, legal resources, and social services. Some of the prisoners are long-term detainees, people immigration enforcement cannot deport but will not release. Others have been designated as ‘high security’ based on prior criminal history but this can be as little as an arrest that has not led to conviction. Some people have been in jail for over 7 years because Canada unlike the US and UK has no limit on how long someone can be held prior to deportation.


About Superintendent Neil Neville: Neville was in charge of Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in 2009, when two inmates died. He left EMDC in May 2011, and took on several roles within the provincial bureaucracy before taking over in Lindsay. Inquests held into the 2009 deaths painted a picture of an overcrowded, understaffed EMDC with inadequate medical care and supervision of inmates.

About Immigration Detention in Canada: Between 2004 and 2011, 82,000 people were locked up in immigration detention. At least another 25,000 have been imprisoned since 2011. In 2012, 289 of the detainees were children, many of them under the age of 10. There are three dedicated immigration detention centres in Canada: in Toronto, in Laval and in Vancouver. The Kingston centre, specially built for the security certificate detainees, known as “Guantanamo North”, was quietly closed in 2011. The rest of the detainees, about 35% of the total are held in maximum security provincial prisons, some unable to leave their cells for 18 hours a day. $53, 775, 000 in public money is spent on immigration detention annually or $239 per day. Comparatively, a unit of social housing can be provided at less than $31/day. The total cost of immigration detention including surveillance and supervision of immigrants, particularly of security certificate detainees and those not in detention is much higher. Immigration detention centres are a $50million business, run in partnership with private companies like G4S, Garda and Corbel Management Corporation. In Toronto alone, G4S and Corbel were paid $19 million between 2004 and 2008. Garda has the contract for the Laval Immigration Holding Centre. More info:

Freedom to Move, Return, Stay: In the last ten years, the number of people without full status (refugee claimants, temporary workers, etc) has increased by 60% but permanent residency visas have stayed constant. Refugee acceptance rates are less then 25%. Too many migrants are denied full status, and are forced to live in the country without papers, services, justice or dignity. Migrants without full status live in daily fear of detention and deportation. Those arrested are locked up in cages in brutish conditions awaiting forced deportations. This system is broken. We insist: No One Is Illegal! End Immigration Detentions! Freedom for All Prisoners!


Soutenons les immigrants détenus en grève!
Plus de 180 personnes immigrantes détenues à Lindsay, le Centre Correctionnel Central de l’Est de l’Ontario (CECC en anglais), ont entamé des actions de protestation le mardi 18 septembre contre leurs conditions de détention. Les détenus ont récemment été transférés d’autres prisons dans la grande région de Toronto, à environs deux heures plus loin, et ont donc perdu le contact avec leurs familles et leur soutien légal. Les conditions à Lindsay sont considérablement pires pour eux qu’avant. Quelques prisonniers ont entamé une grève de la faim mercredi mais elle est maintenant terminée.

Les détenus en grève demandent de les soutenir en écrivant au Superintendent Neil Neville (lire plus à son sujet plus bas) et aux autorités d’immigration pour appuyer leurs revendications.

APPELEZ AU: 705-328-6009

Les détenus en grève revendiquent :
-Un meilleur accès aux soins médicaux et aux travailleurs sociaux
-Des appels téléphoniques plus abordables et l’accès à des cartes d’appel internationales (plusieurs ont des familles à l’étranger)
-L’accès à une meilleure nourriture, comme la nourriture dans les sections non-immigrantes
-La fin des couvre-feux constants
-Garder le program de cantine amélioré
-Un meilleur accès à l’aide juridique et aux services légaux

De plus, les détenus exigent à l’Agences des Services Frontaliers du Canada (ASFC) d’accepter des demandes spécifiques de déplacer des individus vers des centres plus proches de leurs familles, services légaux et services sociaux.

Certains des prisonniers sont détenus à long-terme, des gens que les autorités d’immigration ne peuvent pas déporter mais ne veulent pas libérer. D’autres ont été désignés comme à « sécurité élevée », mais cela peut inclure jusque des arrestations qui n’ont pas mené à des accusations. Plusieurs personnes sont détenus depuis plus de 7 ans parce que le Canada, contrairement aux États-Unis et à l’Angleterre, n’a pas de limite sur la durée qu’une personne peut être détenue avant d’être déportée.


A propos du Superintendent Neil Neville: Neville était responsable du Centre de Détention Elgin-Middlesex (EMDC) en 2009, quand deux détenus sont décédés. Il a quitté EMDC en mai 2011 et a occupé plusieurs fonctions dans la bureaucratie provinciale avant de devenir responsable de Lindsay. Des enquêtes sur les morts de 2009 ont dépaint un EMDC surpeuplé, avec un manque de personnel, des soins médicaux et une surveillance des détenus inadéquats.
A propos de la détention des immigrantEs au Canada: Entre 2004 et 2011, 82 000 personnes ont été détenues dans les prisons pour immigrants. Au moins 25 000 personnes de plus ont été détenues depuis 2011. En 2012, 289 des détenus étaients des enfants, dont plusieurs avaient moins de 10 ans. Il y a trois centres de détention pour les immigrantEs au Canada : à Toronto, à Laval et à Vancouver. Le centre de Kingston, construit spécialement pour les détenus des certificats de sécurité, connu comme « Guantanamo Nord », a été fermé discrètement en 2011. Le reste des détenus, environs 35% du total, sont détenus dans des prisons provinciales à sécurité maximale, certains ne peuvent quitter leurs cellules durant 18 heures par jour. 53 775 000$ d’argent public sont dépensés pour détenir des immigrants chaque année, soit 239$ par jour. Comparativement, une unité de logement social coûte moins de 31$ par jour. Le coût total de la détention des immigrants, dont la surveillance et la supervision des immigrants, en particuliers des détenus des certificats de sécurité et de ceux qui ne sont pas en détention, est bien plus élevé. Les centres de détention des immigrants sont une entreprise de 50 millions de dollars, menée en partenariat avec des compagnies privées comme G4S, Garda et Corbel Management Corporation. Juste à Toronto, G4S et Corbel ont été payés 19$ millions entre 2004 et 2008. Garda a obtenu le contrat pour le Centre de Détention de l’Immigration de Laval. Pour plus d’infos :

La liberté de se déplacer, rentrer, rester :Durant les dix dernières années, le nombre de personnes sans statut complet (les demandeurs du statut de réfugié, travailleurs et travailleuses temporaires, etc.) a augmenté de 60% mais les visas de résidents permanents sont demeurés constants. Les taux d’accueil des réfugiés sont des moins de 25%. Trop de migrantEs se font refuser le plein statut et sont forcés de vivre ici sans papiers, services, justice ni dignité. Des migrantEs sans statut vivent dans la peur quotidienne de la détention et de la déportation. Les personnes arrêtées sont détenues dans des cages dans des conditions brutales et attendent d’être déportés de force. Ce système est cassé. Nous insistons : Personne n’est illégal! Arrêtons la détention d’immigrantEs! Liberté pour tous les prisonnieres!

Roma Rising Exhibit — Toronto

Roma Rising Exhibit — Opening Sept 19 at 12:00pm (Osgoode Library) 

A collection of photographs of members of the Canadian Roma (Gypsy) community is now on display at the Osgoode Hall Law School Library. The exhibit, Roma Rising / Opre Roma – Portraits of A Community (romarisingCA), was created to challenge stereotypical views of the Roma community. Sponsored by the Roma Community Centre (RCC) based in Toronto, the exhibit features 24 black-and-white portraits by photographer Chad Evans Wyatt of Canadian Roma who are successful in middle- and professional-class occupations. The exhibit will be on display until October 4, 2013.

While you are welcome to view the exhibit during regular Library hours, you are also invited to attend the official opening of the exhibit which will take place in the Law Library on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm. Associate Dean James Stribopoulos, Professor Sean Rehaag and Gina Csanyi-Robah (Executive Director of the Roma Refugee Centre) will offer brief remarks about the exhibit.

You can find out more about the event here


“What, your Mom doesn’t cook you bugs in Africa?”


Prominent political activist, Muhammed Sillah was slated for deportation to the Gambia where he fears for his life because of his outspoken activism. Community pressure stopped his deportation on June 11th, yet today, a month later, he is still in detention and facing racist abuse.

In retaliation for protests and actions in his support, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) refuses to let Muhammed Sillah rejoin his family, despite a Federal Court ruling insisting that he be able to contact a lawyer and file new applications for his stay.

Not only has CBSA put up obstacles in front of Muhammad’s release, they and their private prison profiteers G4S use racist slurs against him, denying him basic rights and have refused to let his wife visit him.

Sign, share, and tweet this petition! Demand that Muhammed Sillah be released and the racist CBSA officers be held to account:…

Since June 5th, CBSA has refused to let Mr Sillah’s wife visit him – in fact they have refused to let her on to the government property or allowed her to drop him clothes. This is entirely because of her activism to stop Mr Sillah’s removal. See details of the campaign, and videos at

The Canada Borders Services Agency and G4S have racially targeted and abused Muhammed since his arrest. There are numerous examples but here are two instances his family has shared:

** When Muhammed was first arrested, CBSA officer Mr. Ivory said to him: “Why don’t you have your family do black magic to stop your removal?”

** Muhammed had bugs in his food while in immigration detention, when he complained he was told: “What, your Mom doesn’t cook you bugs in Africa?”

Mr Muhammed Sillah was diagnosed with a heart murmur in 2006. He has had high blood pressure since he was arrested and has been vomiting after many meals. He has received no adequate medical attention.

His continued detention is unjust, the attacks against him and his family are nothing but targeted harassment and part of an immigration detention system is racist and exclusionary.

Sign this petition! Demand justice and status for Muhammed Sillah and status for all!…

* Interview with Muhammed Sillah, the day before his scheduled deportation, which was stopped:
* Background:
* Background on immigration detention:

Muhammed Sillah’s story, in the words of his family: Muhammed came to Canada in 2006. The conditions of the Gambia severely worsened while Muhammed was in Canada and in October 2011, he filed an application for refugee protection, without a legal representative. When he was denied, he tried again with a lawyer to file an appeal at the Federal Court which was turned down. Muhammed has been reporting to CBSA and the Toronto Bail Program (no criminal record), since November 2011 and has attended absolutely every appointment and done absolutely everything required of him, which was to also attend a meeting with CBSA on May 29th, 2013 which he did. When the officer explained a program to give Muhammed $2,000 to blend back into the Gambian society, Muhammed refused because his life is not about money. The officer asked us to wait a minute while she went to get the form for Muhammed to sign to pull out of the program, when she returned, she asked us to meet her in room 7, when we entered the room, two CBSA officers closed the door behind us and asked Muhammed to face the wall while they frisked him, then to put his hands behind his back, and at that point arrested him. The reason I was given was because his status has run out. We organized multiple protests in Muhammed’s support and we finally found a lawyer to submit an emergency stop motion for Muhammed’s removal. After an hour hearing with the Federal Court on his day of removal, the Federal Court believed that the balance of convenience lies in the favour of Muhammed and that he has a genuine fear for his life and safety so they stopped his deportation until he could find a lawyer and re-file all this applications! Muhammed has created an online group called “Concerned Citizens” now changed to “Gambian Green Party” where he outlines the improvements to government and sustainable development for the country. He has posted his discontent with the illegal, horrendous crimes of the Gambian government in a group called WA Banjul Open (WA= People of), he has also been very active in conversation and debate within the newscast in opposition to the government. This newscast is owned by a former Gambian Ambassador who sent in an affidavit to the Federal Court outline the dangers Muhammed faces in the Gambia. He is still in detention and we are demanding his release.

From the NOII

“Migrant Dreams” documentary delves into temporary foreign worker issue in Canada

Originally accessed @


Award-winning filmmaker Min Sook Lee’s Migrant Dreams documentary project has a deep connection to her past — her Korean parents emigrated to Canada in the early 1970s and her father did menial labour, including picking worms, in order to provide for the family.

“I appreciate the struggle,” says Lee. “There was a lot of anxiety because we were poor and new to the country, so I’m very sensitized to issues of migration, acculturation and diaspora.”

Fast-track to 2013 and Lee (whose 2003 NFB film about Mexican farm labourers in Ontario, El Contrato, nabbed a Gemini nomination) is chronicling the hardships of Thai women who pick worms as part of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Her film also includes workers from other countries. The Toronto-based director is well aware of the differences between her father’s position and those of migrant workers today.

“My dad had a pathway to citizenship and security… but now, instead of a citizenship program, we have an expanded temporary worker program denying most of these people access to citizenship.”

The current program allows workers from any country outside Canada to be employed for up to four years — at which point they are required to return to their homeland for four years before being allowed to work under the program again.

While these workers toil in fields, factories and coffee shops, many are denied basic human rights such as access to proper health care, and don’t get raises or vacation pay. Having paid into the CPP and EI programs through their wages, they are unable to reap the benefits as they are either ineligible or find navigating the bureaucracy too daunting to get the money they earned.

“In 2002, we had over 100,000 people under this program, but in 2012, it hit 300,000,” notes Lee. “The Harper government has taken the concept and exponentially increased the number of guest workers with very little public debate.”

RBC involved in controversy

In fact, a debate did spark up recently after news reports emerged in April that Canada’s biggest bank, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), was in the process of replacing dozens of its employees in the IT department with temporary foreign workers.

Those temporary workers came from a multinational outsourcing firm from India — iGATE Corp.

“[The program] gives businesses a loophole. They have a profit-driven agenda,” says Lee. “The program is largely unmonitored so it’s open to abuse. It’s designed for systemic exploitation.”

Lee wants Canadians to realize that the temporary worker’s program — as it exists now — should be a concern for everyone, regardless if they work  in “3-D” (Dirty, Dangerous, Difficult) jobs or not.

A photo still from the Migrant Dreams documentary.

“It lowers the standards for all workers. There’s no incentive for employers to make jobs more competitive.”

Under the program, businesses apply to the federal government’s program by indicating that they tried but can’t find Canadian workers to fulfill positions. They are then given a special permit — which Lee says is issued “pretty non-discriminately” — to find workers from any country. The program is privatized in that agreements are made between private companies and not between governments.

This is where brokers come in: “They say, ‘Who do you want? Men, women? Jamaicans, Vietnamese, Mexicans?'”

These workers are only allowed to work for one employer and should they leave that employer, many are beholden to the broker for another job.

“As soon as they arrive, the broker picks them up and takes them to a house. He’s their de facto landlord. The broker manages the transportation from the home to the work site.”

Some of these workers — essentially, the world’s poor — have paid as much as $10,000 to a broker and arrive heavily indebted to them while working in Canada.

Indiegogo funding drive

To make the film a reality, Lee has turned to an Indiegogo campaign to raise her own funds. Although she has some network interest (namely TVOntario), with the current funding maze that is documentary today, it’s hard for any filmmaker to get all the money needed.

A moment during filming.

The director has already finished a quick five-day development shoot but she wants to raise about $15,000 in order to keep filming this summer. Lee is following a human rights case involving Thai and Mexican women.

“Their employer put them in housing not fit for humans. The women were sexually assaulted by the owner of the business,” says Lee. “He threatened to cut off their fingers if they signed a petition against him.’

The day I spoke with Lee, she had just found out some of the women were afraid to testify and might not take the stand.

“Fear, intimidation and bullying” are common, according to Lee.

“They’re afraid to speak out.”

Fortunately, the next week, she was told the women are re-considering and may testify.

Circling back to her immigrant roots, the film is Lee’s way of calling to attention to Canada’s immigration policy — pathways which are becoming more restrictive.

“Canada’s criteria are now about money, education and language,” she says. “A specific class of people, who are mostly poor and non-white, are now being streamed in as permanent guest workers. In the past, they might have been immigrants.”

Lee is determined to finish the documentary, whether or not she gets broadcaster backing.

“There is less of a climate of tolerance in Canada compared to 10 years ago,” she observes.

“I see a lot of immigrant-bashing… we are living in culturally conservative times. When you look at Canada’s immigration history — the way Chinese railway workers were treated and the Head Tax, etc. — we should be ashamed.”

“Yet, we are re-living those times again today… I want to live in a Canada that reflects what I believe our country to be: just, equitable and humane.”

June Chua is a Toronto-based journalist who regularly writes about the arts for

On, “Why World Refugee Day is so important.”


Why World Refugee Day is so important



June 20th is World Refugee Day. This is a day dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of refugees worldwide. This year’s campaign theme is: “Take 1 minute to support a family forced to flee.”

While many people might not see the importance or urgency of helping refugees, either because they are scared or wary of them, ignorant about what causes refugee populations in the first place, or who refugees are — or merely because they cannot wrap their heads around the fact that in literally one minute, someone can lose everything and be forced to flee their home — refugee populations are in dire need of international support and protection.

Here is why we should all take one minute and observe World Refugee Day.

This year, World Refugee Day comes amid efforts by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to deal simultaneously with four major emergencies: in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Syria. This is in addition to the other major refugee crises of concern to the UNHCR, in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Somalia, as well as the millions of other refugees from protracted conflicts, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just a few weeks ago, the UN Refugee Agency launched its largest financial appeal in history to help assist the thousands of families affected by the war in Syria, and this week the agency released its “annual global trends in displacement report,” where it reported that there are now more than 45.2 million people around the world who have been displaced from their country of origin due primarily to conflict and violence. In 2012, 23,000 people per day were forced to flee their homes around the world.

While the statistics are alarming, the reality on the ground is even more heart-wrenching.

Last fall I had the privilege of interning with the UNHCR in Beirut, where I worked with refugees from all around the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region.) Among these refugees were hundreds fleeing from the neighboring civil war in Syria. But I also had a chance to interact with asylum-seekers and refugees from Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Somalia, Bahrain and Turkey.

The atrocities, brutality, and challenges that refugees face on a daily basis either in the country of origin or in their host countries are mind-blowing.

Lebanon, for instance, is just one of many countries which have not signed the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol. Therefore, the Lebanese state does not offer asylum to asylum seekers, nor does it have any legislation or administrative practices in place to address the specific needs of asylum seekers and refugees. Consequently, if an asylum seeker enters Lebanon illegally or overstays his/her visa, they are considered to be illegal migrants, and are at risk of being fined, detained (often for a significant amount of time), and/or deported. As a result, most asylum seekers and refugees live in very difficult circumstances and struggle to meet their basic needs.

Imagine living in a foreign country with your family, not knowing the local population or customs, not being able to make a living, constantly depending on International organization for basic assistance and not knowing when or if you will ever be safe again, or what your fate is going to be.

Counselling Syrian refugees was particularly difficult, as these people were fleeing from a civil war that was happening less than 80 km away from where I was at the UNHCR offices in Beirut and they were describing the tragedy of the war in a way that no amount of articles or videos can ever quite accurately capture.

Each asylum-seeker and refugee had their own particular account of struggle and survival, each more horrifying yet oddly inspiring than the other, and from them I learned what the human consequences of war were. Having witnessed the situation, I can therefore safely say that help is desperately needed.

While the UNHCR and other international organizations, including world governments, work hard at trying to solve the problems that cause people to flee their homes in the first place, most of the solutions that are currently offered to refugees are only temporary resolutions at best, and are often not sufficient answers to their problems, and nor are they sustainable options.

The time is now to help refugees across the world. So take one minute and help spread the word, because remember, no one chooses to be a refugee.

**Shereen Eldaly completed her Master’s in Public and International Affairs at the University of Montreal. She also holds a degree in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from McGill University. The focus of her studies and work has been conflict resolution and the Middle East. She has worked for the the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Canadian NGO Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). Follow on Twitter: @shereeneldaly