On World Refugee Day on Wednesday, data reporter Francesca Fionda and I spent time at the Central Vancouver Public Library in Downtown Vancouver and asked people what they wanted to share and know about refugees.
From their favourites for the World Cup to the most pressing needs facing refugees in Canada, passers-by had a lot of questions. Meanwhile, refugees and people who work with them shared messages urging people to be more inclusive, highlighting the contributions refugees make to Canada and discussing their difficulties. I’ve shared some of my favorites below.
Being a refugee is not a lifestyle
Sara Maria Gomez Lopez, who works at the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture, is a protected person from Mexico who is training to be a counsellor for survivors of trauma. She came to Canada six years ago, crossing the U.S.-Canada border on foot. She was one of two dozen refugees and asylum seekers who helped The Discourse put together a toolkit for refugees wanting to speak to the media.
Who are you cheering for in the world cup?
Duncan Bernardo runs BC Newcomer Camp a soccer camp for refugee youth. He wants to know who refugees are cheering for in the World Cup.
Saeid Kooshki and his wife Monireh Nayebian are refugees from Iran who resettled in metro Vancouver. They proudly explain their six-month-old daughter Sara is Canadian, even if they are “refugees.”
Don’t ‘other’ refugees
Refugees are “like you & me! Don’t ‘other’ them!’ says Noor Youssef, a youth worker for refugees new to Canada at the Immigrant Services Society of BC.
Refugee claimants face a lot of challenges
Refugee claimants face challenges like language barriers, culture shock and a sense of loss, says Melissa Osorto, a settlement worker at Options Community Services.
Refugees are not victims
“Refugees are not victims. We must capitalize on their strengths, resilience and capabilities — all they need from us is understanding, kindness and friendship,” says Leo Gomez Cabasag, a youth worker for refugees new to Canada at the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.