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Refugees

Refugees can be a common target for discrimination. While discrimination based on physical and cultural differences is common, refugees are also targets of discrimination because of the nature of how they have come to immigrate to Canada and the financial support that is made available to them. In many cases, refugees suffer from symptoms of trauma and may report feelings of anger, hopelessness, loss of dignity and humiliation. 

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) defines a refugee as someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

The spread of misinformation can be a key factor in why refugees are often targets of discrimination. The following information clarifies many of the common areas of misunderstanding.

Refugees come to Canada through one of three streams: a government-assisted refugee, a privately-sponsored refugee or through the Blended Visa Office-Referred Program. Government-assisted refugees receive income support from the federal government for up to one year unless they can financially support themselves sooner. The amount of income support is based on each province’s social assistance rates and provides for food, shelter and other basic needs. AUMA’s webinar titled ‘Understanding the refugee experience’ highlights how in 2017, a refugee household of three persons would receive approximately $1,100 per month in income support. A privately-sponsored refugee is financially supported by a voluntary group of people for one to three years. Refugees arriving as part of the Blended Visa Office-Referred Program will receive income support from the federal government for six months and a private sponsor for six months. The federal and provincial governments provide a variety of other short and long-term supports (e.g. language, mental health support and skills training) to help refugees and other immigrants successfully integrate in Alberta’s communities.

The immigration of refugees is a long-standing practice by the Government of Canada to assist persons from all over the world to enjoy a life in Canada free of persecution. The federal government sets annual targets for the number of refugees that will immigrate to Canada. For example, the government’s 2017 plan targeted to welcome 300,000 immigrants to Canada, which included 25,000 persons under the refugee class. In 2017, the United Nations Refugee Agency estimated that there were 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, which included 22.5 million refugees. Click here for a historical time line of refugees coming to Canada.

For more information about refugees, visit RefugeeAlberta.ca for a comprehensive source of information that is categorized based on the type of user. 

Resources

Refugee Alberta
Refugeealberta.ca is a comprehensive multi-lingual website designed to meet the information needs of refugees, organizations serving refugees and the general public. The site is managed by the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies.

Understanding the refugee experience
An AUMA webinar (2017) featuring speakers from the Centre for Race and Culture and the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative. The video explores the process, trends, and myths of refugees through the lens of Syrian refugees.

Stakeholders

Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies
AAISA supports Alberta’s settlement sector by conducting research, providing training and tools and communicating with stakeholders.

Government of Alberta
Newcomers can access information on residency and working in Alberta.

Government of Canada
The federal department of Immigration, Citizenship, and Refugees Canada provides information on refugees including an interactive map of newcomer services by region. 

Municipal Examples

City of Calgary
In 2016, the City hosted the Calgary Welcome and Newcomers Fair where over 30 City departments set up booths for newcomers to learn about available services and resources. Volunteers were present to help translate for the new Syrian refugees and other Arabic-speaking newcomers.

During the influx of Syrian refugees in 2016, many Syrians stayed in hotels until permanent housing was available. To help parents complete necessary testing and training, the City of Calgary placed lifeguards at hotel pools to create a safe environment for Syrian children to play without parental supervision.

City of Edmonton
During the influx of Syrian refugees in 2016, the City of Edmonton provided all Syrian refugees with free transit passes to help remove barriers for them to attend necessary medical appointments and language training to allow for a successful transition into the community.

Municipality of Jasper
Community volunteers host a donation-based weekly community dinner for residents. Months after their arrival, two Syrian refugee families were invited to cook a Syrian-themed meal for the weekly dinner. The dinner allowed the Syrian families to meet other residents and showcase their cultural food. The Syrian-themed meal drew over 500 residents, which happened to be one of the largest attended dinners in the 15-year history of the program.