York University community to mark Refugee Rights Day and Month

York University will host a panel discussion to mark Refugee Rights Day in Canada on April 4 from noon to 2pm in the Senior Common Room, 140 McLaughlin College.

refugee rights dayRefugee Rights Day in Canada is celebrated each year on April 4 to recognize and to acknowledge the Supreme Court of Canada’s famous 1985 decision in Singh. It was one of the first decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) based on the then-new constitutionally entrenched 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In essence, the judgment stated that Section 7 of the Charter, “life, liberty and security of the person,” applied to everyone who was in Canada, whether they had status, that is, citizens, permanent residents, valid visitors, etc., or they did not have status, refugee applicants, undocumented persons, etc.

The 1985 Singh decision is also famous for striking down the then-existing refugee determination system because it did not adhere to the principles of fundamental justice.

What followed in the wake of this major judgment was the establishment of a new refugee status determination system and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

David Leyton-Brown
David Leyton-Brown

The panel discussion will be chaired by David Leyton-Brown, master of McLaughlin College and professor of Political Science at York University.

Panelists include:

  • Debbie Douglas, executive director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
  • Michael Creal, professor emeritus, York University, and chair of the Southwestern Ontario Sanctuary Movement
  • Rana Khan, legal officer, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • Reem Alhaj, York University Keele Campus World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Committee Co-Chair & WUSC-sponsored refugee student

The event will also include the performance “Straight outta Global Health” by student spoken word artists on Canada’s response to the global refugee crisis.

It is co-sponsored by Office of the Master, McLaughlin College, School of Public Policy and Administration, Centre for Refugee Studies, York Centre for Public Policy and Law, the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies, and the York Collegium of Practical Ethics.

Refugee Rights Day/Month

In addition to Refugee Rights Day planning, York’s Syria Response and Refugee Initiative, students and student groups have been mobilizing around Refugee Rights Month (April) as a whole. Student groups involved in planning include Amnesty International at York, the Centre for Refugee Studies Student Caucus, RefugeAid, UNICEF/MSF at York, and (WUSC) Keele Campus Committee. These groups have been meeting regularly to plan their participation in the month’s activities.

They have been promoting photography of York community members with welcoming messages and pledges concerning refugees and refugee rights while tabling at Vari Hall, and in other settings. Examples are available on their project instagram page. This activity is part of York’s participation in the Canadian Council for Refugees’ Refugees Welcome Here! campaign.

The York community is also participating in city wide Refugee Rights Month Activities with the Toronto Refugee Rights Month Planning Committee.

Within Toronto, the York University Syria Response and Refugee Initiative, the Centre for Refugee Studies and Osgoode Hall Law School are members of the 2016 Refugee Rights Month Coalition, part of a group organizing and highlighting a month-long series of events in the city. At the coalition’s request, the City of Toronto has agreed to recognize April as Refugee Rights Month.

A featured event of this month will be York community participation in an Amnesty International Walk for Refugees on Saturday, April 30 .

More on Refugee Rights Day and Month Activities can be found at the YU Syria Response and Refugee Initiative’s Refugees Welcome! and News and Events pages.