Roundtable highlights York students’ positive actions to support migration and diversity

A roundtable organized by York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) showcased the many ways in which students are engaging positively to promote inclusion on campus and in the community. The event, which took place March 15 at the Keele campus, was streamed to the Glendon campus.

Four students from the Keele and Glendon campuses presented on their personal and collective resistance to problematic anti-immigration, racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic actions in Canada and internationally.

Christina Clark-Kazak (organizer and moderator), Dina Taha, Hawa Sabriye, Ousman Conteh and Kim Veller
Christina Clark-Kazak (organizer and moderator), Dina Taha, Hawa Sabriye, Ousman Conteh and Kim Veller. Photo by John Carlaw

Dina Taha, a PhD candidate in sociology, a member of the York University Sociologists and Friends refugee sponsorship group and co-chair of the CRS Student Caucus, encouraged participants to decolonize methodologies. She explained how increased awareness and attention to our own positions within power relations is necessary for both research and activism.

Kim Veller, a second-year student at Osgoode Hall Law School and chair of the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, reported on a recent research-a-thon that was focused on the Safe Third Country Agreement. This pan-Canadian initiative, in partnership with the Canadian Council for Refugees, demonstrated how law students can use their legal training and research to effect positive policy change.

Ousman Conteh, co-president of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) group at Glendon and a Development Studies major, highlighted WUSC’s Refugee Sponsorship Program, which brings refugee students to study at York University. He also spoke of WUSC’s broader public education roles, including an upcoming Fair Trade event at the Glendon campus.

Hawa Sabriye, a master of education candidate and teacher with the Toronto District School Board, gave specific examples about increasing diversity and tolerance in educational settings, both in Toronto and abroad. Her experience with WUSC-Keele and the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project provided rich perspectives on the many ways in which education can be made more inclusive.

The diversity of experiences and disciplinary perspectives of the speakers and the participants resulted in an energizing discussion about how the different student groups could work together on collective goals. Participants also discussed at length the ways in which particular terminology and labels can undermine rights – such as the use of the illegal migrant label.