York marks Refugee Rights Day with events in April

Refugee Rights Toronto
Refugee Rights (Image: Facebook)

Events are taking place throughout the month of April to mark the significance of April 4 as Refugee Rights Day.

York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) presents a month of events co-organized by Syria Response Refugee Initiative lead John Carlaw of CRS, and includes highlighting the opening of the new exhibit Refuge Canada at Pier 21 in Halifax, N.S., an installation that CRS had a role in shaping.

The exhibit will remain in Halifax until Nov. 11, and will then tour across Canada beginning in April 2019.

Current CRS visiting scholar, Morgan Poteet (Mount Allison University), and CRS Director Jennifer Hyndman were two of the experts invited to consult with Pier 21 curators for the exhibit. The installation features the personalities and contributions of refugees who have come to Canada, lifeboat dinghies simulating Mediterranean marine arrivals, and more racialized, varied histories, beyond the European focus that currently characterizes the museum.

refugee rights month toronto
Refugee Rights Month (Image: Facebook)

On April 4 at 5:30pm, City of Toronto Mayor John Tory will proclaim Refugee Rights Day and month at a panel discussion on the theme of “Finding Home: 33 Years of Defending Refugee Rights.”

The panel discussion will focus on the criminalization of refugees, access to shelter and housing, and the right to health care. It will feature: Idil Atak, associate professor,  ‎Department of Criminology, Ryerson University; Anne Woolger, founding director, Matthew House Toronto Refugee Reception Services; and Ritika Goel, family physician, Inner City Health Associates.

The event will also include music and spoken word performances by refugee artists. Refreshments will be provided. Registration is free, but required to attend. More information is available on the Facebook event page.

Acknowledging the support of the offices of the Vice-President Academic and Provost, the Dean of Law at Osgoode Hall and Amnesty International, among others, Carlaw said, “The importance of these events and discussions of refugee rights is clear not only in the mayor’s participation over the last two years, but most of all in the interest that refugees, civil society organizations and other community members demonstrate in these remarkable events.”

The events range from film screenings and panel discussions to art exhibits and also a party to honour the theme of refugee rights. A full list of events can be found on the Facebook events page.

“I really encourage York community members to attend those that they can,” said Carlaw.

Refugee Rights Day on April 4 marks the anniversary of the 1985 Supreme Court Decision of Singh v. Minister of Employment and Immigration. Singh and six other asylum seekers to Canada were ruled to have the right to an oral hearing and access to fundamental justice, based on being present in the country. Both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights were invoked in the ruling, which gave rise to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) we have today.