MOSAIC hosts forum on experiences of refugees in Metro Vancouver

October 30, 2018

A free, public forum, “The Unique Lived Experiences of Refugees in Metro Vancouver,” was held at MOSAIC headquarters on Saturday, October 27, 2018 in honour of the contributions that people who are refugees make to our community. Over 100 attendees joined to hear from presenters who live with disabilities and those from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two-Spirit, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex communities as they shared the ups and downs of their resettlement journeys in Metro Vancouver.

The program included heartfelt and engaging stories by presenters who came to Canada as refugees and claimants from a diversity of origins including Nigeria, Syria, Guatemala, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Montenegro. Moderated, small group discussions provided a chance for attendees to explore what they heard and ask questions. The event was featured in this CBC article, highlighting interviews with Patience Magagula and Saleem Spindari.

The one-day forum increased our awareness on and attention to the specific issues related to refugees who are LGBTQI, such as the homophobia they faced in their home countries, and those with disabilities, such as the accessibility issues they faced at home and continue to face in Canada. The forum fostered meaningful connections to offer mutual support and resources to the presenters as well as attendees. The courage demonstrated by the newcomer speakers was tremendous and was equally encouraged by the care taken to create a safe and welcoming space for everyone to come together to celebrate newcomer resilience.

As Alysha Baratta, Impact Producer, Immigrant Services, Options Community Services Society, shared “the running theme that struck me across all the speakers was their missions to help others. Although they had dealt with incredible difficulties and traumas, still all of them sought to help others. It humbles me so much and reminds me that above all else, lifting others up is the best way to lift yourself up.”

Attendees also enjoyed a film screening, Wajd – Songs of Separation, alongside beautiful live music from Ibrahim Saker.

Guests interacted with students on their migration research and UBC Refugee Relief table, networked over lunch from Calabash Bistro with the dynamic DJ JudiLew spinning tracks in the background, and gained new resources on refugee resettlement, including the WUSC program at UBC, the BC Refugee Hub, and the different settlement providers supporting newcomers in our communities.

As part of a three-year old partnership, the forum was hosted by a working group that includes representatives from MOSAIC, Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST)AMSSAOptions Community Services SocietyVancouver Immigration Partnership with the City of Vancouver, as well as the UBC International Student Development (including WUSC students), UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, and the UBC Migration Research Excellence Cluster.

The event was sponsored by the UBC Community Engagement, Migration Research Excellence Cluster, and School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, which values opportunities for meaningful exchange on complex issues and to co-develop knowledge with the community. Thank you to UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs for preparing this article.