By Sauvé Fellow Jonathan McPhedran Waitzer

As part of the new Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program, this year’s Fellows have been challenged to combine their talents and energies into a collective project. Together, our goal is to make a concrete contribution to a pressing issue within the Program’s theme of public leadership for culturally diverse societies.

Our chosen issue, refugee rights and integration, is every bit as timely as it is complex. In order to anchor our collective work in a solid base of shared knowledge, we chose to dedicate the first 6 weeks of 2016 to shared learning around our this theme. Through independent research, film screenings, site visits, and encounters with inspiring leaders, we drew on multiple perspectives to build a greater understanding of refugee issues.

To structure this learning in a way that would best serve our team project, we made a point of seeking out expertise at the levels of theory, policy, and practice. Our encounter with Kim Samuel kicked things off on an appropriately multi-dimensional note, as she wove together ideas around refugee policy, Arthurian myth, and her own research on social interconnectedness. We then met with Dr. Jaswant Guzder, an internationally renowned expert on culturally competent psychiatry with deep clinical and research-based expertise around migrant children’s mental health. Dr. Guzder helped us understand some of the concrete challenges around refugee integration through the lens of the health-care system, while also sharing some inspiring reflections on her own leadership journey.

Our learning process continued to mix policy and practice through stimulating encounters with Mostafa Henaway from Solidarity Across Borders, Dr. Eric Shragge from the Immigrant Workers Centre, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants Prof. François Crépeau, and the team at International Community Action Network (ICAN) McGill. Mostafa shared a powerful overview of the Canadian refugee policy context, along with an introduction to community-led organizing and advocacy around migrant justice. Dr. Shragge shared reflections on the promises and pitfalls of organizing in partnership between grassroots communities and larger institutions, while Prof. Crépeau shared his candid thoughts on the future of international migration policy. Our encounter with the ICAN team was not only informative and inspiring, but also highlighted some opportunities for collaboration within the scope of this emerging project… so stay tuned!

Alongside our encounters with these leaders, we have also been spending our time learning with each other. We’ve been organizing and attending documentary film nights, including a powerful screening of Queens of Syria organized by Dr. Guzder the week before our encounter. We’ve also conducted independent research into the project theme, sharing our key findings with each other through regular knowledge exchange circles.

As our learning continues, and our team project takes shape, we look forward to sharing the details with you here. The process itself has been a deeply enriching one, and our excitement is building as we prepare to work towards concrete outcomes. We still don’t know exactly what this project will look like as it continues to emerge through our collective work, but we’re excited to find out together!

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