By Sauvé Fellow Brijlal Chaudhari

After exploring the topic of refugee rights and integration through encounters with several key stakeholders, our team of Fellows moved a step further in identifying the existing complexities of refugee integration. In March, we had the opportunity to do this at Pearson College UWC, in Victoria, British Columbia.

We used this time to advance our team project as well as to interact with international students on the topic of “authentic leadership.” We spent the first week at Pearson narrowing down the team project deliverables and setting concrete outputs. After a series of discussions, we collectively agreed to execute the following:

  • Advocacy on behalf of refugees in Ottawa: Based on the policy proposals that we have received from our numerous encounters and stakeholder meetings, our goal is to present a position paper to federal decision-makers. This paper will put forward a set of public policy recommendations aimed at improving the lives of refugees who come to Canada in a way that benefits all of Canadian society. Our upcoming trip to Ottawa will be a great opportunity to advance this aspect of our team project. These meetings with decision-makers will also give us an opportunity to amplify the local signals from the organizations working directly with refugees.
  • Panel on the policy changes needed to improve the situation of refugees in Montreal, Quebec: In May, towards the end of the Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program residential year, we will organize a panel discussion, at Sauvé House, as a follow-up event to the Ottawa trip. This panel will bring together decision-makers, non-profit organizations and community activists to debate and potentially agree on policy changes needed at federal, provincial and municipal levels. The Sauvé Fellows will facilitate this discussion, which will be open to the wider Sauvé community, students, researchers and civil society actors. This discussion will help us update the Ottawa position paper, which we then hope to evolve into a white paper on refugee policy in Canada.
  • Op-eds on refugee rights and integration: Sauvé Fellow Costin will be publishing op-eds in Canadian and international media that will focus on comparing the Canadian perspective on refugee rights and integration with the policy developments in the European Union.
  • Supporting mental and psycho-social health needs of refugees: Throughout our team project research, we’ve concluded that there are limited mental and psycho-social supports for refugees. As part of our event series, we will be organizing a panel on the mental health and psycho-social needs of refugees. Our intention is to provide a platform for knowledge exchange and organizational outreach between scholars, social workers, and other specialists on the topic.
  • Education policy for Quebec schools to integrate migrant children: Quebec has its own policies when it comes to child education. However, the increasing number refugees coming from non-French speaking countries are adding a new set of challenges with respect to integrating refugee and immigrant children into Quebec society. Hence, the education policy needs to be revisited. Sauvé Fellow Edison will explore education and migration, and will present a paper on the topic. He will also compile a curriculum on cross-cultural education pedagogies that could help shape education reform in Quebec.
  • Cultural Exchange through Food: On the occasion of Restaurant Day (May 21, 2016), we are opening our doors for a cultural exchange through food, specifically national dishes cooked by Fellows. We will invite refugee families who are settled in Montreal, along with the larger Montreal community, to encourage open conversations and the breaking down of social barriers through shared meals.

The second week at Pearson saw the arrival of three Sauvé Fellows from previous cohorts – Jonathan Sas, Gioel Gioacchino and Marie-Marguerite Sabongui – who joined us on campus. It was a beautiful opportunity for the Fellows to connect across cohorts and work together to deliver numerous leadership workshops for the Pearson students. The discussions, seminars, workshops and panel discussions were geared towards exploring self, driving positive change in the community, and influencing systems change. We led public leadership workshops, panels on refugee integration and international development, public narrative presentations, and group discussions on cultural diversity.

The Fellows were also invited to join classes and speak with students about our respective areas of expertise. The Sauvé-Pearson collaboration was a brilliant idea as we felt that they were able to share what we’ve learned as Sauvé Fellows. Similarly, there were ample opportunities to interact with the students, which gave us a tremendous amount of hope. Finally, we would like to thank the entire Pearson community for welcoming us to the beautiful Pearson campus.

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