April 7, 2021Print | PDF
A group of Wilfrid Laurier University students is marking Refugee Rights Day in Canada by hosting an online event to raise awareness about the rights and realities of asylum seekers in Canada.
Students in GS461: Global Humanitarianism, a fourth-year Global Studies course led by Laurier Associate Professor Alicia Sliwinski, will host “EnCOMPASSing Shared Humanity” in collaboration with COMPASS Refugee Centre on April 8 from 6 to 7 p.m. on Zoom. Three asylum seekers supported by COMPASS, formerly known as the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support, will share their experiences as refugee claimants and the stories of their journeys to Canada.
“Planning this event has opened my eyes to the experiences and realities of people seeking asylum in Canada,” says Laurier student and event organizer Oshish Ungras. “Asylum seekers are personally targeted in their home countries and forced to leave everything behind, including their families, to find safety. No one should have to live that way and we hope our event will bring more awareness to these realities.”
April 4 marked Refugee Rights Day in Canada, a day that celebrates the advances made in the protection of refugee rights as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada’s “Singh decision” on April 4, 1985, which ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees.
“I am so proud of the work the students have put into this event,” says Sliwinski. “Working online can be challenging, but the students found solutions to organize a meaningful public event that aims to help marginalized members of our community.”
Sliwinski taught GS461: Global Humanitarianism as a Community Service-Learning course during the winter 2021 term. Laurier’s Community Service-Learning courses fuse academic content with experiential learning opportunities in the community, so students develop future-ready skills. Students divided into five groups that were responsible for planning a different aspect of the event, including promotion, media and design, technology, panellist support, and education and advocacy.
The groups were paired with COMPASS Refugee Centre staff members, who assisted with planning by providing insight about working with people in challenging situations. Shelley Campagnola, executive director at COMPASS Refugee Centre, says collaborating with Laurier students has been a rewarding experience.
“Laurier students are innovative and creative, and this group has put in a significant amount of work,” says Campagnola. “It was wonderful to see the students experience those ‘a-ha’ moments as the planning process progressed.”
Laurier student Rishita De says she is pleased with how students came together to plan EnCOMPASSing Shared Humanity in a remote environment.
“It was a rewarding journey to work with COMPASS and to see our ideas come together,” says De. “It shows the depth of our hard work and dedication to support our communities, even when things feel challenging.”
Speakers sharing their experiences as refugee claimants during “EnCOMPASSing Shared Humanity” will remain anonymous to protect their privacy. All are welcome to attend the event, but registration is required.
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