By Scott Strasser, March 21 2017 —
The University of Calgary Pre-Law Society hosted an event on March 17 to educate students and raise awareness about the immigration process for refugees in Canada.
The event — In our Footsteps: Understanding the Refugee Immigration Process — included talks from an immigration lawyer, a photographer who spent four months assisting at a Lebanese refugee camp and a U of C student who recently came to Canada as a refugee from South Sudan.
Roughly 30 people attended the two-hour event, which took place in the EEEL building on the U of C campus.
According to U of C Pre-Law Society vice-president external Lyann Ordenes, the club wanted to clarify misconceptions about the refugee and immigration processes in Canada.
“We wanted [to] make sure people aren’t using immigrant and refugee interchangeably, as they are two different scenarios,” she said. “Especially in the context of students interested in law, learning about immigration law is a great step to take.”
One of the speakers was photographer Jon Yee, who spent four months assisting in a refugee camp in Lebanon. He spoke about some of the things he witnessed while stationed there.
“Seeing videos and images on TV is different from meeting people on the ground,” he said. “You don’t create that emotional connection with people until you actually talk to them and hear their stories.”
Ordenes believes that as citizens of a multicultural country, it shouldn’t be difficult for Canadians to connect with refugees.
“I’m not going to pretend that everybody is welcoming to diversity, but at the end of the day, if you talk to these people about their experiences and learn about them, it’s not too hard to overcome those obstacles,” she said. “You can create friendships and a great sense of community.”
A focus of the event was highlighting how refugees and immigrants often come from different circumstances. Ordenes pointed out how many refugees were reluctant to leave their homes and are trying to make the best out of a difficult situation.
“Refugees specifically are people that need a sense of community and belonging,” she said. “They come from terrible situations no one wants to be in. They’re escaping [persecution], war, things like that. I want to be as welcoming and as educated as I can about the topic.”
The event also included a raffle and charity component. All proceeds went to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
The U of C Pre-Law Society is a Students’ Union-sanctioned club for students interested in pursuing careers in law, as well as those who are studying law and society at the U of C.