Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Advocates denounce treatment of refugees

Federal cuts, negative views hurt vulnerable newcomers

  • Print

Canada isn't the welcoming place it used to be for refugees, say Winnipeg advocates who took part Monday in one of several marches planned in Canadian cities this week.

"We need to turn around the negative discourse," said Jim Mair with the Canadian Council for Refugees, which helped organize the event dubbed the "walk with refugees for a stronger Canada."

Barriers to citizenship that have been put in place in recent years, such as tougher tests, higher fees and longer wait times have a disproportionate effect on vulnerable newcomers, he said.

"Defending the human rights of the world's most vulnerable citizens is an essential Canadian value," said Mair. Most of the people who call Canada home are here because someone in their lineage found refuge here, he said.

'Defending the human rights of the world's most vulnerable citizens is an essential Canadian value'

"There are a lot of positive things happening in Winnipeg -- it's a hotbed for refugees coming to Canada," he said during a walking tour of the inner city, crediting refugees for breathing new life into the neighbourhood.

Close to 75 demonstrators walked from Central Park past newcomer agencies such as Welcome Place on Bannatyne Avenue and businesses on Sargent Avenue that have made the area vibrant.

The federal government has cut services to refugee claimants and health benefits to privately sponsored refugees.

"I'm sad and embarrassed," said Karen Giesbrecht, an adviser at New Journey Housing for newcomers. She said she's glad the provincial government agreed to pay for things such as prescription drugs for privately sponsored refugees when the federal government cut them off on Canada Day 2012.

"We know the needs are great."

The latest cut was mental-health counselling for traumatized newcomers, said Dr. Mike Dillon with Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, a non-profit organization advocating for refugee health care. Refugees can make an appointment to see a psychiatrist through Manitoba Health, but federal funding for the counselling service is gone, he said.

"It's not easy when your mental-health care is cut," said Catherine Biaya, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who came to Winnipeg in 2007. "If someone is raped or tortured, physically they can be healed," she said. "Mentally? You take it with you everywhere."

She said mental-health services help refugees get on with their lives and contribute to society.

"We're not beggars, but we need support."

People can live up to their potential, work and own their own homes if their health is in check, said Giesbrecht, who's met many newcomers as a volunteer at Chai Immigrant Centre. "I'm proud to speak up for refugees," she said.

"People are afraid of people they don't know," said Dillon with the non-partisan Canadian doctors, most of whom treat refugees. They formed the organization in 2012 in response to the federal government's cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program for privately sponsored refugees.

"Let's get to know each other," said Dillon.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in an email Monday Canada has a long and proud tradition of providing protection to those truly in need. "We have one of the most fair and generous immigration systems in the world," it said.

"We welcome about one out of every 10 of all resettled refugees globally -- more than almost any industrialized country in the world."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 17, 2014 0

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Drew Willy's pregame press conference - August 21

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Deer in Canola field near Elma, Manitoba. 060706.
  • A gaggle of Canada geese goslings at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg Monday- See Project Honk Day 05- May 07, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Did you suffer any damages from Thursday's storm?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google