Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Refugee advocate retires, keeps cause close

  • Print

The man in charge of Manitoba's largest refugee-settlement agency, Welcome Place, is settling himself into a welcome place -- retirement.

"The first thing I'm going to do is throw away my alarm clock," said Marty Dolin, whose hallmark South Bronx growl has been heard from his first Canadian home in Nova Scotia to the halls of the Manitoba legislature.

Until the end of June, he'll work at the new Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council building at 521 Bannatyne Ave., a far cry from where he and the non-profit agency started in 1990. "When I started here, we were in a basement," he said.

"Now, we're in a building. We're recognized around the country. We're hiring the right people and doing the right things," said Dolin, 72.

"We're the largest private sponsor in Canada, bringing in more refugees and reuniting families," he said. Dolin came to Canada in 1965 and studied at Dalhousie University in Halifax, where his love for Canada began.

"A Czech airliner crashed in Newfoundland and there was a thing on the CBC where they were looking for blood donors," he said. He and his wife went to donate at a Halifax hospital, and the hardened New Yorker was struck by what saw.

"There was a line five blocks long with people standing in the rain... willing to give their blood to people they didn't know," said Dolin, whose late wife Mary Beth was the NDP MLA for Kildonan between 1981 and 1985.

"I can't imagine any other country doing this," said Dolin, who was elected for one term to the seat Mary Beth left after she died of cancer.

"That kind of empathy and that kind of support's why Canada has done well. Canadian people want to help, and they want to help refugees," said Dolin.

His biggest challenge has been getting Ottawa to see it.

"The federal government doesn't get it. It doesn't want to recognize its moral and legal obligation to protect refugees," said Dolin.

"They do their best to keep them out."

"This had been going on for the 21 years I've been here," he said. "I wish to hell the federal government would stop being so negative."

Dolin made helping refugees his life's work, and they rewarded him with their strength and spirit.

"One of the things I love about this job is all of our clients are heroes," Dolin said.

"These are people who escaped brutal dictators, who climbed under the Berlin Wall, who escaped the Warsaw ghetto. In spite of it, and some were severely hurt, they seem to do well."

And they adapt and forgive.

"We brought in people from competing old factions who were killing each other, and there's no incidence of that here," he said.

"One of the things we were able to convince people here is that you don't need to carry your old-country baggage here," said Dolin.

"If you don't like somebody that doesn't give you the option of killing them. You can just avoid them and sooner or later maybe you can get along with them."

When he leaves Welcome Place at the end of June, he plans to keep championing human rights, he said.

"It's been a good run. I've enjoyed it and learned a lot," Dolin said. The refugees and staff at Welcome Place supplied him with first-hand news of what's happening in the world.

"When the war began in Iraq, one of the staff members called his mom and asked what's happening. She'd look out the window and tell him," said Dolin.

Tickets to the June 15 celebration of Dolin's retirement are available by emailing

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2011 B5

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


  • 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 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 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.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Stephen Harper announces increased support for Canadian child protection agencies

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • July 1, 2012 - 120701  -   Canada Day fireworks at The Forks from the Norwood Bridge Sunday, July 1, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005

View More Gallery Photos


Did you watch the Bruce Jenner interview?

View Results

Ads by Google