Common Threads

Building a Positive Narrative Around Forced Migration

Through advocacy, awareness, storytelling and outreach, Common Threads seeks to create a positive and empowering narrative around forced migration; one that recognizes our common humanity and upholds dignity. This initiative also emphasizes the power of cities—and the residents, community organizations, and institutions that comprise them—to stand with people forced to flee.


Advocacy & Storytelling

Common Threads advocates to uphold the human rights and dignity of all people who have been forced to flee their homes, no matter the official labels that may have been assigned to them—refugee, economic migrant, asylum seeker, claimant, or otherwise.

Awareness: A Crisis of Protection

Common Threads raises awareness of the complex and interconnected factors that are driving people from their homes. We seek to illustrate the ways in which people forced to flee fall through the cracks of national and international protection frameworks and where local civil society is stepping in to fill these gaps.

Outreach: Welcoming Newcomers to Montreal

Each week, Montrealers of all ages, backgrounds and professions welcome newly arrived asylum seekers to the city through conversation circles at a local library.

Sign up as volunteer

Welcome Sessions + Toolkit

Every day asylum seekers arrive by bus in Montreal, after having crossed the border between New York and Quebec to seek asylum. Their countries of origin range from Colombia, to Mexico, Nigeria to Burundi, Palestine to Pakistan. Due to the Safe Third Country Agreement, it is forbidden to request asylum at an official land port of entry into Canada, on the premise that one must request asylum in the first safe country they enter. As such, asylum seekers arriving by land in Canada are forced to enter irregularly. In fact, 96% of all irregular crossings in Canada take place at Roxham Rd. From the border, asylum seekers are taken to the YMCA Residence in downtown Montreal, where they are given a two-three week period of food and shelter before they must find their own housing and then find their way.

In April 2019, SCSC launched an initiative, in partnership with the Atwater Library, to welcome asylum seekers staying at the YMCA Residence for Asylum Seekers in downtown Montreal. In collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Urban Spaces and the Programme régional d’accueil et d’intégration des demandeurs d’asile (PRAIDA), this program has developed into weekly volunteer-run sessions, introducing asylum seekers to members of the Montreal community as well as to community resources. The purpose is to foster a sense of solidarity and connectedness between newcomers and Montrealers, and ease the sense of isolation upon arrival. Each Tuesday, volunteers invite YMCA residents next door to the library for an hour of small group conversation about life in Montreal. Topics include: free events and festivals in the city, how to survive the winter, the ins and outs of different neighbourhoods, green spaces, free language classes, community and cultural centres, among many others. While the adults converse, several volunteers assist by reading books, colouring and playing with the children. Beyond introducing the asylum seekers to the city and to residents who know the city well, these sessions build shared understanding between Montrealers and newcomers. Montrealers have the opportunity to learn about different cultures and backgrounds and can begin to understand the realities of forced migration.

The Welcome Sessions are designed to be a self-sustaining, citizen-led initiative. In this vein, we have established an Advisory Committee comprised of volunteers who have played significant leadership roles in bringing this initiative to fruition. Current members of the Advisory Committee include: Jessica Farber, founder of the Welcome Sessions, volunteers Caroline Corbett-Thompson, Chloé Mancini, Farah Kashaf, Natasha Guerriero, Nelly Markovsky and Tessie Nikuze, along with MSF members Jetske Duintjer and Audrey Beaulieu-Forest. 

Since April 2019, volunteers have welcomed over 700 asylum seekers from over 30 countries. Do you live in Montreal and want to get involved? Sign up to join us here.

Do you live in an urban space anywhere in the world? We have created a Welcome Sessions Toolkit, which offers both an explanation of the Welcome Sessions that we have developed, as well as a step-by-step guide detailing how any individual, group, or organization could begin a similar initiative in their community.

Visit the website of our partner as well, MSF Urban Spaces, for similar tools to implement a similar initiative in your community.

Since its founding, SCSC has been committed to advancing research and advocacy on the rights of forcibly displaced peoples.

Research Reports

The Post-Migration Mental Health of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Quebec by Priya Nair, Social Connectedness Fellow 2019

Community-based Approaches to the Integration of Refugees and Asylum seekers in Montreal by Céline de Richoufftz, Social Connectedness Fellow 2018

Asylum Seekers and Refugees with Intellectual Disabilities in Europe by Amy Luce, Social Connectedness Fellow 2018

Facilitating Resilience-Building and Social Connectedness in the Refugee and Asylum Seeker Population of Greater Montreal by Ana Sofia Hibon, Social Connectedness Fellow 2017



Common Threads advocates to uphold the human rights and dignity of all people who have been forced to flee their homes, no matter the official labels that may have been assigned to them—refugee, economic migrant, asylum seeker, claimant, or otherwise.

Read our latest opinion pieces and articles here:

International Migrants Day: A Call for Communities to Welcome Newcomers, by Jessica Farber, Program Manager, Common Threads

World Refugee Day 2019: Reflections from Montreal to Mexico, by Jessica Farber, Program Manager, Common Threads

Where Two Dead Ends Meet: Finding Safe Passage at Roxham Road, by Priya Nair, Program Assistant, Common Threads & Social Connectedness Fellow, 2019

On Refugee Rights Day, it’s Time for Canada to Step Up, by Kim Samuel, Founder of SCSC, and Jessica Farber, Program Manager, Common Threads


Community Events

See our past Common Threads events here:

The Unseen Driver of Forced Migration: Climate Change and the Crisis of Protection in Central America and Mexico (September 2019)

Narratives of Migration: From Mexico to Montreal at Cuisine Ta Ville (May 2019)

From Integration to Inclusion: A Roundtable on Refugee Reception in Montreal (March 2018)

Stories of Common Humanity

What We Leave Behind is an oral history series conducted by Priya Nair, Social Connectedness Fellow 2019 and Program Assistant, Common Threads. Comprising of the personal narratives of those who were forced to flee their countries, this series seeks to paint a picture of all that was left behind: memories, homes, family, friends, neighbours, careers, etc. Through showcasing these narratives, we hope to demonstrate the common threads between forced migrants and locals, emphasizing our shared sense of connection to people, places, and memories.