Common Threads - Samuel Centre For Social Connectedness — Samuel Centre For Social Connectedness
Common Threads

Building a Positive Narrative Around Forced Migration

Through research, awareness-building, 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 program emphasizes the power of cities—and the residents, community organizations, and institutions that comprise them—to stand with people forced to flee.

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Storytelling

We believe that stories have the power to unite us and highlight our fundamentally human connection. We are currently working on a storytelling map that will share the narratives of forced migrants and highlight the initiatives of local community workers. If you have a story to share, write to us at commonthreads@scscglobal.org.

Research & Awareness-Building

Common Threads engages in research on the complex factors driving people from their homes and the multi-faceted process of integrating into a new community. We build awareness around more humane and holistic protection frameworks for migrants and highlight best practices by citizens, civil society, and governments that can be scaled and replicated.

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.

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Welcome Sessions

In April 2019, SCSC launched the Welcome Sessions initiative in partnership with the Atwater Library and Computer Centre, 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 initiative has developed into weekly volunteer-run sessions, introducing asylum seekers to members of the Montreal community as well as to community resources. 

The purpose of these sessions is to foster a sense of solidarity and connectedness between newcomers and Montrealers, and ease the sense of isolation upon arrival. Each week, volunteers invite YMCA residents for an hour of small group conversation about life in Montreal. Topics include, how to survive the winter, the ins and outs of different neighbourhoods, where to find free language classes, community and cultural centres and free events and festivals in the city among many others. This initiative is rooted in the principle of reciprocity: newcomers are able to gain a more intimate understanding of their new home through the shared knowledge by local residents and people with lived experiences as immigrants to Montreal. Volunteers are also able to learn about different cultures, backgrounds and the realities of forced migration. 

Due to the constraints brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Welcome Sessions have evolved into bi-weekly virtual sessions. Led by our volunteers, the Welcome Sessions have grown in this virtual space to accommodate a larger participant base, including newcomers, resettled refugees, and immigrants. 

“It helps, especially during this pandemic. Speaking with you now, it’s as if we are in the same room. This keeps my heart sane. It’s not like I’m in my room all alone”

– Ugochi, from Nigeria

The Welcome Sessions are designed to be a self-sustaining, citizen-led initiative. Our Advisory Committee, comprised of volunteers,  have played a significant role in bringing this initiative to fruition. Current members of the Advisory Committee include: Chloé Mancini, Jessica Farber, Natasha Guerriero, and Tessie Nikuze, along with MSF members Jetske Duintjer, Audrey Beaulieu-Forest, and Marilyn Gauvin.

Since April 2019, volunteers have welcomed over 1200 asylum seekers from over 30 countries. Do you live in Montreal and want to get involved? Sign up to join us here.

New to Montreal and want to learn more about our sessions? Watch our Welcome Session videos here, and sign up here to attend the next Welcome Session!

Learn More: Toolkits and Resources

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.

For a more detailed understanding of the context around seeking asylum in Canada and being a Welcome Session volunteer, you can download our orientation guide.

Visit the website of our partner as well, MSF Urban Spaces, for similar tools to implement initiatives that build stronger communities.

Stories of Common Humanity

What We Leave Behind was an oral history series conducted by Priya Nair, Social Connectedness Fellow 2019 and Project Lead, Common Threads. Comprising the personal narratives of those who were forced to flee their countries, this series sought to paint a picture of all that was left behind: memories, homes, family, friends, neighbours, careers, and more. These stories aim to highlight the common threads between us, emphasizing how each of us share a connection to people, places, and memories, regardless of where we may be from or where we may be going. 

The Postcard Project was a cross-Canada storytelling initiative created by Social Connectedness Fellow Sarah Roberts. Two Halifax-based artists designed the postcards which told stories of the experiences of forced migrants and their journey’s to Canada. These postcards, and the stories they told, were a way to educate and dispel myths around forced migration, reduce discrimination and create a more welcoming Canada for all. Contact us at commonthreads@scscglobal.org  if you would like to receive a set of postcards to distribute.

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

Research Reports

The Unique Strengths and Weaknesses of Refugee Integration in Second Tier Cities by Sarah Roberts, Social Connectedness Fellow 2020

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

 

Advocacy

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:

World Refugee Day: Amplifying Refugee Voices, by Julie Hoang, Program Coordinator, Common Threads

International Migrants Day, by Julie Hoang, Program Coordinator, Common Threads

Closed Borders and Open Hearts: The Role of Communities in Welcoming Refugees, by Sarah Roberts, Social Connectedness Fellow 2020

Detention in the Era of Social Distancing: Migrants’ Rights and the Challenge of COVID-19, by Vino Landry, Global Symposium Program Coordinator

 

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)