Common Threads

Building a Positive Narrative Around Forced Migration

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



We believe that stories have the power to unite us and highlight our fundamentally human connection. If you have a story you would like to share, you can reach us at

Research & Advocacy: A Crisis of Protection

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 advocate for 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 2019, Quebec was the province with the highest number of asylum claims processed across Canada. Those seeking asylum may make a claim either at a port of entry (e.g., land crossing or airport) or at an inland office. Their countries of origin range from Colombia, to Mexico, Nigeria to Burundi, Palestine to Pakistan.

When asylum seekers arrive in Montreal, they are taken to either the YMCA Residence or the Royal Victoria Residence, 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. Most often people arrive with no pre-existing social networks in Montreal and limited knowledge about day-to-day life in the city.

In April 2019, SCSC launched an 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 program has developed into weekly volunteer-run sessions, introducing asylum seekers to members of the Montreal community as well as to community resources. In January 2020, we also expanded these sessions to the Royal Victoria Residence.

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: free events and festivals in the city, how to survive the winter, the ins and outs of different neighborhoods, free language classes, community and cultural centres, among many others. While some volunteers converse with the adults, others assist by reading books, colouring and playing with the children. This initiative is rooted in the principle of reciprocity: newcomers are able to gain a more intimate understanding of their new home through the knowledge shared by local residents and volunteers are able to learn about different cultures, backgrounds, and the realities of forced migration.

“I have been here only a day and a half, and until you [the volunteers] came, I’ve felt hopeless and frustrated. Arriving here was an emotional and mental shock. Just today, I was reaching my breaking point emotionally, and then the volunteers arrived and gave us a wonderful experience, a walk on the mountain. We felt calm and relaxed for the first time since arriving.”

– Monica, from Mexico

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: 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 800 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 video below!

We’ve also created Welcome Session videos in French, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi/Urdu, and Portuguese which you can watch.

Infographic Welcome Sessions

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.

Since its founding, SCSC has been committed to advancing research and advocacy 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



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, 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

Refugee Rights Day: The Right to Asylum, by Priya Nair, Program Coordinator, Common Threads

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

International Migrants Day: A Call for Communities to Welcome Newcomers, by 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 Coordinator, 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.