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World Refugee Day: Amplifying Refugee Voices

World Refugee Day 2021
June 22, 2021

On World Refugee Day this year, the phrase “Together we heal, learn and shine”, was used to call  on the powers of communities to foster stronger and safer homes for refugees. 

At SCSC, our Common Threads program seeks to build an empowering narrative around forced migration through storytelling, while bringing people together to build social connectedness and belonging. Through our Welcome Sessions, we connect Montreal residents with refugees and asylum seekers who are new to Montreal as a way to overcome social isolation, and cultivate community care, inclusion and mutual understanding. 

To commemorate this year’s World Refugee Day, we reached out to some of our Welcome Session participants to hear about their stories and experiences moving to Montreal. We believe that creating strong and welcoming communities includes amplifying the voices of people with lived experiences of whom we cater to. 

Moving to a new country can be challenging. Moving to a new country in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic even more so. The barriers asylum seekers and refugees face in general are often exacerbated by the pandemic and include language barriers, family separation, lack of access to health care, financial difficulties, social isolation and traumatic experiences. 

Javier, 54, arrived in Canada right before the closures caused by the pandemic in March 2020. Originally from Mexico, Javier was previously a commercial pilot in his home country. Now settling in Montreal, Javier finds himself at a standstill. He is unable to get an equivalency for his pilot license and consequently, cannot continue to do the work he loves in Canada. 

“I am a Commercial Pilot in my country, I have a lot of experience to offer but being somewhere, where you find you’re nobody is extremely hard,” Javier says. 

When asked how Canada can build better futures for refugees and asylum seekers new to the country, Javier responds: “Helping make the legal procedures a bit faster, [including] the conversion of documents. I could not convert my documents. I don’t know what is happening. I have been calling Immigration Canada several times in order to know how my procedure is going, and nobody answers.” 

“I hope you can wear my shoes so that you can understand what I’m going through,” Javier shares.


Idania, 37, arrived in Canada in the midst of the pandemic in November 2020 with her husband and son. When asked how we can build a better future for refugees and immigrants in Canada, Idania responds similarly to Javier: paperwork. 

“It’s very important, you don’t feel like you don’t belong here if you don’t have the papers, [it means] I’m in between this country and my home country.” 

Thankfully, Idania’s husband was able to find a job similar to one he was doing in their home country of Nicaragua. That being said, Idania calls on people to think about others, including refugees. 

“Can you imagine losing all your businesses, your belongings, losing a person, a family [member], leaving all your family behind just because you want to take care of your family and give them a better quality of life? You have to take time to think about people who really need help. Don’t forget about others, it’s about everyone, about the community, about the entire world.” 

In time, Idania and her husband hope to start a business, support their son in his education and future and Idania personally, would like to study a new degree to complement her Business Administration degree. 

These stories offer a glimpse into the realities of our participants’ journeys as refugees in Montreal. Let us continue to foster communities that welcome and highlight refugee stories to build greater mutual understanding, stronger social connectedness and belonging. 

Common Threads will be hosting a storytelling session, Our Common Humanity: Share Your Story, on July 13th, 2021. This will be a space for newcomers and volunteers to come together and share our common humanity through storytelling. If you would like to join us, follow this link.