CAAT was invited to present and co-facilitate a “Refugee and Immigration Workshop” at the 2013 Faith in the City Conference in recognition of our role in supporting immigrants, refugees and newcomers, as well as working with faith communities.
The conference was held on Thursday, January 24, 2013 inside the Council Chambers at City Hall in Toronto. The name of the conference was “A Multi-Faith Symposium for Faith Communities Working Together to Build the City”.
The purpose of the “Faith in the City” conference was to increase the participation of faith communities in city-building activities. The participation would necessitate effective collaboration among public, private, not-for profit, faith sectors, educational institutions and other stakeholders. The conference also aimed to motivate existing projects in the city and inspire similar initiatives.
The CAAT team represented by Dale Maitland, Henry Luyombya and Josephine Wong co-facilitated the Refugee and Immigration Workshop and made a presentation on “Addressing Social Determinants of Refugees Living with HIV/AIDS”.
The other facilitator, Anne Woolger from Matthew House, a refugee settlement shelter, provided background information about refugees in Canada, basic statistics and the UN definition of refugees, and a description of refugee claimants’ plight upon arrival in Canada. She also provided a list of city-run shelters for refugees to an audience of participants who expressed their desire to volunteer at the shelters.
In CAAT’s presentation, the team highlighted the significance of talking about HIV issues in relation to immigration, refugees and newcomers. The discussion also looked at the grounds for refusal of immigration status, the new policy changes (Interim Federal Health cuts and Bill C-31) and their effects on newcomer and refugee PHAs.
The team also presented challenges that refugee and newcomer PHAs encountered upon arrival in Canada. They had been identified through CAAT’s previous research studies including the Treatment Access study, Mental Health study, Designated Medical Practitioners training, Medical Inadmissibility study, Mobilizing ethno-racial leaders against HIV stigma and the CHAMP study.
The CAAT team explored community solutions and strategies that have been effective in addressing some of the barriers and challenges. The strategies used a social-determinants-of-health approach through meaningful and equitable involvement of PHAs, community capacity building, translating research findings into action, policy change and programs.
The workshop space was filled with people representing faith-based communities, refugee shelters, institutions of higher learning, and private citizens who wanted to volunteer their time and offer their skills to support refugees in Canada.
At the end of the talk, over 30 participants shared their contact information as a way of continuing to dialogue and network and ensure that workshop recommendations are put into consideration. One participant suggested a Refugee 101 workshop or course to orient newcomers with access to services.
Other workshops that were also offered at the conference included: After School Programs, Disadvantaged Youth, Homelessness and Housing; and Food Security & Poverty.
Along with MP Olivia Chow, Councilors Joe Mihevc, Shelley Carroll and Kristyn Wong-Tam close to 200 participants and faith leaders were in attendance. The conference was sponsored in part by the Metropolitan Church of Canada (MCC). For more information on the report and recommendations, visit www.faithinthecity.ca
Report by: Henry Luyombya