Refugees welcomed with local, national initiatives

Campus News

The History Refugee Committee of UVic is hosting a silent auction fundraiser to sponsor a Syrian refugee family on Wednesday, Dec. 9 in the Michele Pujol Room in the Student Union Building (SUB) from 7 to 9:30 p.m. The charity auction showcases services including spa time and kayaking trips, while items range from art to pottery to restaurant gift certificates.

The History Refugee Committee is chaired by Drs. Elizabeth Vibert, Lynne Marks, and Martin Bunton. It involves more than a dozen history professors from the university, who formed the group out of frustration with the lack of commitment by the previous Conservative government to refugees. The committee believe that if they can change at least one family’s life, it will be a step in the right direction for Canada.

Marks said that initial attempts to generate donations have been successful; they’ve received $25 000 since September just from personal donations. However, Marks says that they need $52 000 in total to pay for the family of five’s food, rent, and furniture for a year “to help them get integrated [into Victoria].”

The new Liberal government is also interested in helping refugees reach safety. However, the government believes this altruism has to be balanced with security concerns. Following the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, PM Justin Trudeau announced a revised version of his resettlement plan that he’d promised during his election campaign.

In a Nov. 24 interview with CBC Radio, Trudeau said that instead of welcoming 25 000 refugees by the year’s end, they’ll be settled by the end of February 2016.

“The most important thing is to be able to reassure Canadians that absolutely everything is being done to keep Canadians safe,” said Trudeau. He wanted to “ensure that these refugees are welcomed as new Canadians, and not a cause for anxiety or division within the population.”

He further added: “We are not just resettling refugees, we are welcoming new Canadians.”

The purpose of the delay in resettlement is to allow time for more in-depth background checks on the refugees.

While it might ease some concerns among Canadians about their possible association with terrorism, Vibert said it’s important to remember that refugees are not to blame for recent events.

“Refugees are not sowing mayhem in host countries,” Vibert said. “They are fleeing [it]. Only worse, that has torn apart their home countries and families.”

As further initiative, the committee is offering “gift donation cards” this Christmas: for $25 or more, people will receive a card that reads “Peace on Earth” and “In your honour [friend] has made a donation to welcome a Syrian refugee family to a new home in Canada.” Vibert says that giving these cards would be “a great alternative to . . . a token Christmas gift.”

Cards can be picked up starting from Nov. 30 from the History, Political Science, Geography, and Biology department offices. People can also donate and get their cards outside the Michele Pujol Room on Dec. 1. Lastly, a donor is currently offering to match donations made online or by cheque; those who donate soon will have their contributions doubled. Visit for more details.

The Dec. 9 auction will be held in the Michele Pujol Room of the SUB from 7–9:30 p.m. It is $10 for admission, $5 for students, and free for children under the age of 15. Free appetizers and a cash bar will be available.