June 20 marks World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe and celebrates the strength and courage of those who have been forced to flee their home countries to escape war, conflict or persecution. World Refugee Day is an opportunity to build empathy and understanding for the plight of refugees and recognize their resilience as they aim to rebuild their lives.
Wilfrid Laurier University is a thriving community where all members can reach their potential. Together with our many campus and community partners, Laurier creates access to innovative opportunities for refugees seeking safety and education while building toward a brighter future.
For over 40 years, the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program has combined resettlement with opportunities for higher education for student refugees. The WUSC program at Laurier began in 1985, with the first refugee students arriving in 1991.
Through the Laurier WUSC Laurier Scholarship, refugee students receive support to cover tuition and living expenses for four years. The scholarship is funded by an $8 annual student levy, the Office of the President and the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association. The WUSC student committee, which operates at Laurier’s Brantford and Waterloo campuses, provides peer support to help refugee students acclimate to their life and studies at Laurier.
International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) is a student-led and student-run initiative at Laurier that works with partner organizations to bring students experiencing conflict in their home countries to study at Laurier on scholarship.
Scholarships are funded by a $4-per-term student levy and support from partner organizations, including Daughters for Life, Jusoor Syria, the Iraqi-Syrian Student Project and Prospect Burma.
Since 2015, ISOW has supported 23 scholars from Syria, Gaza, Lebanon, Egypt and Myanmar. Six new ISOW scholars will join the Laurier community and begin their studies in the fall 2022 term.
Laurier is a referral partner for the World Education Services Gateway Program (WESGP), which assesses the educational credentials of those who have been displaced and have limited proof of their academic achievements. Working with WESGP, Laurier’s admissions team is prioritizing undergraduate applications from those fleeing Afghanistan as a result of the crisis that unfolded in August 2021.
Laurier, in partnership with student leaders from ISOW, is also in contact with Women Leaders of Tomorrow, a non-profit organization that advocates for education and sports for Afghan youth, to sponsor female students from Afghanistan.
Laurier is a member of Scholars at Risk (SAR), an international network of institutions and individuals who aim to protect scholars experiencing conflict and threats in their home countries and promote academic freedom.
Laurier offers the Visiting Research-Scholars at Risk program, an online offering that allows scholars at risk to re-enter and re-engage with academia at Laurier. The program also assists Laurier faculty and students to create and strengthen opportunities for research and collaboration with scholars in areas of mutual interest. Scholars eligible for this program will have a Visiting Researcher appointment at Laurier.
Contact email@example.com to learn more about the Visiting Research Scholars program at Laurier.
Laurier is working with the City of Brantford, YMCA Immigrant Settlement Services Brantford and the Slavic Full Gospel Church in Brantford to support Ukrainian refugees arriving in Brant as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Three Ukrainian families are residing at Wilkes House, an apartment-style residence building at Laurier’s Brantford campus. The families, who arrived in May, can remain at Wilkes House until more permanent housing is secured through the YMCA, expected later this summer.
Laurier is also providing storage space at One Market for household items donated by the community to assist the Ukrainian families once they settle into long-term housing.
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a new Students’ Union club, Laurier Helps Ukraine, formed to provide humanitarian assistance for refugees affected by the war through fundraising and awareness initiatives.
To date, Laurier Helps Ukraine has raised $3,000 with most of the funds – $2,200 – donated to the Canadian-Ukrainian Foundation and Help Us Help. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Sophia in Waterloo also received a donation to their medical-supply fundraiser.
Laurier Helps Ukraine hopes to fundraise through events held during the summer months. Follow the club on Instagram to learn more.
Moved by the plight of those impacted by the civil war in Syria, the Laurier community was driven to act. In November 2015, Laurier partnered with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to sponsor and resettle Syrian refugee families who fled as a result of their country seeking safety. Two families settled in Kitchener-Waterloo while the other settled in Brantford.
The Brantford family was separated from their daughter, her husband and their young son. Eventually, after many months of effort, Laurier was also able to sponsor that family as well. In 2019 they arrived, were reunited with their extended family members, and also settled in Brantford.
MCC, a highly regarded organization working in the field of refugee settlement, provided advice and guidance to the families, while Laurier and Citizenship and Immigration Canada engaged in a blended-sponsorship arrangement to provide financial support. Laurier faculty and staff members at both campuses volunteered their time to assist with the resettlement efforts and helping the newcomer families navigate life in their new country.
Shortly after announcing the sponsorship initiative, the Laurier community raised more than $21,000 of the $27,000 required to support one family of four. Many Laurier employees contributed to the sponsorship initiative through a payroll deduction program.
Since their arrival in late 2015, members of the Laurier-sponsored Syrian families have learned English, secured employment, started school and purchased a home.
Laurier and its ISOW club have entered a five-year partnership with COMPASS Refugee Centre, a resettlement organization in Kitchener, Ont., to offer the ISOW Newcomer Scholarship Program. The scholarship program assists up to two recipients per academic year with undergraduate tuition fees in any Laurier program and is renewable if eligibility criteria – including refugee-claimant status and financial need – are met.
The scholarship is designed to offset financial barriers that academically eligible refugee-claimant youth in Canada face. Refugee-claimants – sometimes referred to as asylum seekers – would be considered international students and ineligible for tuition assistance through government programs. International student tuition fees can make education inaccessible for most refugee-claimant youth.
Laurier will welcome the first Newcomer Scholarship Program recipient, a female student from Turkey, to the Faculty of Science at the Waterloo campus this fall. She will be joined by six international students beginning their academic journeys at Laurier with ISOW scholarship support.
On IMRC's podcast, Displacements, Alison Mountz, Laurier Research Chair in Global Migration, and Kim Rygiel, associate professor in Laurier’s Department of Political Science and at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, talk to authors, activists, scholars and creatives who are engaging with issues of human displacement. The co-hosts discussed Mountz's book The Death of Asylum: Hidden Geographies of the Enforcement Archipelago on the first episode.
Margaret Walton-Roberts, professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, co-edited A National Project: Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Canada, which provides a detailed examination of the experiences of refugees and receiving communities during Canada's Operation Syrian Refugee from 2015 to 2016.