World Refugee Day

Announcement March 24th 2023

World Refugee Day

Recognising World Refugee Day

This month on Culture Canada we are taking the opportunity World Refugee Day offers us to highlight the rights, needs and dreams of the refugees that have made Canada their home.

Join us as we explore Canada’s tradition of refugee assistance – a long-standing tradition that continues to help those in need not only survive, but thrive. Hear stories from refugees about their experiences; explore their artistic expressions and celebrate the incredible contributions that refugees are making to their new home, Canada.

Newcomers Enriching Canadian Society

We invite you to explore both the perspectives of newcomers who have found solace in a welcoming community but also those who host them, creating new narratives around the sense of belonging. The newcomer experience is not without its challenges and the following stories highlight both the tenacity of their subjects and the importance of embracing inclusivity. Strong and rich communities are created through finding strength in our differences and sharing our diverse roots and backgrounds. This allows Canada to grow by inclusion.

David Chinyama is a Toronto based multi-disciplinary artist specializing in visual arts, design and interactive media. His work is a representation of personal fascinations shaped by different life experiences, ranging from his upbringing in Africa to multi-cultural influences of his adopted home city of Toronto. Chinyama’s works explores subject matters centered upon aspects of identity, encompassing various social, economic, political and religious connotations, and are constructed from different man-made and natural materials. In 2018 he received the RBC Newcomer Artist Business Mentorship Grant.

“This world is big enough for every one of us; it is time we learn to share what it has to offer and thrive together in our different ways.”

— David Chinyama

From Syria to Nova Scotia, one stitch at a time – generous tailor Khabat Alissa volunteers his time making face masks for first responders and his community’s most vulnerable members during the pandemic.

“Made in Canada” – one Liberian refugee’s determination to give back to the country that helped him achieve his dreams. Bob Dhillon’s vision of success through education and innovation leads to business school transformation and a university faculty named in his honour.

Danny Ramadan is a Syrian-Canadian author and LGBTQ-refugees advocate. An accomplished author, his debut novel, The Clothesline Swing, won multiple awards and his children’s book, Salma the Syrian Chef, continues to receive accolades. Both books were translated to multiple languages. Through his fundraising efforts, Ramadan raised over $200,000 for Syrian LGBTQ+ identifying refugees.

Syrian refugee Fadhl Abu-Ghanem knows the importance of inspiring and empowering young people. Through volunteering his time supporting troubled teenagers, working with young offenders and inspiring boys to pursue a career in law enforcement, Fadhl’s positive influence keeps on giving.

Ugandan refugee Fredrick Mubiru’s encounter with Mounties on Canada Day inspired him to pursue a career with the RCMP.  He mentors at-risk youth through his church and continues to provide valuable information and counselling as ambassador for the RCMP within the African community.

Singer-songwriter Ayo Leilani AKA Witch Prophet parents’ escaped war in East Africa. “As a child of the diaspora I grew up trying to balance my two worlds.” At first ashamed of her African roots she learned to love what made her ‘other’ and became proud of her history and ancestry. “It helped me recognize that I didn’t need to erase my past in order to create a new future in Canada.” Listen to Witch Prophet on DIASPORA a playlist from Polaris Music Prize.

Trung Pham expresses his refugee experience through his art to teach and guide the next generation of Canadians.


Canada has a long tradition of assisting those in need of refuge starting as early as 1770 through to today. These efforts have included the resettling of Ukrainian refugees following World War II and the “Operation Syrian Refugees” which involved the resettlement of more than 25,000 Syrian refugees in 2015-2016.

The fall of Saigon in 1975 forced thousands of Vietnamese people to flee their homes. Many took to small boats, risking the South China Seas, to find refuge elsewhere.  Over the following years some 60,000 Indochinese refugees were resettled in Canada through the generous support of the newly created private sponsorship program. Since 1979 the private sponsorship program has resettled nearly 300,000 refugees.

As Canada continues to #WelcomeRefugees, let’s look back at the work started in 2015 to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada

Hearing From Newcomers

In support of World Refugee Day, we share stories of inspiring newcomers after their arrival to Canada. They show a glimpse of what it would be like to land in a new and foreign country and the benefits that come to both the newcomers and the communities that welcome them.

The Hadhad family, forced to flee Damascus, arrived as refugees in Nova Scotia. Supported by their community and with heartfelt perseverance, they established “Peace by Chocolate” and have been an inspirational success story, building inclusivity through chocolate, one sweet tooth at a time.

Three families share their stories of adapting to a new home and the obstacles to being a newcomer. Growth means being given the chance to share one’s religion, language and culture – that’s what it means to be included.

These Syrian children have embraced ice hockey and the sense of community that comes along with it. A positive step in integration, leadership and teambuilding, the sport cements bonds and a sense of belonging on and off the ice.

Thuy Nguyen arrived in Canada as a young teenager and used these experiences to help Narjis and her transition to Canada.

More to Enjoy

This playlist from the Polaris Music Prize highlights the Canadian refugee and immigrant experience, featuring first- and second-generation immigrants to Canada from disparate locales. The diasporic vibes represented here is a Canadian-rooted sonic excursion conveying the shared hopes, disparate dreams and relatable reasons for leaving one home for another.

Click here to learn more about Polaris and listen.

Check out some Canadian authors whose work explores what it means to be a refugee. From authors such as Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali, whose memoir, Angry Queer Somali Boy, depicts leaving Somali and ending up homeless in Canada to Samra Habib’s memoir, We Have Always Been Here, exploring identity and survival. Don’t miss these books and many more and be sure to check out an amazing list of must-read books published by CBC Books.

What You Can Do In Your Community

The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (GRSI) began in 2016 to help fill the need for more global refugee resettlement places.  Community compassion exists around the world and GRSI was created to inspire new ways of resettling refugees and improve the overall experience both for the refugee and the host community involved.  By sharing Canada’s experience in community sponsorship, similar programs have been developed in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany to name a few.

What does community sponsorship mean to you?

Community Sponsorship: A Growing Global Movement

Dreaming big may seem impossible when you’re small.  But positive change can be achieved when hearts and minds are open.  After all, we share the same dreams and desire to belong so finding what unites us empowers us all.

Want to know what makes a community home? #IttakesACommunity celebrates how all people, regardless of where they are born, work together to create productive, caring, safe and inclusive communities. Learn what others are doing, share your story, find ways to get involved and join the movement.

Knowing that you don’t need to deal with life’s challenges all alone. It takes a community for us to heal one another.

Toronto Arts Foundation’s Neighbourhood Art Network supports the development and integration of newcomer and refugee artists in Toronto through the following programs:

Let’s Talk Art, workshop series bringing artists, arts leaders and creative businesses to share best practices.

RBC Newcomer Award, a $2k award providing access to resources, community and funding to create new work.

Newcomer & Refugee Artists Mentorship, mentorship support in partnership with Toronto Arts Council.

Newcomer Week, a week of creative presentations by newcomer artists that honours the vibrancy they bring.

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