50 million people worldwide are either refugees or internally displaced, this is an overwhelming number. All refugees have lost their country, but each of us has a different story. Some of us are extremely lucky and have found a new home here in Canada, however many are still suffering. This past Friday June 20th, I attended an event for World Refugee Day organized by the UNHCR in Ottawa. We heard many endearing stories of survival from refugees who came from all over the world to live in our great country. I was truly honoured to be a part of such an inspiring event. Here is a photo series of the World Refugee Day event that took place at City Hall.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson started the day off by proclaiming June 20th as World Refugee Day. Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, Minister of Citizenship Chris Alexander and UNHCR Canadian Representative Furio De Angelis were also in attendance.
With Mayor Jim Watson just as we headed into the UNHCR event into Jean Pigott Hall in Ottawa.
My colleague Senator Ngo and I are both refugees, we were thrilled to attend this event commemorating World Refugee Day. Senator Ngo also sits on the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights of which I am the Chair. We are currently studying the mandate of the UNHCR and UNICEF, using the crisis in Syria as a case study. Check out some of the work on the Human Rights Committee website.
On a day of such incredible significance I was truly touched by the stories I heard and was honoured to be able to share my own.
A few years ago, I returned to Uganda on parliamentary business. President Yoweri Museveni was surprised to see me, he said “We kicked you out, and you come back a senator! What do Canadians eat?” Only in Canada can a refugee become a Senator.
Next we heard from Senator Ngo and after from Lillian Asiimwe.
“My parents always told me to be an engineer, because I would have a steady job. But I soon realized that in Canada, I can aspire to be anything I want.” – Lillian Asiimwe
Ottawa University masters student Lilian Asiimwe proves that no matter where you come from, you can thrive in our country. As a young girl, she was displaced from her home and normal way of life because of the Rwandan genocide. After spending time in a UNHCR refugee camp in Uganda she ended up in Canada. Lillian is now a strong advocate of Human Rights and Refugee Freedoms.
“Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings.”- UNESCO
Senator Ngo and I were thrilled to present awards to the winners of the “Refugees and Human Rights” UNHCR-CCU poetry contest. Students were asked to write about a refugee’s struggle. The selected winners eloquently recited their poems at the World Refugee Day event. Each student brought a unique perspective with the incredible use of imagery and emotion. I was truly inspired by these talented young poets!!
This is truly representative of the unique culture in Canada. Ottawa-based group “Bollywood for Fun” closed off the ceremony with a breathtaking performance! I was thrilled to see these women with such passion and interest for the Indian Culture. In Canada, we are a melting pot of cultures; we come together and celebrate our differences in events such as World Refugee Day.
50 million people are refugees or Internally Displaced people. World Refugee Day is about remembering these people and taking a pledge to help give them a home. We all have a greater role to play in finding these 50 million people a home. As Canadians a lot is given to us, therefore a lot is expected of us.