Ottawa, June 20, 2018 – The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, today issued this statement on World Refugee Day:
Gord Downie, the lead singer of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip, passed away on October 17, 2017 due to cancer. The Tragically Hip are one of the most beloved music groups in Canada's history. Gord Downie sang and wrote most of The Hip's songs. Through tears Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about Gord Downie by stating: “Gord was my friend, but Gord was everyone’s friend. He knew, as great as [Canadians] were, we needed to be better than we are. Our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had, and not just loved it in a nebulous ‘oh, I love Canada way,’ he loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life.”
Somali Canadian writer Rowda Mohamud shared the following reflection on the impact a lyric from The Tragically Hip's song Bobcaygeon, written by Gord Downie, had on her as a newcomer to Canada, after having arrived as a refugee with her family in the 1990s. The song is named after the town of Bobcaygeon, Ontario in the Kawartha Lakes region.
People in Ottawa are very generous and have collected tons of clothes, furniture, and household items for refugees coming to the city. But all this generosity has created a problem, where to store all this stuff, particularly as many refugees will not be in a postition to accept these items until they are properly settled in the city.
After years of working in community development and youth engagement across Ottawa, Hamid Mousa has been working with the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) since 2008. Currently the OPS Community Development Coordinator, Mousa, a Palestinian Canadian, began as a refugee to this country.
Sheikh Ismail Albatnuni was born in 1964 in Tripoli, Libya. From an early age, he sought out Islamic knowledge, memorizing the Quran, and eventually studying Maliki fiqh (a school of Islamic jurisprudence) from local scholars. However, he knew if he ever wanted to take his studies further it would mean having to leave his homeland.
"In Libya at that time, it was very difficult. Qaddafi shut down all of the Islamic universities," Sheikh Albatnuni explained. Instead, Albatnuni made the practical choice to study engineering and computer systems. However, in 1992, he left Libya to study at a branch of Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Ras Al Khaimah (UAE) because he was "very eager to study sharia." After graduating, he went on to teach Islamic Studies at Khalifa bin Zayed Air College.
Naceur and Lamia fled the political turmoil of Tunisia in the nineties and settled in Ottawa with their young family. Like many refugee fathers, Naceur faced the challenge of figuring out how to support his family on top of learning a new language and figuring out how to navigate a new country and culture. “My dad had no job when he first came to Canada. Then he finally found a job as a cleaner. He would find any way possible to get to his job. He even at a time walked on the highway in the freezing cold!” Zeinab shared.
Rehab Nazzal recently returned to Ottawa to install her latest multimedia exhibition Invisible at the Karsh-Masson Gallery as part of the City of Ottawa's Public Art Program. She left Ottawa a few years ago to pursue her Masters of Fine Arts at Ryerson University in Documentary Media and is now pursuing a PhD in Fine Arts at the University of Western Ontario.