June 20, 2016/Toronto - Today, on World Refugee Day, OCASI calls on all Ontarians to create welcoming communities for refugees and to play a meaningful role in eliminating barriers that prevent refugees from fully participating in Canadian society.
The United Nations says, “Every minute eight people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.” This does not mean that people arrive to safety or that they are welcomed immediately by any country, be it neighboring or far away.
On the contrary, hundred of thousands of refugees languish in refugee camps for years before they are accepted by another nation. Many of those awaiting a new place to live are in Africa and the Middle East. Canada accepts around 20,000 refugees per year, and some of those make Toronto their home.
Over the last six months, OCASI and its agencies across Ontario have been working hard at welcoming and settling Syrian refugees. Many Ontarians and Torontonians expressed their generosity by donating time, money, or goods to this process.
At the same time, not all of the reactions to refugees have been positive. There have been many instances of discrimination and attacks against Muslim refugees or those perceived to be Muslims.
The rise of Islamophobia and xenophobia have compelled OCASI to develop a public education campaign to address these issues and to push Torontonians to self-reflect on some of the assumptions and prejudices they may hold about refugees, Muslims, and Arabs.
The public education campaign against Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism was launched last week across Toronto. The campaign sparked immediate discussion and media interest.
While the campaign has been receiving a lot of positive feedback, some Torontonians have taken offence at the campaign poster, which portrays a white man facing a hijabi woman of colour. These critics of the campaign say that it is “anti-white” or that it is “stereotypical.”
The purpose of the campaign is not to lay blame or point fingers but to provoke meaningful discussion. The message is clear: “Torontonians need to examine their privileges and their own assumptions about others, in this case Muslims and refugees,” says Debbie Douglas, the Executive Director of OCASI.
The poster ad campaign will run for ten weeks in 150 bus shelters. The campaign’s website www.torontoforall.ca offers additional information and resources about the campaign’s issues.
– 30 –Contact:
Debbie Douglas, Executive Director, OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. Cell: 416-729-9805, Email: [email protected]