UBC President Dr. Stephen Toope delivered a keynote speech discussing the changes affecting Canada’s immigration policy and the barriers refugees will soon face during this year’s UN-designated World Refugee Day event hosted by the Vancouver Public Library and partnering organizations Settlement Orientation Services (S.O.S.) and ISSofBC.
The UBC Vice Chancellor provided his speech as community members engaged with multiple advocates and organizations at the library’s central branch last Friday, June 20.
Dr. Toope discussed the role post-secondary institutions have played in assisting newcomers in Canada, detailing the hospitality the UBC Faculty of Forestry provided to the “Sopron Students”– Hungarian refugees who fled Soviet repression in response to the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.
He said the kindness provided to the Sopron Students was repaid through their hard work ethic and new discoveries in resource optimization and sustainability, key to both Canadian and European economic interests at the time.
Noting this success in Canada’s immigration history, Toope commented Canada’s excellent reputation is at risk due to recent changes in attitude among policymakers toward the plight of refugees and immigrants.
The day’s event also included stories of courage, resilience and inspiration from refugees when faced with losing everything before starting a new life in Canada.
Deputy Mayor Raymond Louie from the City of Vancouver also attended to read the city’s proclamation to mark every June 20 as World Refugee Day in Vancouver.