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Strangers in New Homelands Conference Chair

Conference Chair, Dr. Michael Baffoe, honouring committee member, Alfred Koineh, during the 11th Annual Strangers in New Homelands Conference.

Migration, Settlement and Integration Conference a Success

November 5, 2018 — 

The 11th annual Strangers in New Homelands International Conference on Migration, Settlement and Integration was held from Wednesday, October 31st to Friday November 2nd, 2018 at the Canad Inns Polo Park Destination Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The conference, hosted by the faculty of social work, was attended by presenters and participants from around the world.

“The conference was a smashing success,” says Michael Baffoe, conference chair and faculty member. “During the opening night, we saw powerful and moving presentations from refugees who lost their fingers to extreme cold from frost bite crossing the US-Canada border on foot into Manitoba in winter of 2016,” says Baffoe.

Students from the Inner City Social Work Program shared their stories regarding vulnerability, powerlessness and survival in a new society after migration and the resilience that allowed them to persevere.

The evening also included a youth panel consisting of three young women who presented on the challenges and opportunities for integration into their new society of newcomer youth, more specifically, into the education system.

The evening took a somber tone as Baffoe announced the sudden passing of conference planning committee member Alfred Sahr Koineh a week prior to the conference. Guests were moved by the stories and work Koineh had done within the community.

The opening night of the conference closed with a dance performance by youth cultural dance pair known as The Ladies of Rwanda Cultural Dancers.

Highlights of the second day of the conference included an insightful keynote presentation by Gillian Creese, University of British Columbia, who presented her results from a research done with immigrant youth of African origin on their struggles of “belonging” into their new society in Canada. She discussed some complaints of this population group, such as being constantly questioned on “Where do you come from?” even though most were born in Canada or are long time residents.

Elder Marlene Gallagher from the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba was also in attendance and presented on the “Historical and Contemporary Issues surrounding Treaties in Canada” and their impact on the status of Indigenous people in Canada.

The conference included over 30 presentations on migration, settlement and integration as well as a number of panel presentations including one titled: “Challenges and Opportunities in Integrating Newcomer Youth in the School systems in Manitoba”. This panel consisted of the Ted Fransen, superintendent, Pembina Trails School Division, Geri Harder-Robson, assistant superintendent, Hanover School Division, Troy Scott, principal, Acadia Junior High School, Rose Kimani, intercultural support worker, Winnipeg School Division #1, and Paul Kambaja, educator, Grant Park High School.

The final day of the conference included Meb Rashid, medical doctor, Crossroads Clinic, Toronto. Rashid highlighted the problems created by the ill-fated policy of the previous Canadian government in cutting health care to refugees in Canada and the unprecedented response by health-care workers to advocate against such cuts.

Other presentations included two panel discussions on the challenges faced by newcomers in integrating into the Canadian labour market, and a presentation on “Engaging Newcomers in the Civic Process”. This panel examined the efforts made to galvanize newcomers to participate in the last Municipal elections in Winnipeg and the Provincial elections in Manitoba.

The 12th annual Strangers in New Homelands Conference will be held on October 30th, to November 1st, 2019 at the Canad Inns Polo Park, Winnipeg.

Thank you to everyone who made this conference such a success.

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