HRC in the Community

The Halifax Refugee Clinic was recently profiled by the Presbyterian Record. Here is the write up, following which you can find the link to the original story.

Welcome, Neighbour!

An invitation extended and a friendship made.
by Kenneth Stright

It’s always nice to greet the new neighbour who moves in almost next door. When you are a church and it is an organization that has just moved in, it is a little harder. When that organization is the Halifax Refugee Clinic, all kinds of things are possible. For us at the Church of St. David, Halifax, all it took was a church member dropping in to say, “hi!” and “what is it exactly that you do here?” and the relationship was off and running.

When that church member is also part of the mission and outreach committee even more can happen. So at the next meeting of the M and O committee, Kathy asked the group, “Guess who I just met?” The committee was hooked!

It didn’t take long for an invitation to cross the street from the church to the clinic: “Come and visit and tell us more about yourself.” And a friendship was made!

That first meeting was an exchange; a time to learn and share and to understand one another. The Halifax Refugee Clinic is unlike most organizations that deal with people coming to Canada. The clients they serve are not government-sponsored folk who simply need to navigate ‘the system’ and find themselves a new home. The clinic does not receive government money, and relies on benefactors and individuals. These folk fall between the cracks in the system and often arrive with no place to stay, no sponsors, no contacts and a whole lot of fear that they won’t be allowed to stay.

The clinic provides legal and settlement services and the everyday kind of help people from around the world need in a new country. The people they serve meet the criteria for a refugee because they have “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion” and are “living outside their country of origin and, because of fear, are unable or unwilling to return.”

And getting to Canada is only part of the solution. “Canada’s refugee system is broken, with unacceptably long delays to determine whether someone is a legitimate refugee,” according to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

How can we be good neighbours to such a clinic? The mission and outreach folk are a creative bunch so they began with information – let’s tell people about this place! And then, are there practical ways to be neighbours? Let’s do what Presbyterians do best. Let’s have a potluck and offer financial assistance to a group that doesn’t get government backing. A quick soup after service raised well over $500 to be used for the contingency funds of the groups – two women and a four-year-old had just arrived from southern Africa and needed everything to survive the late January blast of icy air that had descended on the city.

The cheque presented to the clinic will not last long but it will make a difference. When Shelley MacDonald-Parsons, convener of the mission committee, and I went to the clinic to present the cheque, we heard of other ways the church could get involved in the life of the clinic, and how clients of the clinic could get involved in the life of the congregation.

St. David’s doors are open to street people and volunteers are always needed. Clients of the clinic can’t seek out employment while their cases are being heard so any opportunity to engage in the life of the city is welcome. The opportunity to volunteer is one of the few things open to them; therefore, volunteering at the church was a great idea. Likewise, congregation members were warmly welcomed to the workshops and information evenings hosted by the clinic. The relationship is already growing.

Leaving the clinic, Shelley and I had the opportunity to talk with one of the people from Botswana: “We’d like to introduce ourselves…” And another contact and another relationship has the potential to be born!


Rev. Kenneth Stright is minister at the Church of St. David, Halifax.

2009 Annual Report

To get a better idea of what the Halifax Refugee Clinic is all about, who is involved, and what we do on a daily basis here is our 2009 Annual Report. Our Annual Report for 2010 will be completed shortly and you can then see what we have accomplished over the past year!

Halifax Refugee Clinic 2009 Annual Report

Bake Sale Results!

We would like to extend a very warm “Thank you!” to those who came out to support the Halifax Refugee Clinic’s bake sale at Dalhousie University this past Tuesday. A grand total of $453 was raised!

This amount will benefit the Emergency Settlement Fund and will directly benefit clients who are in need of assistance.

Thank you so much to our amazing volunteers who baked the food for the sale and who helped with the sale.

Be sure to check out our Facebook page to see pictures of all the sweets!

“Habtom’s Path”: A CBC radio documentary

Habtom Kibreab was a client of the Clinic who took his own life in February of this
year. He was facing deportation to torture and death in Eritrea
following a negative decision on his case. Habtom was a kind, generous and hardworking man who fled to Canada to seek refuge and build a life for himself.

For those of you who didn’t catch it on Sunday, the documentary “Habtom’s Path” is available online on CBC Radio: The Sunday Edition. A huge thank you to Mary Lynk who did an amazing job editing our interviews and to create such a thoughtful and moving piece.

Rest in Peace, Habtom

“Canada’s refugee system is broken” says Minister Kenney

Canada’s refugee system is broken, with unacceptably long delays to determine whether someone is a legitimate refugee, says Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow said the backlog of refugee claims is a manufactured crisis of the government’s own making and the government should be looking at measures such as expanding the IRB.

Read full article from the Edmonton Sun here

A new report by Peter Showler puts forward plan to reform Canada’s refugee system.

“Reform is needed, but not the kind of reform the government is planning,” explains Peter Showler, Director of the Refugee Forum at the University of Ottawa and former Chairperson of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). “Making refugee decisions is an incredibly difficult task. To meet this challenge, a reformed system needs to be based on the following three pillars: A good first decision; a reliable appeal; and the prompt removal of failed claimants.”

Click here for full press release from the Maytree foundation