Refugees Living in Extended Exile: Living on the Edge

Author: Emily McDonald

The current situation of refugees living in extended exile is a consequence of refugees being kept at arms length from their border by the Global North. This the argument that is put forward by Jennifer Hyndman and Wenona Giles in their book Refugees Living in Extended Exile. In their book, the authors explore how refugees who are living in situations of protracted displacement, defined as those living in exile for five years or more (p.121), are increasingly placed in vulnerable situations due to their loss of basic human rights and ontological security. The authors set out to explore the ways in which ontological security, that which is having “a lived sense of safety with a degree of certainty underwriting it” (p.17), is stripped from those living in situations of protracted displacement. Pulling on examples of protracted displacement across the world, the authors demonstrate the different ways the politicization of refugees is used to deprive them of their ontological security. For example, the authors explore how the securitization of Dadaab refugee camps holding Somalis in Kenya, in response to Al Shabaab has prioritized national security over refugee protection, calling for the closure of these refugee camps and sending refugees back to an uncertain future in an unstable Somalia, a country that is foreign to many of these refugees (p.42). It is this uncertainty faced by many refugees living in situations of protracted displacement undermining their ontological security which concerns Hyndman and Giles.

By employing empirical evidence gathered through interviews with refugees living in Iran, Kenya and Canada, in combination with previous analysis of literature of additional situations of protracted displacement (p. 21), Hyndman and Giles examine the ways in which ontological security is stripped from these people. The authors explain their chose to use of the international relations feminist theoretical approach to forced migration, gender and militarization (p.21) as a framework for the issues faced by refugees and ontological security and protection within the intersection of power and space (Hyndman, 2011). Employing this theory in their research allows the reader to understand the power dynamics which exist in the context of refugees and the politics surrounding refugee camps and settlements. The need for this theory becomes increasingly clear when exploring the role of the Global North in keeping refugees out of their countries and away from their own borders (p.37). The understanding of power dynamics through the feminist approach is imperative to understanding the root cause of these current situations of extended exile as well as providing the reader with a greater understanding of often simplified issues.

The pervious experience of both authors lends them the credibility to speak to the experience of those living in extended exile and the politics behind their organisation. Jennifer Hyndman worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Somalia, in addition to conducting pervious studies of the UNHCR in Geneva, and Kenya (p.21). However, Hyndman’s proximity to the UNHCR does not prevent the authors from being critical of the UNHCR and its compliancy in keeping donors happy (p.73). Furthermore, Hyndman’s experience of the UNHCR allows her a greater understanding of the policies of international law surrounding refugees.  Despite this critical view of the UNHCR, the authors fail to mention the apolitical role of UNHCR and how this plays a role in shaping its complicacy, which would have allowed for a greater exploration of the complexities associated with the UNHCR. Wenona Giles has worked for multiple NGOs in Toronto, Burkina Faso and Niger as well as in Iran in the areas of gender, migration and displacement, which affords her the insight, similarly to Hyndman, into the real experience of refugees. However, the authors fail to address the potential effect of paternalism associated with either of their experiences and the influence this could have on their research, particularly the power relations that exist when interviewing refugees. Despite the failure to address such concerns, their work remains largely critically of the actions of the Global North and its paternalism towards refugee hosting countries.

The organization of the book is such that the authors break down the chapters to cover four larger themes of protracted displacement: securitization, contextualization, international responses and resettlement. As both authors have previous experiences working with protracted displacement and due to their position as academics, the ideas presented in the book are similar to those previously seen within the refugee literature. One of the ideas discussed throughout the book is the representation of “[refugee] camps [as] a spatialized biopolitical expression of geopolitics” (93). However, the power of space in relation to refugee camps has previously been discussed by Hyndman before in her book Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism, where she explored the spatial segregation of Somalis living within Kenyan refugee camps (Baines, 2008). Furthermore, the authors discuss how restrictions of mobility of those living within refugee camps hinders their social development and access to ontological security. This idea has been widely discussed previously, particularly in the works of Alexander Betts, especially in his article with Paul Collier on special economic zones, Help Refugees Help Themselves: Let Displaced Syrians Join the Labor Market. However, in their final chapter of their book, Hyndman and Giles present new evidence based on their study of refugees resettled in Canada, which found that despite resettlement being perceived as the ultimate solution to protracted displacement, the reality is that resettled refugees do not perceive this as a durable solution. The shared feeling amongst refugees was they were perceived as needy and as the other, which impacted their ability to access both political and social inclusion, both of which are imperative to ontological security (p.100). As a result, from these studies, the authors concluded that “resettlement [is] not a durable solution but a strategy used by refugees to afford themselves legal status, protection and volition” (p.114).

Despite disputing the widely recognized solution to protracted displacement as resettlement, the authors fail to offer up an alternative. It would have been beneficial to their argument had they addressed an alternative to resettlement, particularly had they presented evidence of alternatives from their study with resettled Canadian refugees. Furthermore, expanding on their idea of refugees using resettlement as strategy to extended exile would have brought their argument full circle by providing a durable strategy to ontological insecurity. Additionally, beyond the failure to address solutions, the book itself is very technical and reads as an academic paper. Therefore, reaching an audience beyond the academic world might prove to be challenging, as one without a foundation of knowledge of international refugee challenges, might have a more difficult time grasping the theory and border ideas behind the author’s arguments.

Ultimately, the authors are able to prove that the current situation of refugees living in situations of protracted displacement due to restricted mobility, lack of agency and dependency on aid have stripped them of their ability to access ontological security. The examination of the power structures and the historical context surrounding situations of protracted displacement allow the authors to successfully capture the complexities of protracted displacement and refugee resettlement. The situation of those living in protracted displacement is too often simplified to lack of political will and resources, Hyndman and Giles use the lived experiences of refugees to provide a refreshing real life approach to the very real problem of extended exile.


Works Cited

Baines, E.K. (2008). Managing displacement: Refugees and the politics of humanitarianism [Book Review of Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism by Jennifer Hyndma]. Refugee 20(2) 80:82.

Hyndman, J. (2011). Feminisity Geopolitics Meets Refugee Studies. In Betts, A. & Loescher, G. (Eds.), Refugees in International Relations. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hyndman, J. & Giles, W. (2017). Refugees in Extended Exile: Living on the Edge. New York: Routledge.




Inter-Governmental and Community-Based Services for Syrian Refugees Living in France

Authors: A collaborative work, by Amelia C. Arsenault and Caitlin Morris

In light of statements from political leaders expressing a sense of humanitarian duty, multiple high-profile terrorist attacks, and a controversial cultural environment regarding integration and multiculturalism, France’s experience with Syrian refugees provides interesting insights into community mobilization and host-community relations. In accordance with UNHCR standards, France began expediting asylum claims from Syrian nationals in 2013 in an attempt to process refugees within three months. In addition to these expedited applications, 500 Syrian refugees determined to be in a “situation of extreme vulnerability coming from neighbouring countries of Syria” were granted accelerated admission due to a special ad hoc resettlement program, which was renewed in 2015. In September 2015, Francois Hollande, former president of France, claimed that France had a “humanitarian duty” to allow 30,000 Syrian refugees into the country over the span of two years, despite growing Islamophobia and anxiety regarding Syrian immigration. In an effort to assist refugees’ transition into French life, France has established a variety of community-based and governmental organizations aimed at providing essential services to refugees, including financial aid, food services, and language training. A case study of the French city of Lyon offers a look at the opportunities, as well as the challenges of community mobilization for refugees living in France.

Lyon provides access to multiple organizations operating at the local and national level which provide services for refugees, allowing the host communities to assist with migrant settlement. Forum Réfugiés Cosi (FRC) is a non-governmental organization that is based in Lyon and operates across France. Founded in 1982, this organization attempts to ease integration for refugees by providing humanitarian aid such as housing, medical care, and other social services. In order to determine the most effective forms of aid, FRC also endeavors to understand the causes and consequences of the civil conflict in Syria, as well as critical issues that pertain directly to Syrian refugees facing resettlement in France.1 FRC has called upon European leaders to provide humanitarian aid and refugee status to those fleeing the Syrian civil war by joining a campaign called “À l’Europe D’Agir” (Europe to Act). FRC also holds an annual “umbrella walk” in Lyon, in which participants carry umbrellas to symbolize the responsibility of host countries, such as France, to provide refugees with protection and asylum.

“Free Syria Lyon” is a nongovernmental organization operating in Lyon that provides critical aid to Syrian refugees. This organization does not operate at the national level, but rather focuses its efforts in support of Syrian refugees who have resettled in the city of Lyon. Free Syria Lyon’s mandate includes efforts to gain an understanding of Syrian culture, in an attempt to facilitate the difficult transition that refugees face when integrating into French society. Furthermore, Free Syria Lyon works alongside both Syrian refugees and French citizens to increase tolerance, and ease any anxiety or tension between French nationals and Syrian refugees living in Lyon. As a regional NGO, Free Syria Lyon has also been instrumental in funding programs that introduce Syrians to French culture, history, and language. Lastly, the Free Syria Lyon group attempts to provide refugees with any assistance that they may need, including securing housing, accessing banking services, and obtaining health coverage.

France Terre D’asile (FTDA) is one of the best-known non-governmental organizations operating in France, earning the French Republic’s Human Rights Prize in 19892. Operating throughout France, FTDA works with other non-governmental organizations to both improve the immigration process for those seeking asylum in France, and promote migrant rights. FTDA translates to “France, Land of Asylum” and promotes the welcoming acceptance of refugees, while advocating for social benefits such as education, employment, housing, and language training. They also provide referrals to other resources when refugees are in need of legal, administrative, or political aid or counsel. It is important to note that while FTDA helps process and support refugees arriving in France, they also help refugees return to their country of origin when it is safe to do so. In an effort to help vulnerable youth who are at risk of exploitation by traffickers, smugglers, and other criminal networks, FTDA began the “Young Refugee House” in St. Omer. Members of FTDA attempt to locate unaccompanied refugee children and encourage them to request to be placed under the care of the French Child Protection services. Furthermore, they provide counselling for minors and information about legal resources as well as emergency medical care. In relation to Syrian refugees, FTDA has spoken out against anti-refugee sentiments that are becoming prevalent in Europe. Matthieu Tardis, Secretariat General of FTDA, criticized France’s treatment of Syrian refugees and widespread xenophobia throughout Europe, claiming that France was experiencing a “moral crisis” in relation to the acceptance of Syrian refugees.3

Despite the efforts of the aforementioned organizations, recent terrorist attacks throughout Europe have increased the sense of insecurity among the French that Syrian refugees may pose a significant threat to national security; at times, xenophobia and fear of migrants throughout France has resulted in a breakdown in host community-refugee relations. Specifically, an attack on a Lyon chemical factory in June 2015, where one victim was beheaded, inflamed the xenophobia and general fear of migrants throughout France. News reports claimed that an Arabic text was found at the scene; consequently, French officials considered the attack to be influenced by Islamic terrorism, and France was put on a high terror alert.4 Despite the fact that the perpetrator of this attack was not a Syrian refugee, statistics show that many French nationals began to voice their opposition to Francois Hollande’s proposition for increased acceptance of Syrian refugees and asylum seekers in response to terrorist attacks. Some news reports suggest that anti-Muslim attacks have increased across Europe in response to the terrorist attacks as well, with many Muslims reporting assaults and verbal harassment.5 In September 2015, fans at a soccer game hosted in Lyon were photographed holding signs that said: “Refugees Not Welcome”. While the banner was quickly removed; these sorts of acts represent a growing atmosphere of xenophobia and Islamophobia throughout France. While there have been no outward reports of physical violence against Syrian refugees living in Lyon, it could be argued that Syrian refugees have become victims of systemic discrimination and harassment. For example, housing centres in Lyon are filling up rapidly and are perpetually plagued by overcrowding, making it difficult to accommodate all refugees in need of shelter. Furthermore, the atmosphere of anti-refugee sentiment, and the fear of refugees as “others” represents systemic challenges faced by Syrians attempting to transition into French society.

Despite a lack of evidence linking Syrian refugees living in France to terrorist attacks, any terrorist related events have resulted in widespread anxiety and fear throughout host communities at both the state and city level. Despite the efforts of many groups and organizations, there still exists a lack of basic services for many Syrians living in France; consequently, a large number of refugees, from Syria and elsewhere, are destined to feel unwelcome. While local and national organizations have been expanding and adapting to accommodate the large influx of refugees, greater efforts are required before Syrian refugees can truly feel at home in France. Hence the importance of community mobilization.

1 “Actualités.” Accueil – Forum Réfugiés – Cosi. Accessed November 21, 2016.
2 “France Terre D’Asile.” ERSO Project: France Terre D’Asile. Accessed November 27, 2016.
3 “Time for France to Show Fraternité to Refugees?” The Local. September 03, 2015. Accessed
November 27, 2016.
4 News, BBC. “France Attack: Man Decapitated at Factory near Lyon.” BBC News. June 26, 2015.
Accessed November 21, 2016.
5 (, Deutsche Welle. “Attacks against Muslims on the Rise after Paris Strikes | Europe |
DW.COM | 26.11.2015.” DW.COM. December 26, 2015. Accessed November 21, 2016.

Civil society conflict: The negative impact of International NGOs on grassroots and social movements

Author: Jacqueline Gilchrist

When considering the optimal way to mitigate poverty in the Global South, proposed solutions often involve international non-governmental organizations (INGOs). INGOs can be based in various countries, but an abundance of these are based in the Global North. These organizations tend to focus on implementing short-term, tangible projects. It is generally assumed in the Global North that these compassionate organizations will enter communities, carry out development programs, and then leave having addressed poverty; and it is for this reason that numerous donors in the Global North pour their money into INGOs. Moreover, INGOs often collaborate with existing local grassroots or social movements. According to journalist Augusta Dwyer, these movements are “made up of impoverished people who have joined together to struggle for some concrete goal.” Such movements typically begin their activities by focusing on protest and resistance. Eventually, these movements take on activities similar to those carried out by INGOs. When an INGO attaches itself to a social or grassroots movement, this arrangement can produce numerous benefits, like increased funding and raise international awareness.

On the flipside, there is a risk that INGO involvement will dilute local demands in order to fit international agendas. Alternatively, INGOs might focus on one specific objective, while ignoring others that may be equally important for the movement’s cause. I argue that relationships between INGOs and movements by and for impoverished communities in  the Global South are often structurally harmful, as they promote external interests, are too short-sighted, and often disempower the poor.

One of the primary reasons that grassroots and social movements accept the help of INGOs is for the purposes of funding. While the individuals behind these movements may devise creative solutions to their communities’ problems, they often lack the resources to implement their ideas. As such, these individuals often seek the help of INGOs to kick-start their movements. For instance, INGOs are often voluntary by nature and have no source of income other than donor funding. Accordingly, INGOs have a certain level of accountability to these external donors. In addition, these donors typically expect a measurable result from the INGO if they are to continue donating to the organization. This dynamic may lead to NGOs implementing the agenda of their donor’s, rather than necessarily creating lasting and equal relationships within the community. As scholar J-E Noh writes, INGOs are all-too frequently losing their charitable, volunteer-oriented basis and instead consist primarily of “donor-driven programs and business-like changes”. Since many of the donors to these INGOs come from the Global North, this situation may constitute a new, growing dependency on the Global North. This dependency can be harmful to the grassroots movements, as it frequently results in more “Western-style,” capitalist solutions to problems of poverty, rather than local solutions by and for the affected community. Nonetheless, donor-dependency dynamics are not limited to the Global North. In India, for example, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are frequently linked to state institutions. As a result, while the social and grassroots movements seeking to partner with NGOs contest the state’s power, NGOs are themselves influenced by the state. The conflict of interest in these scenarios are clear, and can have detrimental results to the success and continuation of the grassroots and social movements against government policies.

There are widespread fears that INGOs are increasingly taking on a corporate character, due to the requirements of funding. Specifically, concerned individuals fear that corporatization will cause INGOs to favour donors over the impoverished communities whom they are meant to be helping. As a consequence, these organizations will little attachment to the community. INGOs therefore tend to create programs that have short-term, Band-Aid solutions, consequently sustaining poverty at a systemic level.

Additionally, the activities of INGOs are often project-focused. That is, INGOs seek to achieve one concrete goal. Once an INGO achieves this goal, they move on to another project, usually in another community. This approach may be effective in certain scenarios, particularly those of humanitarian and emergency aid. However, this project-based strategy is not as effective in empowering the poor and powerless over time. The empowerment of vulnerable groups is a long process. INGOs will often only take on one small portion of this large, interconnected challenge. An example of this is described in Dwyer’s 2011 book “Broke but Unbroken”. Here, a member of a grassroots movement states that a “partner” INGO only took on one very tangible project, while his movement “struggles for long-term issues that can last a whole lifetime.” Indeed, grassroots and social movement are inherently rooted in the interconnectedness and the causes of poverty in different communities. Although social and grassroots movements are often formed as a result of one particular problem, they do not, in Dwyer’s words, “abandon a movement once they’ve won what they set out to win but stay to fight for others.” In this sense, they very much differ from INGOs.

Due to the short-term nature of INGOs’ activities, their involvement in social and grassroots movements may enhance the success of one particular goal, while simultaneously undermining the achievement of other goals of the movement. Consequently, the poverty in these communities could be perpetuated by the existence of the INGOs, and the dependency that they cause. In particular, factors such as a reliance on INGOs for funding, a deepened dependence on INGOs based on short-term projects, or INGO ‘experts’ treating members of grassroots movements in a patronizing manner can all contribute to the disempowerment of impoverished communities.

Furthermore, the top-down nature of INGOs – meaning internal organization systems where directors and a board of ‘experts’ are the ones making the decisions – can have negative effects on poverty reduction as well. A top-down approach can place people who are incapable of grappling with the poor’s plight in charge of their wellbeing, constituting a clear clash. Grassroots and social movements often serve as proof that there is indeed a drive and creativity amongst the poor, and that given the proper resources, they can create innovative and lasting solutions to their problems. A bottom-up approach, with autonomy and independence from INGOs, results in self-directed development projects grounded in existing social and grassroots movements. Multiple authors have demonstrated that such initiatives can find success without the help of INGOs.

In closing, INGOs and grassroots/social movements often have similar objectives at their core. They are all seeking to end poverty, empower the poor, and repair the problems and inequalities that exist globally. But a growing donor-dependency complex among INGOs, as well as the short-term, project-oriented, and top-down nature of INGOs, have created a negative relationship between the two groups. As a result, linkages between INGOs and local movements often promote external interests, create a dependency, and disempower the poor. Nevertheless, INGOs still have a place in the fight against poverty. The co-existence of INGOs alongside grassroots and social movements can create a multiplicitous, diverse civil society which can effectively combat unfavorable circumstances. In order to truly realize their purported goals, INGOs must work in solidarity with grassroots and social movements. Rather than taking funding for themselves and creating short-term programs, INGOs should simply act as facilitators, advocates, and educators of existing, successful movements founded by impoverished communities. In that sense, INGOs should be considered as complementary mechanisms, not supplementary.



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Bornstein, E. & Sharma, A. (2016). The righteous and the rightful: The technomoral politics of NGOs, social movements, and the state in India. American Ethnologist, 43(1), 76–90.

Dwyer, A. (2011). Broke but unbroken. Canada: Fernwood Publishing.

Fox, J., & Hernández, L. (1992). Mexico’s Difficult Democracy: Grassroots Movements, NGOs, and Local Government. Alternatives; Boulder, Colo.,[Etc.], 17(2), 165–208.

Hammami, R. (2000). Palestinian NGOs Since Oslo: From NGO Politics to Social Movements? Middle East Report, (214), 16–48.

Jad, I. (2004). The NGO‐isation of Arab Women’s Movements. IDS Bulletin, 35(4), 34–42.

Jalali, R. (2013). Financing Empowerment? How Foreign Aid to Southern Ngos and Social Movements Undermines Grass‐Roots Mobilization. Sociology Compass, 7(1), 55–73.

Klees, S. (1998). NGOs: Progressive force or neo-liberal tool? Current Issues in Comparative Education, 1(1) 49-54. Retrieved from

Noh, J.-E. (2017). The Role of NGOs in Building CSR Discourse around Human Rights in Developing Countries. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 9(1), 1–19.

Pattnaik, B.K., & Panda, B. (2005). Perceiving the role of grassroots NGOs: From the new social movement perspective. Social Change, 35(3), 1–24.

Tomilnson, B. (2013). Working with Civil Society in Foreign Aid: Possibilities for South-South Cooperation? Beijing, China: United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved from

Experiential learning with CMIC

Writer: Allison MacDonald

Yara, Alison, and Rumi at Stories of Student Mobilization at UOttawa, an event organized by CMIC’s CSL volunteers

I completed a Community Service Learning (CSL) placement with CMIC, as a volunteer. CMIC enables its volunteers to contribute to the organization in many different ways. I expressed an interest in conducting research on the role of music as a tool for community mobilization as soon as I received confirmation of my involvement with CMIC. After meeting with Professor Emily Wills, one of the directors of the program, she expressed an interest in having an event hosted by CMIC in early December that the three students doing CSL placements would have the responsibility to plan. Over the fall semester, I devoted 30 hours of my time working a wide range of CMIC projects.

In this post, I will first describe in detail the work I completed, including a case study of planning the event, “Stories of Student Mobilization at uOttawa.” Next will be a theoretical reflection where I will describe the interconnectedness of my CMIC placement and the course I took, Conflict and Development. In my practical reflection, I will explain any shifts of perspective, understandings I have gained, and my interest in continuing as a volunteer with CMIC. On a final note, I will reflect on my skills development especially with regard to values, self-efficacy, and post-graduation.

There are three main tasks that I contributed to over the course of the semester. Firstly, I found a large selection of articles detailing research that has been done on music programs all around the world, from community music therapy (CoMT) programs in rural schools in Malawi to CoMT programs for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. I also found literature on the theory informing music therapy and music education, such as avoiding neo-colonialism in music therapy practices, music as an anti-oppressive practice, and the best methods of building community through music. Of those many articles, I chose four to read, summarize and pull key quotations from; two of these articles were theoretically inclined, and two were case studies of the practice of music as a tool for community mobilization.

The second task I undertook was writing a blog post on Professor Christopher Kyriakides’ webinar, “The Dynamic of Trust in Refugee-Host Relations”, hosted by the Al-Qazzaz Foundation for Education and Development. The webinar covered concepts such as “existential transactions of worth” and trust formation between sponsors and refugees in Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. I attempted to highlight the significance of his research through my blog post.

The third task and final task I undertook was leading the planning of “Stories of Student Mobilization at uOttawa.” For this task I will provide a short case study on the challenges I faced and my attempts to address the challenges. There were two obstacles: first, to find an appropriate location in such a short time frame; second was confirming participation and attendance from the uOttawa student organization community. The first avenue I explored to secure a venue was going through Conventions and Reservations at uOttawa. This did not end in success because it required payment. My second attempt was reaching out to Café Nostalgica and Café Alternatif. Again, I ran into issues; Café Nostalgica wanted $1500 in items purchased to make it an exclusive event and Café Alt was closed beginning December 1st. My last attempt, which was successful, was booking the basement of the Royal Oak restaurant. That leaves the second challenge to address. To overcome it required a team effort from Rumi, Yara, and I. We reached out to our contacts in different student organizations, we created a Facebook event page with the help of CMIC’s social media manager, Ainslie Pierrynowski, and I created an announcement broadcast through the SIDGS office. In the end, our teamwork and multiple methods of outreach were successful. A few attendees shared their stories. In the end, the event was largely successful in its networking capacity and informal conversations, which resulted in the formation of many new connections between attendees.

My research regarding the role of music as a community mobilizing tool overlaps with two key pieces of content from Conflict and Development. The concepts used together, conflict and development, imply that there has been a crisis from which people must recover and subsequently pursue paths of development to heal their individual self and build solidarity and reconciliation within their community. Tools of mobilization such as sport, music, art, and theatre can help individuals not only develop skills and start their process of healing, but these tools of mobilization can also help individuals become contributing members of their communities through teamwork, trust-building, and reconciliation. The result is communities that can thrive and act collectively to achieve goals. These are the key lessons I learnt from reading articles on the power of music, music education and music therapy, especially in the context of community music therapy practices.

These same key lessons appear in two readings assigned in the course: in the article by Swanger and another by Abdo. Swanger (2007) writes about Casa Amiga, a crisis centre for women living in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It focuses on helping women who have experienced domestic violence and ‘femicide.’ Casa Amiga resists the structural violence caused by forces of globalization through building a culture of solidarity. Through convivio (from the Spanish verb, convivir, to live together) and feminism, the women mobilize to build a community of trust and a culture of solidarity. In Nahla Abdo’s book Captive Revolution: Palestinian Women’s Anti-Colonial Struggle Within the Israeli Prison System (2014), Abdo explains how women have mobilized using education as a tool of resistance while serving prison sentences filled with horrific treatment, abuse and torture (Chapter 5). According to Abdo: “It is no exaggeration to say that reading and writing were used as critical strategies of resistance in prison: these were weapons in the struggle itself. […] The strong relations, the bonding and the solidarity established between women political detainees enhanced their power and forced the prison authorities, on various occasions, to answer their demands.” Learning about tools and methods of mobilization in times of crisis within the course proved essential to understanding the research I undertook on the importance of music as one of these tools.

Completing my CSL placement with CMIC was rewarding because I not only learned a great deal of knowledge about tools of mobilization, sponsor-refugee relations, and personal stories of mobilization, but I was able to produce pieces of writing that reflected the significance of what I learned. I now have a greater appreciation of the importance of community mobilization as a tool to resolve conflict and build solidarity. Effective community mobilization uses a variety of skills, from education, to music, or sports, or any activity requiring teamwork and interpersonal relationship-building, while also encouraging individual healing. I have continued contributing to CMIC and look forward carrying on as a volunteer with the program.

This semester has opened the door for me with regards to how I can be an active citizen and raise awareness for an issue in a different way than I have in the past. Volunteering with CMIC gave me an outlet to do the things that I love—research, writing, and learning—while also furthering the goals of a program that is doing an incredible amount of good for people in need of access to opportunities. After this experience, I feel that I have been able to concretely practice the values I hold dear and the values I want to utilize in my career. Secondly, my post-graduation path has been reaffirmed with this placement. I want to pursue a career in security, conflict, and migration and asylum policy. Exposure and involvement in CMIC, a program that touches on these topics, has invigorated in me the feeling that I am following the right path. Self-efficacy, especially in terms of accountability and time-management is always a challenge during a semester full of coursework and commitments. However, with the intent of achieving a good standard of work and concrete results from the placement, I worked hard to take initiative, engage in critical thinking and propose solutions, and manage my limited time.

What a rewarding, interesting and invigorating CSL placement with Community Mobilization in Crisis! This was my second CSL placement and I was happy to have contributed in multiple ways.

Syrian Refugee-Host Community Relations in Nova Scotia

Title: Syrian Refugee-Host Community Relations in Nova Scotia

Writer: Ainslie Pierrynowski

Nova Scotia’s resettlement of 1 079 Syrian refugees between November 4th, 2015 and August 31st, 2016 is not only notable for the relatively large number of Syrian refugees which the province took in—the third highest number per capita of all the Canadian provinces[i]—but also for the remarkable level of community support involved in the process of resettling Syrian refugees in Nova Scotia. Prior to the Federal Government’s plan of November 2015 to resettle 25 000 Syrian refugees in Canada by February 2016,[ii] few services for refugees and sponsorship groups existed outside of the province’s capital and urban centre of Halifax[iii]. As of November 6th, 2016[iv], this is the sole Nova Scotia community with programs in place to accept government-assisted refugees. As news of the Syrian refugee crisis permeated local and national media, however, grassroots-organized rallies in support of resettling Syrian refugees in Nova Scotia took place in various locations, namely Halifax,[v] St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish,[vi] and Cape Breton[vii]. Furthermore, a public meeting in favour of supporting Syrian refugees was organized by community members in Sydney,[viii] and 2015 saw newly formed private sponsorship groups arise across the province, like Lifeline Syria Cape Breton in northern Nova Scotia (created in September 2015) to Digby Welcomes Refugees (created in November 2015), located at the province’s southern tip.[ix] Public opinion toward refugees seemed generally positive in Canada overall and particularly in Atlantic Canada, according to the most recent information available at the time of writing. A December 2015 Forum Research poll found that 48% of Canadians supported the government’s recently announced plan to bring in Syrian refugees,[x] while a Nanos Research survey conducted at the same time found that 65% of Canadians support taking in 25 000 refugees by February 2016 (as prescribed in the government plan) or taking in even more refugees.[xi] In fact, the latter poll found that support for taking in more than 25 000 refugees was highest among Atlantic Canadians, at 45%, compared to 28% across Canada.

The seemingly positive reception of Syrian refugees in Nova Scotia seems surprising in light of Atlantic Canada’s reputation for having an unwelcoming attitude toward outsiders without roots in the community, referred to derisively as “come-from-away’s” (CFAs).[xii] This attitude had been identified in a 2007 study[xiii] as one of the primary reasons as to why immigrant health professionals frequently choose to leave Atlantic Canada in favour of other provinces. This “quasi-racist clannishness”[xiv] renders immigrants subject to distrust and subtle discrimination and hence puts them at a disadvantage in terms of employment and job opportunities. For instance, a nurse, who had moved to Atlantic Canada six years before being interviewed, cited a co-worker’s degrading comment that newly hired nurses “from away” were different and “not like [them]”[xv] and claimed that hiring practices that seemingly favoured locals over more experienced newcomers.[xvi] Indeed, Nancy W. Jabbra found that Nova Scotia is relatively ethnically homogenous, with the Nova Scotian population consisting of 73.3% people of British descent, 12.2% those of French descent, and 14.6% those of other origins, compared to 41.5% people of British descent, 28.8% people of French descent, and 30.2% people of other origins in Canada’s population as a whole.[xvii]

Several factors can help to explain Nova Scotians’ apparent positive reception of Syrian refugees, despite the purported prevalence of hostility toward newcomers in Atlantic Canada. First, the Nova Scotia government’s statement on Syrian refugees,[xviii] as well as media interviews with members of the Nova Scotian public, cite altruistic, humanitarian reasons for accepting Syrian refugees. Indeed, one donor to a Halifax organization supporting Syrian refugees claimed that seeing Alan Kurdi’s photograph emotionally moved her and prompted her to act,[xix] as did several attendees at a Cape Breton meeting in support of accepting Syrian refugees.[xx] According to University of Prince Edward Island professor Don Desserud, Atlantic Canada’s post-Confederation economic stagnation has fostered Atlantic Canadians’ apprehensiveness toward outsiders, who are perceived as “looking down at”[xxi] economically insecure Atlantic Canadians. Therefore, if Atlantic Canada’s unwelcoming attitude toward outsiders can indeed be attributed to the perception that affluent newcomers look down on Atlantic Canadians[xxii], then Syrian refugees’ dire plight may explain Nova Scotia’s more sympathetic reception of this group.

Second, collective memory may play a role in Nova Scotia’s acceptance of Syrian refugees. In particular, Stephen Augustine, Dean of Unamaki College—a Mi’kmaq studies institute at Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton University—alluded to Cape Breton’s history of accepting immigrants from other areas of the world in an attempt to convince his community to take in Syrian refugees.[xxiii] For example, one Halifax donor who supported Syrian refugees in Nova Scotia paralleled her grandparents’ journey from the Soviet Union to Canada reflected in Syrian refugees’ migration to Nova Scotia, hence her support for Syrian refugees coming to the province.[xxiv] Further, support from a substantial community of Syrian and Lebanese descent in Cape Breton, owing to immigration to Nova Scotia during the early 20th century and the Lebanese civil war in the 1970’s[xxv], has also contributed to the growth of Lifeline Syria Cape Breton.[xxvi]

Third and finally, support for Syrian refugees in Nova Scotia has been shaped by the province’s economic reality. The 2014 provincial government commissioned-report on the Nova Scotian economy, Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians,[xxvii] also known as the Ivany Report, argued that urgent action was needed to combat Nova Scotia’s post-Confederation economic stagnation due to the decline of its manufacturing, mining, forestry, and fishing industries, as well as the province’s aging population and substantial outmigration rate.[xxviii] Specifically, the report contended that Nova Scotia must drastically increase its intake of immigrants to sustain itself financially.[xxix] Meanwhile, according to Jabbra, newcomers to Canada have been drawn to economic opportunity in more prosperous areas beyond Atlantic Canada, hence Nova Scotia’s comparative lack of diversity and high provincial outmigration rates.[xxx] Thus, Nova Scotia is trapped in a Catch-22, in that the province needs more people to buy Nova Scotian products and start businesses, but Nova Scotia needs to provide economic incentives so that newcomers come to and remain in the province.  As a result, multiple Nova Scotian political leaders and organizations have echoed the Ivany report’s financial arguments for increased immigration in the context of taking in Syrian refugees, including Nova Scotia Member of Parliament and President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison,[xxxi] the Halifax Chamber of Commerce,[xxxii] and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.[xxxiii] These individuals and groups argue that the influx of Syrian refugees will increase Nova Scotia’s dwindling population and thereby provide more people to work, start businesses, buy Nova Scotian products, and ultimately fuel the province’s economy.

As such, the reasons behind Nova Scotia’s acceptance of Syrian refugees are multidimensional, founded on humanitarianism, collective memory, and economic forces. Nonetheless, the Syrian refugee experience in Nova Scotia has not been free of difficulties. For instance, Syrian refugees have struggled with relatively high food prices and fulfilling religious and medical dietary requirements, which has been compounded by the language barrier[1]. Owing to the food insecurity faced by many Syrian refugees in the province as well as an economic downtown in the Albertan oil sector (where a substantial number of Nova Scotians were employed), food bank usage has surged by over 17% in Nova Scotia in 2015.[2] Given the social and financial concerns of both host communities and Syrian refugees in the province, Syrian refugee-host community relations in Nova Scotia may very well structure the future of both groups.


[1] Olesya Shyvikova, “Syrian refugees grapple with dietary needs and high food prices,” CBC News, 10 May 2016,

[2] Michael Lewis, “Influx of Syrian refugees fuels surge in food bank use, report says,” The Toronto Star, 15 November 2016,

[i] Kashmala Fida, “Maritime Provinces Lead the Way in resettling Syrian Refugees per Capita,” CBC News, March 1, 2016,

[ii] Department of Immigration, Citizenship, and Refugees, “Backgrounder: #WelcomeRefugees to Canada,” Government of Canada, November 24, 2015,

[iii] —, “#WelcomeRefugees: Key Figures,” Government of Canada, November 6, 2016,

[iv] Ibid.

[v] CBC News, “Halifax rally wants country to let in more Syrian refugees,” CBC News, October 10, 2015,

[vi] Kristian Rasenberg, “StFX for SAFE to hold Peace for Syria Walk,” The Xavierian, October 10, 2016,

[vii] Tom Ayers, “Rally for Refugees set for CBU,” Chronicle Herald, September 16, 2015,

[viii] Ken MacLeod, “Meeting confirms desire of Cape Bretoners to host Syrian Refugees, Cape Breton Post, September 8, 2015,

[ix] Refugees Belong, “Other Sponsorship Efforts,” Refugees Belong, ACCESSED DECEMBER 10, 2016,

[x] Éric Grenier, “Is Canadians’ support for taking in Syrian refugees increasing?,” CBC News, 10 December 2015,

[xi] Josh Dehaas, “Exclusive poll finds huge support for Syrian refugees,” 23 December 2015,

[xii] Michael Macdonald, “Cliquish Atlantic Canadians rethink an unfriendly phrase: ‘Come from away,’” The Canadian Press, 7 July 2016, Factiva, Document CPR0000020160708ec770003s.

[xiii] Godfrey Baldacchino, Sarath Chandrasekere, & Pat Saunders, “INTERNATIONALLY EDUCATED HEALTH PROFESSIONS IN ATLANTIC CANADA,” Canadian Issues Spring 2007: (2007), 104-107, accessed December 10 2016,

[xiv] Ibid, 104.

[xv] Ibid, 106.

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Nancy W. Jabbra. “Ethnicity in Atlantic Canada” Canadian Ethnic Studies-Etudes Ethniques Au Canada, 20 no. 3: (1988): 1, accessed Decmber 10, 2016,

[xviii] Government of Nova Scotia, “Refugee Response,” Government of Nova Scotia, 16 March 2016,

[xix] The Canadian Press, “BR-Syrian-Refugees-Donors,” The Canadian Press, 25 December 2015, Factiva, Document BNW0000020151226ebcp0000o.

[xx] Ken MacLeod, “Meeting confirms desire of Cape Bretoners to host Syrian Refugees, Cape Breton Post, 8 September 2015,

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Michael Macdonald, “Cliquish Atlantic Canadians rethink an unfriendly phrase: ‘Come from away,’” The Canadian Press, 7 July 2016, Factiva, Document CPR0000020160708ec770003s.

[xxiii] Tina Roache, “Mi’kmaw professor calling on Indigenous leaders to push Canada to accept more Syrian refugees,” APTN National News, 17 September 2015,

[xxiv] The Canadian Press, “BR-Syrian-Refugees-Donors,” The Canadian Press, 25 December 2015, Factiva, Document BNW0000020151226ebcp0000o.

[xxv] Nancy W. Jabbra, “ Household and family among Lebanese immigrants in Nova Scotia: Continuity, change and adaptation,” Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 22 no. 1: (1991), 41, accessed December 10, 2016,

[xxvi] Cedars Club, Posts on 12 Feburary 2016, 4 February 2016, 30 January 2016, 26 Janurary 2016, 4 January 2016, 17 December 2015, and 15 November 2015 in “Cedars Club Sydney,” Cedars Club,

[xxvii] Ray Ivany, “Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians,” One Nova Scotia Commission (Government of Nova Scotia), February 2014, accessed December 9, 2016,

[xxviii] Ibid, 12-16.

[xxix] Ibid, 24.

[xxx] Nancy W. Jabbra. (1988). Ethnicity in Atlantic Canada. Canadian Ethnic Studies-Etudes Ethniques Au Canada, 20(3), 2, accessed December 10, 2016,

[xxxi] Michael Macdonald, “Cliquish Atlantic Canadians rethink an unfriendly phrase: ‘Come from away,’” The Canadian Press, July 7, 2016, Factiva, Document CPR0000020160708ec770003s

[xxxii] Fabian, Sabrina. Syrian refugees will help stimulate economy, says Halifax Chamber of Commerce, 13 November 2015, CBC News,

[xxxiii] Demont, John. Halifax at Forefront of National Refugee Effort, 4 October 2014, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (originally published in The Chronicle Herald),