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SFU among partners to secure Surrey as Canada’s first City of Refuge

24 October 2016 at 00:26 | 2775 views

Culled from SFU News, Vancouver, Canada.

Simon Fraser University is among community partners whose efforts have led the City of Surrey (British Columbia, Canada) to become Canada’s first international City of Refuge.

The city joins 60 cities globally, including Paris, Oslo and Mexico City, which have formally committed to the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).

The organization aims to protect writers and artists by creating a ‘safe haven’ for those who are in peril in their own countries because of their professional activities. ICORN, based in Norway, receives more than 100 applications annually from persecuted writers and artists.

A committee comprising the City of Surrey, SFU, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the Surrey Public Library and PEN Canada has spent the past year laying the groundwork for the initiative, which was formally announced at the start of Surrey’s Creative Summit on October 17.

Working with ICORN, which qualifies the applicants, a candidate will be chosen to settle in Surrey, while a fundraising campaign is being established to support the writer and family as they settle in the community.

“Surrey is a dynamic, growing community committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive city for all residents,” says SFU Chancellor Anne Giardini (photo), a former member of PEN Canada’s board of directors and a member of the initiative’s steering committee, along with SFU Surrey campus Executive Director Steve Dooley.

“As the latest city designated by ICORN, Surrey joins with cities and regions around the world in offering shelter to writers and artists at risk, advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values and promoting international solidarity.”

Giardini, the author of two novels, says ICORN is playing an important role in supporting literary freedom around the world.

“In many countries, writers and artists are subject to censorship, harassment, imprisonment, bodily harm and death because of what they say and write. As an ICORN member Surrey will offer long-term, temporary shelter to those at risk as a direct consequence of their creative activities.”

Steve Dooley

Dooley says the initiative highlights how strong community partnerships can make a difference, and reflects the city’s progressive approach to integrating newcomers.

“Having worked closely with the city on refugee issues, I feel strongly that this ‘writer in refuge’ will become a beacon of hope for the many refugees who call Surrey home,” says Dooley, who recently led a community-based research project on refugees’ settlement experiences in Surrey.

Dooley says the designation will mean opportunities to link the writer with students, faculty and staff at both SFU and KPU. It also shows students “that we recognize and value literary excellence, no matter what the underlying struggle.”

Helge Lunde, executive director of Norway-based ICORN, says the number of applicants received by ICORN reflects “the sad fact that the conditions for those who dare to give voice to ideas and debate, those who challenge existing societal norms and concepts, has in no way improved in the world today.”

Lunde is hopeful that Surrey will be a model for future ICORN cities of refuge in Canada.