Media Release: Refugee Rights Awareness Month 2017 launch

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April 3, 2017/Toronto – OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants together with the City of Toronto Newcomer Office and a coalition of community organizations launched Refugee Rights Awareness Month 2017 today, in the Member's Lounge at Toronto City Hall.

The event marks the anniversary of the April 4, 1985 Supreme Court decision recognizing the rights of refugee claimants under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The launch will be followed by a month of activities in various locations across Toronto, celebrating refugees and their contributions to our communities and drawing attention to their treatment in Canada.

"Toronto has a proud tradition of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution and seeking safety in our city," said Mayor John Tory. "We recognize and celebrate the contributions refugees make to all aspects of Toronto's social, cultural, economic and political life, and we affirm our commitment to promoting and upholding fundamental human rights for refugees."

The Mayor proclaimed April 2017 as Refugee Rights Awareness Month.

The 1985 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that refugee claimants are entitled to an oral hearing, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and international law. This ruling has become known as the 'Singh decision' in recognition of Harbhajan Singh, Sadhu Singh Thandi, Paramjit Singh Mann, Kewal Singh, Charanjit Singh Gill, Indrani and Satnam Singh who brought their cases to the Court.

"As refugees continue to enter Canada in search of protection, our organizations encourage all Canadians to welcome refugees and learn about their rights, in particular the right to seek asylum from persecution" said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. "Meaningful access to these rights impacts all government levels, and engages all members of society" she said.

Speaking on behalf of the Refugee Rights Awareness Month Planning Committee, Eusabio Garcia, Quaker Committee for Refugees, invited all Torontonians to commemorate the April 4 anniversary by participating in the many events organized by various Toronto organizations throughout the month of April. "We are celebrating the refugees in our community and recognize their enormous contributions to our society. We invite fellow-Torontonians to celebrate with us and use this as an opportunity to learn more about refugee rights, and continue to create communities which welcome refugees" he said.

Refugee Rights Awareness Month 2017 events are posted online at http://www.ocasi.org/refugee-rights-month-2017-toronto

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Media contact: Amy Casipullai, OCASI 416-524-4950 [email protected]

Toronto Refugee Rights Month Planning Committee

Amnesty International | Amnesty International at York University | Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture | Centre for Refugee Studies, York University | Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change | FCJ Refugee Centre | Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto | OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants | Osgoode Hall Law School | Quaker Committee for Refugees | Salvadorean Canadian Association | Syria Response and Refugee Initiative, York University