Radio Canada Int’l Refugee Voices Installation

Parliament of Canada, Voices of Refugees Installation   reviewed by Radio Canada International of Montreal, 2009.


The Voices of Refugees Installation, shown at the Parliament of Canada, was reviewed by Marc Montgomery and Robert Jaros June 19, 2009 on the The Link Program of Radio Canada International in Montreal Quebec.

FROM THE NEWS RELEASE: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Minister Kenney Launches “Voices of Refugees”

Ottawa, June 16, 2009 — In recognition of World Refugee Day, “Voices of Refugees,” a new multi-media presentation combining portraits with videos of refugees telling their stories, was unveiled today by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and Mr. Abraham ABRAHAM, Representative in Canada of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Voices of Refugees enables refugees to share their stories with all Canadians, to show that there are real people in real danger,” said Minister Kenney. “Refugees are sometimes forgotten as a faceless group stranded in a far away land. We need to heed these voices and listen to their stories.”

This project came from two ordinary Canadians — Graham Thompson and Sherry Tompalski — doing extraordinary things. The partnership between these two Canadians and the refugee artists featured in the multi-media presentation is the kind of initiative that will help bridge communities and build a more inclusive and cohesive Canada for all.

“These works of art speak for themselves and help us understand that refugees are not faceless statistics, but real people with talents and with real needs like you and me. Ask them and you will know that every refugee has a moving story to tell,” said Mr. Abraham.

Every year Canada’s refugee programs provide protection to more than 30,000 people.  We have a fair and generous domestic refugee protection system that is well regarded internationally. Through our resettlement program, we provide protection to 1 in 10 refugees who are resettled globally. In fact, since World War II, Canadians have provided refuge to over 1 million refugees.

Even so, the Government of Canada is exploring ways to improve the refugee status determination system and our resettlement approach in order to better help refugees. Canada must focus our resources where they can do the most good. Working with its many partners including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, private sponsors and service providers, Canada is helping refugees begin their lives anew.

Voices of Refugees is a testament to those who have already come to Canada and of the thousands still in need of protection. This presentation highlights the remarkable bravery of these individuals and the important contributions they are making to Canadian society.


MONTGOMERY: So how did this project come to life?
Valerie: Well Voices OF Refugees is the brainchild of husband and wife Graham Thompson and Sherry Tompalski,. Graham Thompson, a member of the Métis Nation of British Columbia, has produced and directed more than a hundred videos featuring Aboriginals, people from the Philippines, Afghanistan, and from Africa.  With Voices of Refugees he wanted to show that refugees are not faceless statistics but real people with talents and with real needs.
GRAHAM THOMPSON (Organiser): [clip] This is a multi-media project.  It involves a very diverse group of Canadians, Aboriginals, Central Americans, Central Asians, Africans, Eastern Europeans.  These are Canadian artists whose roots reach across the globe from Poland, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, Guinea West Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Sudan, El Salvador and Guatemala.  And can you imagine some virtual stranger appearing at your front door saying, I’m just going to come in and photograph everything?  It’s… It’s a great act of trust that I’ve been given.
MORAND:  And as you pointed out this video was presented earlier this week in Ottawa on Parliament Hill to various representatives of organizations working with refugees to underline World Refugee Day which is taking place tomorrow, Saturday, on June 20.
MONTGOMERY: Well Valerie, who are the refugees that are featured in this film?
MORAND: Well they come from all over the world, from South America and Africa and Asia.  Some have survived the torture chamber, like Victor from El Salvador.  Others fled civil unrest and war in their home country like Hamid from southern Sudan.  I caught up with Tito Medina who was just a kid when his songs got him into trouble in his home country Guatemala.  After fleeing Guatemala he lived in several countries – Nicaragua and Mexico – before settling in Canada. That was back in 2003.  When he was approached to take part in Voices of Refugees he readily accepted.
TITO MEDINA (Guatemalan refugee): Basically you know, I got involved in the student leadership, you know, when I was in secondary school.  I started to sing songs about what was happening in my country when I was twelve years old.  That’s why they start just to… I start to become a target at that age.  I have two brothers that are still missing, disappeared.  My mom was heavily tortured both by national forces and foreign international advisers. And Guatemala  unfortunately after 13 years, after we signed the peace agreements, after 36 years of war they still (inaudible) that produces refugees. One example is their mining companies – some of them Canadian – that have small armies locally. And they force the people out of their communities, you know, they just to strike gold or nickel or something.  We need to learn to forgive but we don’t have to forget.
MORAND: Now the cultural activist has not let go of his revolutionary singing.  He has initiated the Cross-Cultural Sound Exchange, a production studio which is providing recording opportunities to newcomers.
MONTGOMERY: Valerie, thank you very much for this.
MORAND: You’re welcome.

More On Marc Montgomery

With a passion for anything antique with an engine, and for Canadian and world history, Marc comes with a wealth of media experience. After DJ work at private radio in southern Ontario, and with experience in Canadian Forces radio and tv in Europe, the state broadcaster in Austria (Radio 3), and the CBC in Ottawa and Montreal, he was the host of the immensely popular CBC and RCI show, “The Link”. He is now part of the new RCI online team producing stories from and about Canada from coast to coast.

About The Link

The Link is an hour-long daily radio show aimed at connecting people to Canada and Canada to the world. Plug in to our show for news, opinions, business and science stories. Find out what’s new and exciting on Canada’s cultural landscape.

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