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March 16, 2017
For Immediate Release

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Waterloo – At a time when the world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement ever recorded, a Wilfrid Laurier conference will explore issues facing refugees, migrants, and the communities that host them. The three-day, three-location conference runs from March 30 to April 1. Tima Kurdi, the aunt of Alan Kurdi, the three year-old Syrian boy whose drowned body found on a Turkish beach shocked the world, is the conference keynote speaker.

The conference, to be held at Laurier’s Brantford campus, the Balsillie School of International Affairs, and Laurier’s Waterloo campus, is hosted by Laurier’s International Migration Research Centre (IMRC) in partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University's departments of Global Studies, Religion and Culture, and the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell will give welcoming remarks on March 31.

“The conference will bring together scholars, students, refugees, artists, and community members to generate a multidisciplinary perspective and dialogue regarding the refugee and resettlement experience,” said conference co-organizer Carol Duncan, a professor at Laurier’s Department of Religion and Culture and IMRC research associate. “A particular focus will be given to Waterloo Region's role as a recipient of global migrants.”

Tima Kurdi will be speaking at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) auditorium at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 31. Kurdi co-founded The Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation in honour of her nephews to help children living in refugee camps by providing nutritious meals, clothing and medicine.

A screening of The Crossing, a documentary following a group of asylum seekers from Syria to Europe, takes place at 7 p.m. on March 30 at the CIGI auditorium, followed by a discussion with Beirut-based filmmaker George Kurian.

Panel discussion topics will include: community experiences of being a refugee, policy responses to the Syrian refugee crisis, gender and the refugee experience, African-Canadian and Indigenous perspectives on refugee issues, community-university partnerships for refugees, and local political responses to refugee resettlement. The last will feature government office holders including Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky.

The conference will also have an arts component, with the launch of an art exhibit by Kurdish refugee children, performances by local singer-songwriter Alysha Brilla, spoken-word poet Tichaona EKhaya, the Goodhearted Women Singers/Mino Ode Kwewak N'gamowak, a drum circle, and a screening of the film I Am Rohingya, by Laurier graduate Yusuf Zine (BA ‘15, MA ‘16). There will also be a panel discussion on the role of arts and culture in resettlement and communicating the migration experience.

For more information and to register, see


Day 1: Thursday, March 30, Market Square, Laurier Brantford

  • 10:30 a.m. – Welcome and showcase of artistic and musical performances
  • 11:30 a.m. – Keynote: Tony Hoffman, University of California Santa Cruz: “Community Partnerships with Syrian Refugees: The Story of the Malala Girls Club in Lebanon”
  • 1:30 p.m. – Film screening: 19 Days (National Film Board)
  • 2 p.m. – Panel 1: Community Experiences of Being a Refugee
  • 7 p.m. – Movie screening and discussion: The Crossing, with filmmaker George Kurian – CIGI Auditorium, Balsillie School of International Affairs (Waterloo)

Day 2: Friday, March 31, Balsillie School of International Affairs

  • 8:30 a.m. – Introductions and welcome, featuring Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell
  • 9 a.m. – Panel 2: Governing Syrian Refugees: Policies, Border Politics and Impact on the Lives of Syrians
  • 10:30 a.m. – Panel 3: Gender, Migration and the Refugee Experience
  • Noon – Lunch and keynote speaker: Debra Thompson, assistant professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University
  • 1 p.m. – Panel 4: African-Canadian and Indigenous Perspectives on Refugee Issues
  • 2:30 p.m. – Panel 5: Community-University Partnerships for Refugees
  • 4 p.m. – Panel 6: Local Political Responses to Refugee Resettlement
  • 6:15 p.m. – Launch of art exhibit by Kurdish refugee children
  • 7 p.m. – Conference Keynote Speaker Tima Kurdi – CIGI Auditorium

Day 3: Saturday, April 1, Laurier’s Waterloo campus

  • 10 a.m. – Drumming circle and artistic performances by Alysha Brilla and Tichaona EKhaya – Robert Langen Art Gallery, University Library
  • 12 p.m. – Dance performance by Folkloric Ballet Puro Mexico – Concourse near Laurier Bookstore 
  • 1 p.m. – Lunch and movie screening: I Am Rohingya, with filmmaker Yusuf Zine – Senate and Board Chamber
  • 2 p.m. – Panel 7: Laying Roots through Culture: The role of arts and culture in resettlement and communicating the migration experience – Senate and Board Chamber
  • 3 p.m. – Performance by the Goodhearted Women Singers/Mino Ode Kwewak N'gamowak, followed by conference closing – Senate and Board Chamber

– 30 –


Carol B. Duncan, Professor,
International Migration Research Centre /
Department of Religion and Culture

T: 519-884-0710 x3692


Kevin Crowley, Director, Communications and Public Affairs
Wilfrid Laurier University

T: 519.884.0710 x3070



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