Office of the President

Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor

Petter's Perspective: Notes from the President


SFU engagement supports newcomers and refugees

May 28, 2018

The global refugee crisis and other issues relating to migration continue to command international attention. Nationally, the federal government has commited Canada to accept close to one million immigrants over the next three years. And locally, communities are working to  provide support services and welcoming spaces for refugees.

As Canada’s engaged university, SFU recognises an opportunity and responsibility to shed light on refugee and newcomer issues through our research, and to help address the challenges that these residents – especially students and youth – face as they build new lives in this country.

SFU created the Refugee Working Group in 2016 to develop and implement the University’s refugee-related engagement. The group has since broadened its mandate to include newcomers. The Refugee and Newcomer Advisory Committee (RNAC) now mobilizes and supports a range of on-campus, community engagement, and research initiatives, including:

SFU International’s Refugee and Newcomer Program is also a key partner in work led by RADIUS to develop a Refugee Livelihood Lab in partnership with the City of Surrey, Surrey LIP, SFU Surrey and other supporters and collaborators.

The Lab has a three-year plan to generate new models for improving economic opportunities for refugees and other vulnerable newcomers, including ventures led by, employing or otherwise serving refugees.

Another example of SFU’s community commitments in this area is Friends of Simon, a program that equips SFU students as literacy tutors for newcomer students in Lower Mainland schools. Now in its 13th year, Friends of Simon has helped hundreds of children and youth succeed in school, while building community leadership, knowledge, and skills amongst university student mentors.

SFU also recently joined the Scholars at Risk Program, which supports scholars whose academic work has placed them in danger. We welcomed Chemistry Professor Hanadi Ibrahim to the Faculty of Science earlier this year.

And SFU’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee is working to raise awareness of the challenges newcomers face, and  to foster a more inclusive and welcoming campus environment.

In addition, the University recently expanded its International Student Orientation and transition services to include newcomers, new permanent residents and formal exchange students.  Over 200 students have since taken part in workshops and events such as Leadership Training and World Refugee Day.

This year, SFU was able to sponsor six additional students through the WUSC Student Refugee Program, bringing the total number of WUSC students enrolled at SFU to 21.

SFU’s extensive efforts to support refugees and newcomers is testament to the sense of social responsibility that typifies our staff, faculty and sudents.  These efforts not only assist these residents to adjust to their new lives in Canada, but they also strengthen the social, cultural and economic fabric of our communities, and of SFU itself.

Friends of Simon, SFU's tutoring program for newcomer youth helps young people succeed in school, while building community leadership skills in university students