City of Surrey now a City of Refuge
The City of Surrey has taken another progressive leap, becoming Canada’s first International City of Refuge. Surrey joins 60 other cities worldwide in offering a temporary sanctuary for writers who are persecuted for carrying out their craft.
The designation is from the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), which works to protect writers and artists living in peril. Surrey has committed to providing a ‘safe haven’ for a writer and family for a two-year period.
Announced Oct.17 at Surrey’s Creative Summit, this initiative is a great example of what happens when community partners collaborate. For the past year, I’ve had the privilege of working together with counterparts at the City of Surrey, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and others, including SFU Chancellor Anne Giardini, who is also an author and former PEN Canada board member. Our next steps will be to work with ICORN to secure a candidate, and fundraise for support.
This has been a labour of love for all of us, as we recognize the very urgent need to step up and show the world that these important literary voices matter, more now than ever.
It’s a sad fact that ICORN receives more than 100 applications every year from persecuted writers and artists. It’s hard to fathom what that might be like, but as we are learning with the recent influx of refugees, there are many individual stories to be told and talent to be nurtured. This is another way we can do our part to help.
Having worked closely with the city on refugee issues, including the recent Our Community Our Voice study on refugee settlement, I feel hopeful that the community will rally behind this latest endeavor and welcome our Writer in Refuge when the time comes.
Here at SFU, we anticipate that there will be great opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to connect with the writer. It’s also an opportunity to show our students that no matter what the struggle, we value literary excellence.
Once again Surrey is leading the way. We hope other Canadian cities will take a look at our example, and get on board.