The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

Refugees Face Enormous Barriers in Canada, Particularly Women

War and oppression can be impossible to escape. For refugee women, these challenges can be doubly complicated.

By Amea Wilbur 4 Apr 2017 |

Dr. Amea Wilbur is manager of programs at Pacific Immigrant Resources Society, a non-profit organization that provides services for immigrant women and young children. Her doctoral research explored ways to make government-funded language training more inclusive for students who experience trauma. She is a graduate of a UBC Institute: Scholars Go Public.

When I taught overseas back in the ‘90s, friends suggested I put a Canadian flag on my pack. They explained that I’d have a better time if I didn’t look like an American — and that people around the world generally liked Canadians. I doubt this was ever truer than it is today. Regardless of how you personally feel about Trudeau, his administration’s policies towards refugees present Canada as a ray of hope in an otherwise tumultuous world.

It’s one thing for our prime minister to put forth such mandates. It’s another for citizens to stand by them. That part is on you — and you’ve done an amazing job. Over 13 months, 350 communities across Canada welcomed 40,081 Syrian refugees. Mohawk people in Montreal performed welcoming ceremonies. The mayor and residents of Prince George packed their airport to greet their new neighbours. As I write this, Whitehorse’s Riverdale Baptist Church is sponsoring their city’s third refugee family since last year.

This is no small thing. You raised funds, opened your hearts, reunited families, established language programs, offered jobs and created new curricula. This isn’t a one-way street. Syrian refugees quickly stepped up to help Fort McMurray fire evacuees. They created new businesses and restaurants that enrich our communities and contribute to our tax base. They’re also saying thank you in many ways, one of which is perfectly Canadian: Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts.

Certain refugees face added obstacles

I work with refugees daily, at Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS). In this role, I’ve heard stories of unfathomable pain faced by refugees. These include war, persecution, torture and the loss of loved ones. In order to escape, they left behind their homes, communities and countries — not to mention their incomes, assets and professional standing.

Sadly, this hardship doesn’t end upon arrival in a new country. Many experienced intense trauma, which results in flashbacks, memory problems and difficulty concentrating. Some suffered added traumas in transit or in their new home countries. Seidu Mohammed, for example, lost his fingers to frostbite to flee the U.S. for Canada.

The outpouring of support in Canada isn’t absolute; racism is still present. Refugees deal with poverty, and often don’t understand our systems, culture and processes — and can face discrimination. Many struggle with language barriers. And losing one’s home leads to other questions like: How do I start over? What’s my purpose? Where do I belong?

It’s even harder for refugee women. They no longer have access to family support networks. The Government of Canada says they prioritize women but their policies don’t often reflect this. Women are more likely to act as caregivers — and are often less immediately employable. As such, it’s difficult for them to access programs, community and job opportunities. This makes it harder for them to integrate into their new country. This can lead to isolation and depression.

Refugee women need to be better included

Like any other parent, these women want the best for their families. They want their children to be successful in school and to be productive members of society. Many also wish to find employment and become active members of their new communities.

Through the efforts of Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel, 1,200 Yazidi refugees are coming to Canada. These people endured an ISIS attack that left 5,000 dead and 7,000 kidnapped. Boys and men were forced to fight for ISIS, and women and girls as young as nine were forced into slavery facing violent daily rapes. The UN considers this atrocity to be a cultural genocide that amounts to crimes against humanity.

Canadians stand for women’s rights. Our cabinet is fully gender-balanced. Reproductive rights are prized, as evidenced by maternity leaves recently being extended to 18 months. These same values must be afforded to our most vulnerable populations. This includes providing support to refugee women so they feel welcome and empowered in our communities.

What you can do to support refugee women

When daycare costs are prohibitive, refugee women are less able to access work. We must prioritize the $10aDay childcare plan at the government level. Educational programs for newcomers must be adapted to better accommodate women who’ve experienced trauma and violence so they can integrate more quickly into our society. It’d also help if it were easier to access mental health programs.

On a community level, we can assist teachers who work with refugees, providing them with training and access to mental health experts and added staff. We can make programming for refugees more accessible through our neighbourhood centres. Local organizations can also accomplish this by working together in collaboration.

Individuals can also play a part. Although local associations, neighbourhood houses and churches need financial support, they also appreciate volunteer support. Take time to familiarize yourself about refugee issues by checking the news, reading refugee stories and even visiting your local mosque.

This Tuesday (April 4) is Refugee Rights Day. I welcome you to volunteer with refugee women and children, take part in a community kitchen or check opportunities with your local immigrant service agency. Together, we’re making Canada more diverse, colourful and kind.  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll