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Survivors, strangers in new homelands
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2011 10:59 AM
Marina Nemat remained silent for 20 years about details of her imprisonment as a teenager in Iran, quietly raising two children in Canada and working in fast-food restaurants. Now she travels the world speaking out on behalf of those who can’t.

The author of two acclaimed autobiographies shared her harrowing story of survival November 3 at the University of Manitoba. Nemat offered insights into how Canada can become more welcoming to other refugees burdened by secrets no one wants to hear.

Nemat was the keynote speaker for the fourth annual Strangers in New Homelands conference sponsored by the Faculty of Social Work and Centre for Human Rights Research. The theme this year was positioning the rights of immigrants and refugees into the human rights agenda around the world, in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

“We chose this theme to remind people that immigrants and refugees are entitled to the same conditions and human rights accorded to citizens and residents in host societies,” said conference chairman Michael Baffoe, University of Manitoba Faculty of Social Work.

Other speakers included:
• Canadian Museum for Human Rights curator Armando Perla telling stories of some of the more than 700,000 refugees offered protection in Canada since the Second World War, and of those denied entry, including war resisters, queer refugees and Romani refugees from Eastern Europe.
• U of M PhD student Peter Karari explaining how international students suffer from visa- pression: depression caused by separation from their spouses and children due to visa denial.
• Michael Baffoe asking whether there is an element of exploitation in the proliferation of Christian sects in West African immigrant communities.
• Winnipeg lawyer David Matas discussing promoting human rights by protecting refugees.
• York University graduate student Sana Siddiqui sharing the perspectives of young immigrant Muslim women.

The conference brought together academics, graduate students, non-governmental organizations and government representatives to gain insights into the struggle of immigrants to create a new home. Among those in attendance were presenters from the United States, Europe, Africa and China.

“The U of M is a trailblazer in human rights research and education,” said Karen Busby, academic director of the university’s Centre for Human Rights Research. “This conference joins our experts, students and other Manitobans with some of the best thinkers around the world to work on concrete solutions to the very real problems faced by immigrant and refugee populations.”

In 2009 alone, a quarter of a million people immigrated to Canada, including 13,520 to Manitoba. Manitoba relies on immigration to keep its population and workforce in balance, making this conference essential for those who design immigration and refugee policies, or provide services to immigrants and refugees.
For more information, contact:
Mariianne Mays Wiebe
Editor, The Bulletin
Marketing Communications Office
Phone: (204) 474-8111
Fax: (204) 474-7631
Related Links (Internal):
  •Strangers in new homelands conference