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Social Work calls for accepting Syrian refugees

By Dale Johnson Posted: December 10, 2015 9:00 a.m.

 Social Work associate dean Miguel Sanchez (left) and dean Judy White are lending their voices for calls to accept refugees from Syria as soon as possible.
Social Work associate dean Miguel Sanchez (left) and dean Judy White are lending their voices for calls to accept refugees from Syria as soon as possible. Photo courtesy of Trevor Hopkin - U of R Photography.

The Faculty of Social Work at the University of Regina is urging the Government of Canada to accept Syrian refugees “as soon as judiciously possible.”
 
In a statement, the Faculty says: “We wish to join our voice with many other organizations and individuals in Canada and the province of Saskatchewan in welcoming and supporting the Syrian refugees.”

“Our programs of social work education prepare students to work with diverse populations – particularly those at risk of marginalization and oppression. We hope the statement will throw light on the significance of the issues to the profession of social work,” explains dean Judy White.

“We want to join with others in taking positions that reflect the commitment to social justice and to progressive social action,” she says.

This is not the first time the Faculty has issued a statement on matters of the day; it also made a statement following the Truth and Reconciliation Final Report.

This latest Faculty statement on refugees says Canada should be “fulfilling its legal obligations by expediting the acceptance of Syrian refugees.”

The statement explains that Canada has signed international agreements to accept refugees. For example, Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) specifically requires signatory countries such as Canada to recognize that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy asylum from persecution.

The issue of accepting refugees is especially close to the heart for Miguel Sanchez, associate dean and associate professor of Social Work; he is a refugee from Chile.

Sanchez was arrested in Chile in 1973, after Augusto Pinochet came to power in a military coup that ousted Salvador Allende. Supporters of the democratically-elected Allende were arrested, jailed and tortured for backing him. Sanchez spent three years in prison. The military dictatorship under Pinochet continued until 1990, and during that time many Chilean refugees came to Canada, including Sanchez.

“It’s important to accept refugees because I know from my own personal experience that refugees leave their countries because their governments cannot protect them from violence. Refugees like the Chileans ended up in Canada because compassion and fairness informs Canada’s legislation,” says Sanchez.

He came to Regina in 1978 and took one class at the University of Regina while working full time. He eventually earned a degree in sociology and economics. Later he earned his Master of Social Work and then his PhD. His specialty areas include traumatized populations, minorities, social policy and international social work education.

The call by the Faculty to accept Syrian refugees is especially timely because December 10 marks Human Rights Day, commemorating the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed a resolution to observe December 10 of each year as Human Rights Day.

The Faculty of Social Work at the University of Regina is charged with educating social workers, a profession whose international definition highlights that it is driven by the principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities.  

“Our Faculty is hoping to offer a spring course 'Social Work with Immigrants and Refugees' which will be open to members of the public who want to build knowledge and capacity to work with refugee families,” White adds.