Surrey becomes Canada’s first International City of Refuge
Monday, October 17, 2016

The City of Surrey has become Canada’s first International City of Refuge to offer temporary sanctuary to persecuted writers and artists. Surrey joins 60 cities, which include Paris, Oslo and Mexico City that have committed to the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) protecting writers and artists who are in peril in their own countries because of their professional activities. Learn How You Can Support the Artist.

"In so many ways, Surrey already is a place of refuge to the thousands of immigrants and refugees who have been welcomed here. As a City of Refuge, it fits with the goals of the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) to strengthen the integration of newcomers and build a more inclusive and welcoming city."

Judy Villeneuve, Surrey City Councillor

"I am proud that we have been designated as Canada’s first City of Refuge for writers and artists who are persecuted, imprisoned or worse for expressing their thoughts or creative ideas," said Mayor Linda Hepner. "Surrey has a long history of being an open and inclusive community. As we have opened our doors to Syrian refugees, this is another example of our City’s progressive approach to offering a safe haven to those fleeing oppression and persecution."

Together with partners Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Simon Fraser University, the Surrey Public Library and PEN Canada, Surrey will provide a "safe haven" for a writer-at-risk, giving them a respite from danger, fear and persecution, and a platform to continue their work.

Details of the project were formally announced during Surrey’s Creative City Summit. Project Coordinator Liz Hughes says the official designation means Surrey will welcome a writer-at-risk to live in the city for two years.

Working with Norway-based ICORN, which qualifies the applications from writers-at-risk, a candidate will be chosen to settle in Surrey. A fundraising campaign is being established to support the writer and the writer’s family, as they become part of the city’s culturally vibrant community.

ABOUT THE PROJECT:

MISSION

To provide a safe haven in Surrey, British Columbia for a writer-at-risk from somewhere in the world, a respite from danger, fear and persecution, a safe place to write.

MANDATE

The City of Surrey is officially designated the first Canadian International City of Refuge and with that designation will welcome a writer-at-risk to live in Surrey for two years. Through fundraising directed by the Steering Committee, the writer  will be financially supported for those two years while they become a part of the culturally vibrant community of Surrey. 

BACKGROUND

The Surrey City of Refuge project is a partnership among the City of Surrey, its two leading academic institutions, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Simon Fraser University, the Surrey Public Library  and PEN Canada. There are 50 cities around the world that have been designated as Cities of Refuge by the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), an international organization to protect writers who are in peril in their own countries because of what they write.  Surrey is the first City of Refuge in Canada, and only the third in North America.  In so many ways, Surrey already is a city of refuge to the thousands of immigrants who have been welcomed here.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Co-Chairs:

  • Steve Dooley, Simon Fraser University (SFU), Executive Director, Surrey Campus.
  •  Diane Purvey, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), Dean of Arts.
  • Treasurer: Surinder Bhogal,  Surrey Public Library, Chief Librarian.

Members:

  • Judy Villeneuve, City of Surrey Councillor.
  •  Anne Giardini, SFU Chancellor.
  •  Aislinn Hunter, KPU, Creative Writing Faculty.
  • Grace Westcott, PEN Canada, Executive Director.
  •  Marlyn Graziano, KPU, Executive  Director of ExternaL Affairs.
  • Christine Kim,  SFU, Associate Professor.

Liz Hughes, Project Coordinator

Source: The City of Surrey