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MONTREAL: Syrian Student Association wants Concordia Refugee Resource Centre

Syrian Student Association Wants Concordia Refugee Resource Centre

Question Seeking Student Approval to Appear in Next CSU General Election

  • Members of the Syrian Student Association at a bake sale. Photo Kinan Swaid

    Lately, Concordia’s Syrian Students’ Association’s email account has been overflowing with messages.

“Just today before I came in, someone sent, ‘Hey I’m a new refugee here—I have a lot of questions about Concordia,’” said Kinan Swaid, president of the SSA.

Admittedly, Swaid says he and his small team don’t have all the answers to the many important questions people have about properly settling in Montreal.

To provide better support for thousands of Syrian refugees in the city and at Concordia, Swaid and over 700 students want to see the creation of a refugee resource centre using student money.

Since Jan. 1, 2015, there have been 1,947 privately sponsored Syrian refugees who have come to Montreal.

Swaid said the centre’s goal will be to fully integrate refugees, including the thousands of people from Syria, to live and succeed in Canada.

“Refugee crises are happening all the time,” he commented. “We’re trying to create a system where we’re always prepared at Concordia.”

During the exam period last semester, Swaid said the SSA collected over 700 student signatures on a petition gauging interest to create a resource centre for refugees, in response to the ongoing Syrian crisis.

Since they surpassed the 500-signature threshold, a question formally asking if students support this idea will go to referendum in the forthcoming Concordia Student Union general election, which has yet to be announced. The centre will need $0.37 per credit from every student to operate, according to Swaid.

“I think it’s an incredible initiative,” said CSU General Coordinator Terry Wilkings.

He added that the rapid mobilization shows that there’s a lot of interest from students in tangibly supporting Syrian refugees. The Chief Electoral Officer of the upcoming elections will have final authority on how the question will be presented at polling stations, according to Wilkings.

While Swaid stated the centre won’t turn anyone down, its main focus will be on assisting student refugees—the first to specifically focus on doing so in Montreal.

The centre will provide services such as tutoring in subjects like languages and math, as well as information on immigration, healthcare, and academia, according to Swaid.

Another priority is helping refugees find work.

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