The first of three virtual speaker events will take place tonight at the Kingston PumpHouse in a series called “Refugees Welcome: Refuge Canada Speaker Series”.
The series is meant to give residents a chance to listen to community members who have firsthand experience as refugees and helps localize and raise awareness of the current exhibition at the PumpHouse.
Heritage Services Program Coordinator Keely Maddock says the exhibition brings a focus on questioning if Canada’s response to refugees is something to be proud of.
She says many Canadians often feel the country has shown a strong support of refugees and are surprised to find that is often not the reality, and the current exhibition explores that.
The speaker series, Maddock says, explores the refugee experience on a local level.
She says she hopes the series helps residents to recognize the role they can play in supporting the lives of resettled community members.
“I guess I want to empower attendees to play an active role in supporting their local communities as newcomers are resettled,” Maddock said.
“So I really want to just draw attention to that work but also help people feel like they can play a part and actively contribute to that change.”
Maddock says the speaker events will feature two parts, with the first being hearing a story from a local resident who came to Canada as a refugee and then a second part aimed at activating and increasing awareness.
She highlighted in particular the art activation event led by Virginia Jahyu on September 23, where audience members will participate in a virtual collaborative project sharing messages of support that will then become a public art project in Douglas Fluhrer Park.
Thursday evening’s speaker event features Jamal Saeed, a published writer sharing the story of his journey from Syria followed by an activity with Kingston’s Poet Laureate Jason Heroux.
September 23 features local artist, Houssam Alloum, who was a recent recipient of the Kingston Prize for his painting, “Joyce”, and will reflect on art as part of his journey.
The third speaker event is a live question and answer featuring a community organization called Sanctuary which sponsors refugees.
The Refuge Canada exhibition which was created by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
The PumpHouse becomes the second museum in Ontario to feature the exhibition, and will do so until November 20.
Registration is free for the speaker series, but attendees are encouraged to donate to an organization that supports refugees.