Academic journal article TESL Canada Journal

Introduction to the Special Issue on Refugees in Canada: ESL for Resilience and Empowerment/Introduction Au Numero Special Intitule Les Refugies Au Canada: l'ALS Pour la Resilience et la Responsabilisation

Academic journal article TESL Canada Journal

Introduction to the Special Issue on Refugees in Canada: ESL for Resilience and Empowerment/Introduction Au Numero Special Intitule Les Refugies Au Canada: l'ALS Pour la Resilience et la Responsabilisation

Article excerpt

The armed conflict in Syria and the mass displacement of Syrians have brought attention to the plight of refugees worldwide. In October 2015, Canada entered the spotlight of international attention when the newly elected Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, confirmed the Canadian government's commitment to resettle not the expected 11,000 but more than 25,000 Syrian refugees across Canada. The Canadian government, along with various key community organizations, stakeholders, and a concerned public, has shown a great deal of interest and compassion toward the settlement and integration of Syrian refugees into Canadian society.

Refugees have always been present in our ESL classes. As signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1951, Canada has a legal obligation to grant protection to convention refugees and other persons in need of protection. Although Canada's history is replete with discriminatory immigration policies such as the 1911 Black exclusion policies, the Chinese head tax, a 1914 Continuous Journey regulation that effectively barred South Asians from entry, internment camps for Japanese-Canadians during World War II, and anti-Semitic laws refusing entry to Jewish refugees, by the 1960s the economic contribution of immigrants to Canada had become evident. Thus, during the 1960s and early 1970s, Citizenship and Immigration Canada implemented a new point system to eliminate racial discrimination, allowing up to 250,000 new immigrants in the Skilled Worker category to enter Canada annually. Furthermore, with the passage of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1971 and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, Canada's humanitarian and compassionate ideologies were forever engrained in the fabric of its society.

In 1972, Canada opened its door to 6,000 Ugandan refugees fleeing after Idi Amin's 90-day expulsion order. This marked Canada's first effort in accepting a significant number of racialized refugees that were welcomed by the government and the Canadian public. In 1979-1980, Canada once again opened its door to more than 60,000 Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees. The arrival of these refugees brought a unified sense of compassion among Canadians, many of whom were themselves of immigrant descent. The commitment to resettle refugees places new demands on the country's settlement organizations, academic institutions, and specifically the English Language Teaching community, requiring a multifaceted approach to address the unique needs of refugees during their integration process.

We are pleased that the TESL Canada Journal has responded by making the topic of its annual special issue "Refugees in Canada: ESL for Resilience and Empowerment." One of the strengths of this special issue is its multidisciplinary approach to English language education. By placing the diverse refugee population at the centre of English language education, we are forced to include the theoretical underpinnings of multiple fields such as social work, counselling, and migration studies to our already rich understanding of linguistics and cognitive psychology. In fact, as guest editors, we embody the multidisciplinary, relational framework that we propose. Bahar is a long-time professor of academic English as an additional language while Soheila has worked as a social worker with diverse groups of immigrants and refugees for decades. We are currently living in a world where forced migration and displacement has become reality for much of the earth's population. Displacement, forced migration, the labour market, immigration policy, citizenship, education, and language learning are all dialectically related. These are phenomena that make up the complex social web of our reality. They simultaneously impact and are impacted by one another. Thus, when we study one piece (in this case English language learning), we cannot examine it in isolation, severed from the whole. We need to investigate English language learning in relation to other occurrences. …

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