In late June, executive director, Agnes Thomas, regional director, Lisa Loong, and manager, Zeena Al Hamdan, made the trek to the nation’s capital to attend a conference focused on the “promise of migration”. Throughout the four-day event, the team delivered presentations, attended panels and workshops – and one of them even got to meet somebody whom they considered an “inspiration”.

Not bad for a few days on the road!

The International Metropolis Conference is hosted by the department of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada and is billed as the “largest annual international gatherings of world experts from academia, government and civil society (including officials from Germany, France and New Zealand) in the fields of migration, integration and diversity”. The program was structured accordingly, aiming to reflect both Canadian and international strategies in these fields. Indigenous leaders also spoke, staged a smudging ceremony, and performed a blanket and grass dance.

With international migration at the top of the policy agenda for many countries, delegates had a significant opportunity before them to exchange research best practices and to forge new partnerships through dialogue. Agnes, Lisa and Zeena made the most of this opportunity, making sure the CCS voice was heard loud and clear on settlement challenges and potential solutions. Agnes gave a talk on the necessity of non-traditional partners being part of the solution for sustainable change and transformational practices. Lisa and Zeena then drilled deeper on this issue when they delivered a presentation a day later on how non-traditional partnerships and best practices could address settlement service gaps for refugee women and children.

“It was vital to learn of different perspectives to family settlement, the challenges, as well as the innovative solutions to meeting the unique needs of refugee women and children and we were pleased to exchange ideas on the issues,” Zeena said. “It was a real collaborative effort with partner, the East Scarborough Boys & Girls Club, and S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a social service agency from Vancouver, joining us on the panel to present,” added Lisa.

One of the highlights of the conference for Agnes was meeting one of the keynote speakers, Ketty Nivyabandi, an activist, poet and advocate for democracy and social justice, who was forced to flee her native Burundi in 2015 after she had mobilized peaceful protests. In her address, Ms. Nivyabandi spoke passionately about the empowerment of refugee women.

“They are leaders and agents, not passive victims,” Ketty said.

“It was truly inspirational for me to have had the chance to meet Ketty, who works tirelessly as a human rights defender, and who speaks out eloquently on refugee issues and the intimate effect of conflict in women’s lives”, Agnes said.

The International Metropolis Conference is a constructive forum and it was a productive step to see CCS front and centre, helping to move the needle forward on important issues to our sector.