Monday, June 12, 2017

Orange Ribbon Campaign - Celebrating Refugees: Michaelle Jean

The Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Canadian journalist and documentarian who was Canada’s 27th governor-general (2005–10) and the first person of African heritage to hold that post. She later became the first woman to serve as secretary-general of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie (2015– ).

Jean’s family was descended from slaves. Her father suffered imprisonment and torture under the regime of François Duvalier, leading to the family’s flight to Canada when Jean was age 11. They settled in Montreal. Jean proved to be a brilliant student, studying languages and literature at the University of Montreal, where she earned a master’s degree in comparative literature. She also attended universities in Italy and France.

A social activist, Jean mixed freely in the diverse world of Montreal’s ethnic communities, honing a perfect command of French and English in the process. Embarking on a career in broadcast journalism, she became a popular commentator on the French-language network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and also worked frequently on the English network. From 2001 Jean worked as an anchor for Radio-Canada’s Le Téléjournal, and in 2004 she began to host her own television interview show.

On Sept. 27, 2005, Jean was officially installed as Canada’s governor-general. She was the first black person and the first Haitian immigrant to hold the prestigious post as the British monarch’s viceregal representative in Canada. The appointment brought out, in a striking fashion, the changing nature of modern Canada: since World War II Canada had become a genuinely multicultural society, with attitudes influenced by the heavy flow of immigrants.

Orange Ribbon Campaign - Celebrating Refugees: Michelle Jean from CFN Productions on Vimeo.

When it comes to refugees, it should always be remembered that they are people who come to Canada having left their homes, and in many cases they have had to live in refugee camps for many years. When they arrive in Canada, they have to start their lives over again.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), along with private sponsors, identifies refugees for resettlement. A person cannot apply directly to Canada for resettlement. After they are identified, it takes time to process the cases. Private sponsors across the country also help resettle refugees to Canada. Some do this on an ongoing basis. They have signed sponsorship agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees. These groups are known as Sponsorship Agreement Holders. Sponsorship Agreement Holders can sponsor refugees themselves, or work with others in the community to do so.

Other sponsors, known as Groups of Five and Community Sponsors, are people or groups in the community who have come together to sponsor refugee(s). They do not generally sponsor refugees on an ongoing basis. The Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program matches refugees identified by the UNHCR with private sponsors in Canada.

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