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Guest Contribution: The Significance of the Word “Refugee”


My name is Courtney and I am a PhD student at Western University in London, where I study policy and practice related to refugee families within the field of education. Although I attend school in London, I have always lived in Kitchener, Ontario—I am drawn to the wonderful events, activities, and people here that make Kitchener such a dynamic place to be! I was thrilled to find out that Kitchener participates in World Refugee Day and even more thrilled to find out that this event lasts for the entire month of June. I began my research with a focus on immigrant mothers, but soon learned through feedback at various conferences that when conducting research with immigrant women who are refugees, it is important to state specifically that the participant is a refugee. This feedback sparked a flame within me to continue my studies but to be very clear about what message I am sending based on the word choice I use. In using the word “immigrant”, I was implying that the people in my study had chosen a life in Canada and had been active in the decision making process CasinoinUS to leave their home country (although I understand that in many cases, push factors do not really give people much choice in leaving, even if the move is based on immigration rather than seeking asylum). This choice to move to Canada was true for some of the people I was working with, but not true of others. Other women that I was working with at the time had left harsh conditions and spent time in camps and were without place for a significant period of time. As well, some of the women I was working with had been away from their home countries for a variety of reasons, and during their time away, unrest or disaster had affected their home country and they were unable to return. The difference between choosing and not choosing to leave or enter a country is significant and needs to be taken into account so that policy and practice surrounding refugee issues can be informed and useful. The theme of World Refugee Day this year really resonates with me: “Nobody chooses to be a refugee”. I encourage everyone to explore this theme throughout the month of June by participating in various activities and information sessions for World Refugee Day.

If you would like to contact me about my research or about participation in World Refugee Day, please feel free to email me at or contact me on Twitter at @CourtneyABrewer.