Mt. A’s Student Refugee Program referendum is passed for another year

Another student with sponsorship will be arriving for 2022-2023 year

Mt. A’s most recent referendum voting period voted in favour of continuing to sponsor the Student Refugee Program (SRP) through a two-year student levy of $14.00. A whopping 91.2% of all voters voted in favour of the program’s continuation.


The SRP is a division of the Canadian non-profit World University Service Canada (WUSC) and works to help refugee students receive a higher education in Canada. The program now operates at over 150 Canadian higher education institutions and has been running since 1978. 


At Mt. A, the SRP sponsors a new student every two years to finance their four-year degree while also gaining opportunities to resettle into Canada in the future. This sponsorship can include tuition, residence, meals, and books.


Third-year English student Tess Casher and graduating environmental studies student Annie Martel are passionate co-presidents of Mt. A’s student refugee program and were very happy to see the program prepare to support another incoming student. 


We have a very different funding model than other local committees,” Martel explained about how they finance the program. “Most of our funding comes from the student levy that we [vote on and] get every year. With that, it allows us to sponsor a student fully.”


Casher added how exciting it was to see the success that Mt. A has had with the program’s passing referendums over the years, “considering how small of a school we are, [but] being able to provide many quality sponsorships that come solely from the student levy.”


The program sponsors 100% of a student’s expenses at Mt. A in their first year, 75% of all expenses in second year, 50% in their third, and 25% in their fourth year. The program is “quite unique because most other local communities only sponsor for one full year,” Martel commented.


The SRP provides more than just an education for these students. The SRP also provides a legal status that allows students to work part-time, bringing valuable experience that can be used to work towards citizenship status in Canada. “As soon as the refugee student lands into Canada, basically they get the permanent residency status,” Martel said.


The SRP also works to support other student needs. “For example, if there’s any mental health support needed, we will make sure that they’re connected to any resources that they need,” Martel explained. The co-presidents also noted that academic and social support are provided upon the students’ request.


Students selected for the SRP come from various countries in the world that face insecure situations or barriers receiving postsecondary education in their home country. The newest student sponsored by the SRP has not been decided yet; however, they will be coming to Mt. A from Afghanistan. “We do know that [the WUSC] will be prioritising female students’ applications,” Cashier said. She also mentioned that the levels of English support available to these students will be a factor in their decision.


The choice to select a female Afghan student comes from the current political situation in Afghanistan with the Taliban. The SRP intends to offer an educational opportunity to a female student that is not available in their home country. Under Taliban rule, Afghan women are heavily restricted in their rights to an education. “It’s been kind of an additional barrier for women to access education,” said Martel. “Under Taliban rule, women are not allowed to attend any type of schooling or education.”


The support of the SRP also aids to overcome barriers that may arise if these students were to arrive as an international student. Students in this program only have to pay domestic student fees because of the permanent residency that comes with the program. However, these students are ineligible for student loans so this program offers them a way to prepare to legally work to pay for school in their coming years.


“Normally by the time they’ve made it to their upper years, then the legal processes have started, they can get [permanent residency status], and then gain employment over the summer,” Casher explained. The structure of this program provides a strong pipeline to gain citizenship in Canada after graduation. 


Casher also mentioned the importance of the WUSC’s terminology surrounding the program. “As soon as they arrive in Canada [under the program], they are no longer a refugee. They are a permanent resident… this puts them on the path for full-fledged Canadian citizenship.”


The SRP executive team also highlighted their appreciation for the ability to continue such a life-changing program. “If it wasn’t for the student support that we’ve gotten, we wouldn’t have been able to sponsor a refugee student from Afghanistan… it wouldn’t have been passed. So we’re super thankful,” said Martel.


Another important part about this program is empowerment, and careful consideration is given to the language with which the student is referred to and how they are represented.  “We need to step away from possessive language like ‘our refugee student,’ ‘we have a refugee student,’ ‘we have sponsorships,’” Casher explained.  “We should refer to these students as they are, as scholars.”


If readers would like to get involved or learn more about the SRP, they can follow their Instagram page @mountallison.srp and visit the organization’s website at Students can also apply for a position on the SRP’s executive team to help facilitate the support and administration of the program at Mt. A.

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