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Call for papers - Flight to Freedom: the Canadian Refugee Experience Since 1957

University of Ottawa – Saint Paul University, October 21-23, 2017

This bilingual conference is organized to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the 60th anniversary of the arrival and settlement of 38,000 Hungarian refugees in Canada following the suppression of the 1956 Revolution. The arrival of these refugees was designated by the Government of Canada in 2010 “as an event of national historic significance” because it was the first time such a large group of refugees was accepted by Canada from one country. The conference seeks to reflect on and commemorate the impact of the arrival of the Hungarian refugees on Canadian society and culture, and examine how this event influenced the development of subsequent refugee policies and programs, mainly those affecting the Ugandan Asian and Vietnamese refugee movements in the 1970s and the most recent arrival of Syrian refugees, but also various other groups. The conference intends to engender a discussion around central issues of our time: the global search of refugees for a safe home and the role of immigration in the Canadian nation-building process in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The conference will explore the record of the past and the practices of the present with an outlook toward the future. The goal is to assess the dynamics of Canada’s evolving approaches to reception, settlement, integration, and multiculturalism, and review how this experience has transformed the way we see ourselves as a nation, 150 years after Confederation. The conference will bring together academics, policy makers, sponsors, NGOs, students, refugee workers and refugees of various backgrounds with their personal narratives. A rich and diverse cultural program will frame the conference.

In the midst of the current refugee crisis and during the anniversary celebrations, an interdisciplinary conference that addresses specialists as well as a broad audience and builds on successful examples of refugee integration in Canada will allow us to conceptualize a living and ever-evolving narrative of our national post-Confederation history.

We invite 20-minute papers, in particular, around the following themes:

1. Refugees in the past, present, and future within the context of Confederation

2. Social and cultural integration of refugees, interethnic relations, multiculturalism

3. The global rise of anti-immigration, anti-refugee political and populist movements

4. Creative expressions of migration, displacement and multiple identities (in literature, theatre, film, art)

Potential presenters are invited to submit a 300-word abstract and a 100-word bio by June 2, 2017, to Christopher Adam (, Marie Boglari ( and Agatha Schwartz (

Please indicate for which theme(s) you are submitting your proposal.

The conference is being organized by a committee consisting of a broad range of individuals and organizations involved in teaching, researching, and writing about or working with refugees, such as the University of Ottawa’s Central and Eastern European Studies Research Group; Saint Paul University’s Conflict Resolution program; the Canada-Hungary Educational Foundation; the Canadian Immigration Historical Society; St. Joseph’s Parish Church and Sanctuary Ottawa. Other partners include the Canadian Museum of History; the Hungarian Studies Association of Canada; the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers; the Canadian Romani Alliance; the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21; and various individuals long involved in refugee work in Canada.

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