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Calgary refugee film festival coming for World Refugee Day

Refugees are welcome here.

That is the message that the Calgary Local Immigration Partnership (CLIP) wants to share on Saturday, June 18.

CLIP will be showing a number of films. They’ll also hold a filmmaker and refugee panel discussion, and an information fair to help Calgarians explore the global refugee crisis, locally.

The film festival is entirely taking place at the Calgary Central Library. It’s one part of a series of planned events by CLIP as part of their Refugees Welcome Here campaign leading up to World Refugee Day on June 20.

“We wanted to be able to mark that with a bit of a splash,” said Samantha Burdett, coordinator for CLIP.

Tickets are free, and can be booked through the CLIP website at www.calgarylip.ca.

“We really hope that people can come out to the film festival and to World Refugee Day, this being an opportunity to learn more, get involved and create more welcoming communities, which benefits all of us,” she said.

Among the films being shown are a kids adaptation and the theatrical version of The Secret Marathon, and LBGTQ+ themed Someone Like Me.

Film goers will also be given treat bags. They will contain buttons, stickers, and a variety of treats to enjoy while watching the films.

Opportunities to meet and get involved

The Secret Marathon filmmaker Kate McKenzie, along with Afghan community members Hahenshah Sherzai and Sheila Qayumi will be doing a panel discussion led by CLIP co-chair Susan Brooks.

“So people will have an opportunity to talk with them and to ask questions about the film, but also to ask, Sheila and Shawn some questions about what’s it been like their first nine months in Canada,” said Burdett.

Sherzai and Qayumi were both part of the dramatic airlift of refugees from Afghanistan following the collapse of the Afghan government.

CLIP will also be hosting a community resource fair in the Central Library’s atrium. Approximately 20 different social service agencies and organizations will be on hand to speak to the public.

“Some of the settlement agencies will be there. Some of the LGBTQ+ folks will be there. After each of the films we’ll have opportunities for the audience to ask questions,” she said.

Getting involved can be as simple as a smile

“We want to be able to offer people that spectrum of how they can get involved,” said Burdett.

She said that this could be from doing small things like smiling at someone in a grocery store, to buying a refugee or immigrant a coffee.

All the way up to taking part in Canada’s private refugee sponsorship program.

“Canada has a world-renowned private sponsorship program that’s unique in the world, and after the Syrian refugee crisis, places like New Zealand are copying the Canadian model,” she said.

Burdett, who herself was a private refugee sponsor, said it’s rewarding despite the commitment it requires.

“But you know, if your kids are going to school, talk to your kids about new children who may be showing up in their classrooms, and how to be welcoming. Talk to the parents when you see them within the drop off,” she said.

“Just those little things to help people feel that this is somewhere where they are genuinely welcomed is just so important. Especially with people who are coming from very traumatic backgrounds.”

Details on how individuals who would like to make cash donations or donations of gently used furniture to Ukrainians fleeing the war, or to Afghan refugees, would be made available closer to World Refugee Day on the agency’s social media pages.

“The Ukrainian families are coming who are not being classed as refugees, so they will not have the same support in place that UNHCR refugees have when they come to Canada, so it is a little bit more of a complicated situation with them,” she said.