University of Ottawa creates new fund to assist refugees

Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Woman reading a story to children in a refugee camp

The University of Ottawa is responding to the Syrian refugee crisis with new scholarships and support for two innovative programs to help refugees.

“Like all Canadians, members of the University of Ottawa community have been deeply moved by the plight of refugees fleeing war in Syria and other countries,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Allan Rock. “We feel an obligation to act in practical ways that will make a difference.”

The aim is to create a $400,000 fund for the initiative. The University of Ottawa will contribute $200,000 and will seek a matching amount from donors.

The funds will support three initiatives:

  • A Faculty of Law Refugee Sponsorship Support Program, which will help Canadians with the legal and procedural challenges involved in sponsoring refugees
  • A new, postsecondary certificate program to be offered in Lebanon to Syrian refugees
  • A minimum of five new scholarships for refugee students

Refugee Sponsorship Support Program

This program will help Canadian groups or individuals expedite the process of sponsoring refugees by matching them with pro-bono legal help from lawyers and law students.

“It is a collaborative response to a heartbreaking situation. This initiative is an excellent way to use our resources to assist the thousands of Canadians who want to help,” said Jennifer Bond, director of the program and professor at the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section.

The first information session and legal clinic, co-hosted by the City of Ottawa, will take place on Oct 1 at Ottawa City Hall. Canadians interested in sponsorship will be able to meet directly with a pro-bono lawyer at this event. More information for potential sponsors and lawyers is available on the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program website.

Postsecondary certificate program on community mobilization

This new 16-month program, to be offered in Lebanon by uOttawa and the American University of Beirut, will combine online and on-site learning. Students who complete the program will be equipped to create public service initiatives, such as schools, goods and service exchanges, and daycares, or to engage in advocacy to help their communities. They may also be able to go on to other postsecondary programs.

“This program brings together and builds networks across communities. Among the students are bright, motivated individuals who fled their homes without high school transcripts or other documents. Their path to higher education is blocked, but this provides a way forward for them,” said Nadia Abu-Zahra, program co-director and Faculty of Social Sciences professor.


The University will work with World University Services of Canada (WUSC) and other organizations to identify eligible refugee students, including some who would be ready to begin their studies in January or September 2016. The scholarships will cover tuition as well as language training and other support as required.

For more information on the fund or to make a donation, visit the Support refugee initiatives. The University of Ottawa community is also encouraged to participate in refugee-related volunteering efforts through the Centre for Global and Community Engagement.

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