In 1986, the United Nations awarded the Nansen Medal for "the sustained contribution made by the People of Canada to the cause of refugees" and further for the "remarkable achievement of individuals, families, voluntary agencies, community and religious organizations, as well as federal, provincial and municipal authorities in helping refugees to integrate successfully into Canadian society and regain human dignity."
It was the first time the medal was awarded to a people, not to an individual or organization. It is significant that the "showpieces" of Canadian refugee policy over the last decades have almost always been the result of public pressure and lobbying for a more humane and generous response to refugee crises.
Safe Haven provides a look at one form of refugee assistance: that of refugee resettlement.
The Safe Haven Exhibition
excerpt from speech made at the Safe Haven launch: November 12, 1993, by Paul Robert Magosci, Director & CEO of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario
This exhibition is the first public result of a new partnership established about a year ago between the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, an institution dedicated to the study of all the people who live in our country, and the Royal Ontario Museum, part of whose mandate is to study all aspects of this land called Canada.
We are very pleased that this partnership has gotten off to an excellent start. It would not have happened had it not been for the foresight of the ROM's director, Dr John McNeill; our resident curator, Elizabeth McLuhan; and most especially, Elizabeth Samuel, or Liza, as we all fondly know her, whose generosity made possible the physical space that houses this and future exhibits. In many ways, tonight marks the inauguration of an exercise that shows just what two public institutions-in this case, the MHSO and the ROM-can do when they pool their intellectual and financial resources. I should say human resources as well, since I think you, as I am, must be impressed with the genuine charm and efficiency of the ROM's staff, from the moment they greeted us at the entrance until we reached this rotunda.
But now, let's get to the heart of the matter. What are we here for tonight? To go somewhere on a cold November evening? To fulfil, pro forma, the obligation of responding to an invitation we received? To enjoy some food and company?
I would say we are here tonight because we have a duty. As Canadians, we have a duty to confront some serious issues facing our country. Since World War II, and in particular since the late 1960s, Canada has experienced a period of enormous growth. Part of that growth was demographic. In short, we needed people to inhabit and work this vast land. So we opened our doors and people came. Many came more or less as voluntary immigrants. Others? They came as refugees, forced to flee their homelands because their lives and the lives of their families were endangered. It was not too long before Canada developed a worldwide reputation as a safe haven, epitomized by an act of the United Nations which, as recently as 1986, presented the Nansen Award to the people of Canada for their contribution to "the cause of refugees."