Safe Haven is a collection of the oral testimony of five families who came to Canada as refugees. It is about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances; it is about survival in the face of overwhelming odds; it is about memory and experience.
Safe Haven is intended as an introduction for the general public to the subject of refugees in Canada through the first-hand accounts of those who have been formally admitted into the country as refugees. Families were selected not as representatives of their respective countries but because their stories embodied many aspects of the refugee experience.
The lives of the families in Safe Haven were brutally interrupted by military invasion, dictatorship, warfare, or civil conflict. The extremity of such circumstances, the loss of freedom, and the threat to life itself compelled these people to abandon their homes and embark into the unknown in order to survive.
While the general public may be all too aware of the violent events that precipitate refugee movements, frequently nothing more is heard until "alarming" statistics of refugees in Canada are cited by the media. Safe Haven is an attempt to bridge this information gap by tracing the difficult decisions, arduous journeys, and diverse adaptations of five refugee families in Canada today.
Those who arrive as refugees must cope with countless adjustments, large and small, required every day in a new country. Abrupt physical displacement also robs new arrivals of their old identities. Even within the same family, each individual - young or old, male or female - has a distinct set of experiences and memories, and responds to change in a manner different from that of other family members. Thus refugees, while dealing with the pressing contingencies of resettlement, are also forced at the same time to redefine themselves at the most fundamental personal level, within the shifting contexts of family, co-ethnic community, and Canadian society. It should come as no surprise that many individuals thus displaced experience, over time, contradictory and vacillating feelings about their homeland, the violence that compelled them to leave, and their new lives in Canada. Indeed it may be said that these conflicting demands and pressures - many of which are expressed in Safe Haven - are hallmarks of the refugee experience.