In Canada - April 4th is Refugees Rights Day.
The date was chosen to mark a milestone decision on refugee's rights known as the Singh decision in 1985. According to the Canadian Council of Refugees - the case and its ultimate outcome marked an endorsement of a written notion that "the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees".
In turn - according to the group - "the court decided that 'everyone' includes refugee claimants in the sentence: 'Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice".
This is a hallmark of the principles of equity found in our Canadian citizenship. In a country of immigrants - Canada has been blessed with many Canadians citizens who trace their roots to that of being a refugee. One time Governor Generals Adriane Clarkson and Michaelle Jean were such famous examples.
And then - there are those that are quietly contributing to the fabrics and greatness of our communities such as Beyene Haile of Windsor. His effort is an extensive exemplary citizenship as well as volunteerism, his accomplishments and accolades and most importantly, his dedication to our country and communities make him an example of what a person could become when given a second chance at citizenship.
His journey began as being a school administer and deputy mayor of his hometown in Axum, Ethiopia. As civil war intensified in Ethiopia - he left and became a refugee in Sudan. In time, he was reunited with his family and started a career with the International Red Cross in the East African country. Then the opportunity to move to Canada came as a convention refugee in 1991 and moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Since then he has dedicated his life to strengthening the social inclusion of new comers to Canada, while donating an incredible amount of his time and energy to a wide variety of voluntary pursuits.
He began his settlement work in 1993 with the Saskatchewan Mennonite Central Committee Refugee Assistance Program where he worked on a project to computerize and compile refugee statistics, planning and organizing the processes, making contact with past sponsorship groups, Canada immigration officers and refugee claimants. Outside of work he volunteered with the Canadian Red Cross of Saskatoon, joined the Friends of Frances Morrison Library and dedicated time to UNICEF.
After moving to Windsor in 1996, he obtained a maintenance position with the YMCA of Windsor and Essex County. A year later in 1997, his hard work and passion for helping people went recognized when he was internally promoted to a settlement counselor position.
He also became involved with the Sudanese Community Group, the Windsor and District Black Coalition and the Windsor Red Cross among many other worthy causes. He also became a founding member of a group to help and facilitate the transition of newcomers from Ethiopia and Eritrea to Windsor - two countries that have had historical frictions in the past.
In recent years - with the support of his local MP - Brian Masse - he has been heavily involved with the St Clair Beach Rotary Club (Rotarians Enhancing learning African Youth) to raise funds to upgrade an elementary school for about 800 children in his hometown of Axum, Ethiopia. The group succeeded and traveled there with sufficient funds in 2009 to work on and oversea a significant renovation which included donating school supplies as well as renovate an old building to turn it in to a safe and livable school environment.
The group will also travel this year - to expand on the effort. This time - they will open a clinic. On April 12th - they will hold a fundraiser at Elis Deli restaurant (100 Ouellette Avenue) in Windsor to fulfill their ambitious goal.
Last year - the Province of Ontario awarded Beyene the prestigious 'new comer Champion award' - in celebration of his efforts and dedication to his Canadian citizenship. The Queens Diamond Jubilee medal followed soon after.
For me - Beyene has shown a life time of remarkable dedication to his adopted country while celebrating his international Canadian citizenship abroad. His powerful impact yet least visible is his mentorship of countless young people all over the world.
Today and everyday - I will continue to celebrate my Canadian citizenship. For an inspiration - I use the examples and principles of great Canadians such as one time refugee - Beyene Haile.