University of Ottawa creates new fund to assist refugees

Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

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.

Media inquiries

Néomie Duval
Manager, Media Relations
University of Ottawa
Office: 613-562-5800 ext. 3087
Cell.: 613-240-0275

Refugee Sponsorship Support Program

The Refugee Sponsorship Support Program brings together sponsorship experts, pro-bono lawyers, law students, and community organizations to offer direct support to Canadians seeking to sponsor Syrian refugees. 

The Refugee Sponsorship Support Program has three primary components:

  • A matching program, which provides sponsor groups with direct support from a pro-bono lawyer and law students;
  • A training program, which trains lawyers and law students on the completion of sponsorships, and provides ongoing support for their work through sponsorship experts and resettlement experts;
  • A public information program, which provides Canadians with easy-to-understand information regarding sponsorships

The Refugee Sponsorship Support Program is run by the Refugee Hub at the University of Ottawa and is supported by the uOttawa Human Rights Research and Education Centre, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and Lifeline Syria.

More than 50 law students are involved, and will have the opportunity to assist Canadians in their efforts to resettle refugees in Canada.

The Refugee Sponsorship Support Program's public education and lawyer training website is supported by Grade A. It can be reached at:

Open Learning for Refugees and Host Communities in the Syrian Crisis: Certificate Program by Distance Learning in Community Mobilisation in Crisis (CMIC)

The University of Ottawa, in partnership with a university in Lebanon, plans to offer a 16 month, English language, hybrid (online/onsite) Certificate Program in Community Mobilisation in Crisis. Community Mobilisation is defined as “a capacity building process through which individuals, groups or communities plan, carry out and evaluate activities on a participatory and sustained basis to improve their wellbeing and other needs”.

The program

  • The program is open to applicants at the college or university level. Those without official documents will be accepted through an equivalency testing process (see below for admission criteria).
  • The program will accept 30 students in Lebanon per cohort and will be open to registered or unregistered refugees, as well as Lebanese and other nationals. 
  • The program will be tuition free for all participants in Lebanon. In the long term, the program may open to Canadian and international students who will register for courses using existing (tuition based) processes.
  • The Certificate program will provide an opportunity, amid the challenging circumstances of the Syrian crisis, for individuals to participate in higher education.
  • Through community service learning, the Certificate program will build the capacity, technical and leadership skills of participants to carry out participatory interventions. These interventions are aimed at building a community's capacity to identify their own needs and priorities, use the available resources and respond accordingly.
  • Upon graduation, participants will have honed their skills and talents through:
    • Defining and discussing fundamental theories and practices of community mobilisation.
    • Identifying collective social issues and designing community interventions.
    • Harnessing community mobilisation tools to conduct interviews, group discussions and interventions in community settings.

Program Structure

The Certificate program will be comprised of ten courses over four terms: three terms of three courses each, with a final term involving a practicum course.

Students who need additional support in English will take appropriate courses, supported and facilitated by CMIC, before the beginning of the Certificate program, to ensure that they will be able to successfully complete the coursework.


In place of standard high school transcripts and language scores, a multi-step application process of tests, essays submissions and interviews will be used for the selection process.

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