Artists and writers who have been persecuted for their work can now call Surrey a safe haven.
The City of Surrey is now Canada’s first International City of Refuge and joins 60 other cities around the world that have committed to providing safety to artists and writers who are in peril in their home countries.
The movement was started by Norway-based International Cities of Refuge Network, also known as ICORN.
The City is partnering with Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Simon Fraser University, the Surrey Public Library, and PEN Canada to provide safety for a writer-at-risk and to allow them to have a platform to speak openly.
“I am proud that we have been designated as Canada’s first City of Refuge for writers and artists who are persecuted, imprisoned or worse for expressing their thoughts or creative ideas,” says Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner in a release.
“Surrey has a long history of being an open and inclusive community. As we have opened our doors to Syrian refugees, this is another example of our City’s progressive approach to offering a safe haven to those fleeing oppression and persecution.”
More than 100 applications from persecuted writers and artists reach the ICORN office every year, according to executive director Helge Lunde.
“This high number reflects the sad fact that the conditions for those who dare to give voice to ideas and debate, those who challenge existing societal norms and concepts, has in no way improved in the world today,” says Lunde.
Other cities of refuge include Paris, Oslo, and Mexico City.