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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Norbert Piché

Gordon: When did you attend Université de Saint-Boniface, what degree did you earn, what your favorite class, and why was that class your favorite?

Norbert: I attended Université de Saint-Boniface from 1985-1990.  I completed a B.A. and a B.Ed.  My favourite class was General History of the World because it gave me a better understanding of world events during the 20th century.

Gordon: Where and where did you serve as Newcomer Services Coordinator and what were your primary responsibilities?

Norbert: I was Coordinator of Newcomer Services at the Centre francophone de Toronto from 2003 until 2015.  My primary responsibilities were to supervise a team of counsellors who gave different services to newcomers.  Some of them were settlement counsellors, others were employment counsellors and we also had an outreach person. 

Gordon: You current serve as National Director Jesuit Refugee Service Canada. What are your primary responsibilities?

Norbert: As Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Canada, I supervise our refugee sponsorship program that includes accompaniment of refugees once they arrive.  I also oversee our awareness-raising program which is mainly done through our simulation exercise A Journey into Exile.  And I also do advocacy work to help improve the situation for refugees particularly in Québec, Canada.

Gordon: What are some of Canada's major immigration challenges and what recommendations would you make to t reduce them?

Norbert: Canada's major immigration challenges are firstly, slow processing times for refugees to be reunited with their families once they are deemed to be convention refugees.  To address this issue, the Canadian government needs to grant permanent residence immediately when a refugee claimant (asylum seeker) is deemed to be a convention refugee. 

Afterwards, the government should grant Temporary Resident Permits to the family members allowing them to come quickly to Canada instead of having to wait on average 4 years. 

Secondly, there has to be an equitable crisis response framework in place.  In the last number of years we have seen the Canadian government act swiftly in certain crisis situations in the world but very slowly or not at all in other parts of the world.  Thirdly, the Canadian government should have a robust plan in place to offer services to refugee claimants as it does for permanent residents. 

In general, refugee claimants are mostly left to their own devices to navigate a complex immigration system.  To have more complete services would allow refugee claimants to be treated more humanely and at the same time be more cost-effective for the federal government.

Gordon: Who is your favorite French author why is that author your favorite?

Norbert: Victor Hugo is my favourite French author.  His novel, Les Misérables, showed the transformative effect one can have by showing love and compassion for the stranger.  I believe that it is only through love and compassion that we can overcome this fear of the stranger that is becoming more prevalent in our Western societies.  But to show that love and compassion, we must first dare to encounter the other.

Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.

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