Photo of Professor Chris Kyriakides | 2018-07-05

Sociology professor analyzes refugees and their relationship with Canada


Sociology Professor Christopher Kyriakides spoke with the Toronto Star about the bond between refugees, Canada and Canadian's self-image in an article entitled “Expecting gratitude from refugees is about bolstering our own saviour complex.”

“Refugee status can become like a straitjacket if people are expected to behave in a way that reinforces the saviour credentials of the host society,” Kyriakides says.

Over the past year and a half, he has been studying refugee relationships in the Canadian context. He is an Executive Member of York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies and holds the position of Canada Research Chair in Citizenship, Social Justice and Ethno-Racialization.

“The life of refugees doesn't begin with the conflict, nor does it begin when they come to Canada. Just as they had a life prior to refuge, they want a life after refuge,” he says.

Kyriakides adds that when moving away from danger and to a safer country, refugees are actually rescuing themselves from a bad situation, and that it is very important to let refugees know that we see them as people who had lives before they arrived in Canada.

“The West isn't saving anyone. We're not saviours,” Kyriakides says. “As well-meaning and as beneficial as we can be, we're supporting their self-rescue.”

He is currently working on a five-country program on refugee reception in Canada, the U.S., Jordan, Greece and Italy. The most recent paper from this project, “Beyond Refuge: Contested Orientalism and Persons of Self-Rescue,” will be published in the Journal of Canadian Ethnic Studies in July 2018.