Celebrating the stories of former refugees in Canada

Celebrating the stories of Canadians who were once refugees.

For many, becoming a refugee is one’s only hope to a better, safer future, and it can be a journey full of uncertainty and anxiety. Being a refugee is a temporary status, a state of existence that refugees hope to leave behind as they find a safer home.

In Canada, refugees have the highest rate of citizenship among any immigration categories, showing their commitment to Canada and its people in remarkable numbers. For these people – those who have fled conflict, persecution and violence in the hopes of a better life – they are able to say “I Was A Refugee”. These are their stories.

#IWasARefugee: Read their stories

A photo of a photographer taking a portrait photo of a woman

“I chose to belong:” Entrepreneur shares extraordinary refugee journey from Cambodia to Canada

“Being a refugee is always part of you,” she says. “It’s a feeling of being destabilized, of feeling unwanted. You never quite feel like you belong. But I chose to belong,” she states emphatically. “I wanted to move forward.”

Share your story!

Leading up to the 70th anniversary of UNHCR, we want to celebrate the contributions of former refugees in Canada, and those who have helped them.

Step 1:

Share your story or that of a friend who was a refugee themselves or an advocate for refugees. Post a photo with the story on social and tag @UNHCRCanada and use the #IWasARefugee or #IAmAnAdvocate in your post.

Step 2:

Stop the rise of xenophobia and racism. Help us by raising your voice and stand with refugees by pledging your support.

Sign the pledge now.

Step 3:

Join us by persuading your city to stand with refugees by signing the UNHCR Statement of Solidarity with refugees. #WithRefugees

Sign up here.

Step 4:

Together we are stronger.  Give now and help us in continuing our work to support refugees.

Downloadable Graphics For Your Use

Want to take part in #IWasARefugee? Download these graphics and use them to reflect your own story and journey.

  • #IWasARefugee and #IAmAnAdvocate social media templates
    • JPEG
    • PNG
    • To create your own graphic, simply upload the JPEG or PNG file into a photo editor (i.e. Canva, PicMonkey, Pixlr, etc) and drag your photo over top of where it says “Place photo here”. Then align your photo and export the finished product!
  • #IWasARefugee and #IAmAnAdvocate wordmarks
  • 9 Things That Wouldn’t Exist Without Refugees
  • Anatomy of A Refugee Ally
  • 3 Things You Can Do Today to Help Refugees
  • The Best Resources About the Refugee Crisis
  • 5 Canadians You May Know Who Were Refugees
I was a refugee template

Wondering what to post? Brainstorm with us!

Looking for inspiration? Here are some questions to help you get your ideas flowing.


  • Why did you flee your home country?
  • Tell us about your experience arriving in Canada as a refugee?
  • What do you do now and how has being a refugee impacted you?
  • There are 79 million people who remain displaced globally – how do you feel about hearing these statistics?


  • What inspired you to act and advocate for refugees?
  • What is the importance of bringing refugees issues to the forefront of the conversation, in Canada and worldwide?
  • There are 79 million people who remain displaced globally – how do you feel about hearing these statistics?

Check out these stories from coast to coast, across 70 years of Canada standing #WithRefugees.

A photo of a photographer taking a portrait photo of a woman

Photo exhibit turns lens on LGBTQ refugees in Canada

Years before they fell in love and moved to Canada, Nouran and Miral were bonded by a common truth.

Des réfugiés décorent le premier sapin de Noël au Canada

B.C. residents help newly resettled Congolese refugees

It took five families to sponsor a refugee family, and one to give them the Christmas they’ll always remember.

Child refugee grows up to become family doctor in Canada​

40 years after her family was resettled to Edmonton, Nhung Tran-Davis is now paying it forward.

A refugee family from Syria stands in their store in Guelph

A Syrian refugee returns to entrepreneurial roots in Canada

Shortly after arriving in Canada, it didn’t take long for Ahmad Abed to reignite his entrepreneurial spirit.


Syrian seamstress becomes a part of community fabric

With the help of sponsors, Rabiaa’s skills have become a valued part of one tight-knit community in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sky is the limit for refugee who fled Somalia

Arriving in Canada as refugee was overwhelming for Osman, but now he is determined to help others.

Canadians coast to coast are sharing their stories – see them below!

Did you know that 2020 marks UNHCR’s 70th anniversary? Help us commemorate seven decades of Canadians standing #WithRefugees.

UNHCR Canada is travelling far and wide to visit refugees who have made Canada their home over the past 70 years. We invite you to watch, read, and cook alongside fellow Canadians and refugees as we learn about their stories, families, favourite home-cooked meals, traditions, and more.