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Canadian indie-rock group Arkells headline hometown rally for refugees

Canadian indie-rockers the Arkells led by singer Max Kerman (centre) will headline The Rally in support of Refuge Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health. © Matt Barnes

Canadian indie-rockers the Arkells led by singer Max Kerman (centre) will headline The Rally in support of Refuge Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health. © Matt Barnes

By Lauren La Rose

Arkells will be rocking their hometown of Hamilton as the award-winning Canadian group headline a concert to raise funds and awareness for a cause close to their hearts: supporting refugees.

The critically acclaimed rockers will be headlining The Rally at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday, June 23, with $1 from every ticket sold will donated to Refuge Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health.

Established in 2011, Refuge provides client-centred, primary health-care services to new immigrant and refugee populations in Hamilton.

“I think we take the granted the resources that we have at our disposal in Canada, especially when it comes to health care,” said Max Kerman, Arkells lead singer, guitarist and chief songwriter in an interview with UNHCR Canada.

“If you’re from here, you know if you have an ailment you can go to a walk-in clinic; you can get referred to a specialist. These are all systems that most Canadians are pretty familiar with and can make use of and I think it’s a blessing that we have that. But if you’re new to a country and don’t speak the language necessarily and you don’t know the geography of a city it’s pretty overwhelming.”

Arkells will be joined at The Rally by a roster of local and international artists, including Los Angeles-based rockers Cold War Kids, soul pop singer Bishop Briggs and fellow Hamilton band Ellevator.

The band decided to help support Refuge specifically because their focus on serving newcomers in their community to access vitally needed health services, Kerman said.

“It helps transition these people into Hamilton so that they can get access into all of the things we have access to (here),” he said.

“Just put yourself in the shoes of those people for one second and you’d hope that a fellow citizen would give you a hand. I think that spirit of generosity and wanting to help your fellow brother or sister is something we try to always remember.”

This isn’t the first time Arkells have lifted their voices and contributed dollars to support refugees in Canada.

During shows staged in Ontario last year, they partnered with PLUS 1, a charity founded by Grammy-winning Montreal rockers Arcade Fire. The band donated $1 from each ticket sold to the Canadian Council for Refugees. They’re working again with PLUS 1 for The Rally for Refuge.

“We thought it was just really timely to give our support to these people that are coming from pretty traumatic situations in a lot of cases and having to adjust to a new country,” Kerman said, who performs alongside Nick Dika, Mike DeAngelis, Tim Oxford and Anthony Carone. “We figure as global citizens we have to do our best to lend a hand.”

The concert comes on the heels of the UN Refugee Agency’s Global Trends Report which revealed the global refugee crisis shows no signs of slowing.

The report found that 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide in 2017—a record high. Of that total, refugees accounted for 25.4 million people forced to flee their countries to escape conflict and persecution. This is 2.9 million more than in 2016—and the largest increase UNHCR has seen in a single year.

“It totally can feel really daunting whenever you see a massive crisis, but it just starts with little, little steps,” says Kerman. “I am a real believer that if you add up a bunch of little things together that you can really make a great change or a great impression. So obviously not one person can solve everything but if we pool our resources and everybody chips in we can get a lot done.”