The Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council (RIAC) began as an informal network of community organizations and churches, dedicated to advocating for and providing assistance to refugees and immigrants to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Since its inception in 1983 as a single desk in the back of a small international store, RIAC has grown into a full office with three full-time staff and an expanding base of passionate interns and volunteers. RIAC has helped hundreds of newcomers to prepare their legal cases, find work and housing, and create homes in this province.
RIAC was incorporated in 1997 and became a registered charity on the 1st of January 2003.This allowed RIAC to broaden the scope of the services it provided and the population it served.
Much of RIAC’s work during its early years was overseen by Donna Jeffrey, a devoted advocate and passionate believer in the rights of refugees. Later on, Mr. José Rivera took over as Mrs. Jeffrey retired.
In 2005, Canada ratified the Safe Third Country Agreement, which stipulates that an individual must claim refugee status at a port of entry. This new law greatly reduced the number of refugees claiming sanctuary in Newfoundland and Labrador and by extension, altered the mandate of the Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council. While there may be fewer refugees claiming status in our province today, there continue to be refugees and immigrants who come to make Newfoundland and Labrador their home. To respond to this unique situation, RIAC‘s mandate has changed to focus on public awareness and education, ensuring through ongoing research and assessments that the changing needs of refugees and immigrants are recognized and addressed.
RIAC’s outreach activities consist of public information sessions, hosting ESL conversation groups, newcomer orientation and immigration counseling, and facilitating the productive participation of our clients and newcomer communities in St. John’s and beyond.
In its long history of service to the community, RIAC has been party to a number of successful collaborations with service providers in different sectors. Some of RIAC’s partners in research and programming have included Eastern Health and various faculties and departments at Memorial University. These include the School of Social Work, The International Student Advising Office, the Faculty of Education, the Harris Centre, the Gateway Program and ACE Memorial.
RIAC has also worked in partnership with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Eastern Health, Literacy Newfoundland & Labrador, Food Security Network (FSN), the provincial Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism (OIM), the North-East Avalon Regional Development Board, The College of the North Atlantic, and several denominational organizations and not-for-profits such as Sharing our Cultures, Friends of India, Seniors Resource Centre, the Multicultural Women Organization (MOWNL), Rabbittown Learners Centre, Rabbittown Community Centre amongst others.