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World Refugee Day: We spend millions more on war than on helping the refugees those wars create

In advance of World Refugee Day on June 20, Huntington University hosts a talk by Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child Canada and War Child USA
Dr. Samantha Nutt, the founder of War Child Canada and War Child USA, spoke about her work yesterday at Science North, as part of World Refugee Day events hosted by Huntington University. (Matt Durnan/

War Child Canada and War Child USA founder Dr. Samantha Nutt was in Sudbury on June 12, speaking in front of a packed IMAX theatre at Science North.

The author and humanitarian shared stories of her time in war zones around the world, touching on its impact and what can be done here at home.

The keynote address was presented by Huntington University in recognition of World Refugee Day, which is on June 20.

"Today is an opportunity to reflect on what we have and more importantly what we can give to our community and to those who are coming to our community," said Kevin McCormick, president and vice chancellor of Huntington University.

"The room is filled today with individuals with unique stories, stories of coming from one country to Canada to be welcomed in a way that says dignity and human rights is critical."

Prior to Dr. Nutt's presentation, it was announced that up to two $1,000 Jim and Donna Gordon Scholarships are being made available to individuals in Northern Ontario who came to Canada as a refugee and have been accepte to an accredited post-secondary institution in Ontario.

"Donna and I, along with numerous other volunteers, have dedicated much of our time over the past few years to aid refugees in need of safe asylum who are resettling in the city of Greater Sudbury," said Jim Gordon, chair of Sudbury Project Hope.

"We are humbled by Dr. Kevin McCormick's leadership and honoured that Huntington University has established a new scholarship fund to support the educational goals of young people who are starting their new lives as Canadians."

During her address, Nutt spoke about her experiences in countries that have been ravaged by war, sharing stories of her time in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

There are currently more than 800 million small arms and light weapons around the world, she said, many of which are manufactured in countries that are not actively at war. Many small arms such as assault rifles can be purchased in war zones for as little as $10 USD.

"More than 40 million people have been killed or displaced from their countries due to active wars," said Nutt. "The global north is profitting from the sale of arms and ammunition, The P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States and Germany) account for 80 per cent of these weapons."

From a financial standpoint, the amount spent on war is roughly 12 times the amount that is spent on humanitarian efforts globally.

The presentation was meant not only to be an eye opener to what is happening on the other side of the world, but to encourage those in attendance to take it upon themselves to get informed and get active.

"Please don't let this be the only day that you're reading about or learning about what's happening in other parts of the world, take the time if you don't already, to watch or read at least one piece of international news every day," said Nutt. 

Samantha says that she hopes that those who attended are able to take away a better understanding of what's happening in the world and how they can have a constructive impact.

"The refugee crisis can seem very distant and very removed and somehow doesn't implicate us," said Nutt. "So the message I was trying to get across today is there are things we can all do every day that will actually improve the lives of other human beings."

Nutt says that oftentimes it's easy to just tune out what's happening, or to feel as though the issues are too complex for one person to make a tangible difference.

"What shocks me is the tremendous scale of some of these numbers and yet it still isn't enough to promote action," said Nutt. "If you look at funding for the Syrian refugee crisis it's woefully inadequate and underfunded at this time.

"What frustrates me more than anything else is seeing the gains and progress and you're still confronting ingrained attitudes that we have here of 'well it doesn't make a difference, and aid is wasted, and why should I give when we have our own problems here at home' that's the stuff that causes me to tear my hair out."

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Matt Durnan

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