Layne Daggett’s legacy for refugee claimants – Ready Tours

Loren Balisky and Alexandra Charlton with Layne Daggett, celebrating his retirement from the Ready Tour Advisory Committee.

Kinbrace Refugee Housing & Support has been receiving some very positive attention of late, but co-founder Loren Balisky is happy to share the credit as he reflects on the influence of Layne Daggett, who passed away this summer.

Late last week Balisky was interviewed on CBC Radio’s On the Coast by host Gloria Macarenko. 

As well, the Law Foundation of BC noted in their just-released 2021 Annual Report that they had awarded Kinbrace $40,000 for their “Ready Tours to educate, orient and support refugee claimants as they navigate the Canadian refugee hearing process.”

In the following comment, posted September 18, Balisky reflects on the positive influence Layne Daggett had on Kinbrace, particularly on their adoption of Ready Tours.

I first met Layne in 1999. My partner Tama and I had recently launched the Kinbrace community and I was looking for mentors. I’d heard about Layne, this Baptist pastor who had, by then, served as a decision-maker Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) for many years. I wanted to learn from someone who had such incredible experience.

As I got to know Layne, his concern and care for people seeking refugee protection became increasingly clear.

Prior to joining the IRB, Layne founded the Vancouver Airport Chaplaincy in 1982, and returned to work there for the rest of his career. He had an easy-going approachable way about him, and personally assisted hundreds of refugee claimants arriving at the airport over the years to get shelter.

He told me stories of driving a newly arrived refugee claimant to an apartment building and knocking on doors of people he knew until someone would take the newcomer in. Layne was too nice to say no to. He was also casually fearless.

In March 2008, I phoned Layne – who was on Kinbrace’s Advisory Council – and asked if he might come and provide refugee claimants at Kinbrace an orientation to the refugee hearing process. Through the years, we saw refugee claimants struggling in the dark, not knowing what to expect at their refugee hearings.

During that phone call, Layne said, “What refugee claimants really need is to get into the hearing rooms prior to their refugee hearings, so they can see the space, meet the staff of the IRB and begin to learn about the refugee hearing process.

A shiver went up my spine.

Immediately after hanging up the phone with Layne, I called Lesley Stalker, a remarkable refugee lawyer who had recently become the legal representative for the UNHCR in Vancouver. Lesley was that lawyer who gave extra time with each refugee claimant, drawing pictures of the hearing room and carefully explaining who would be at the hearing and what would happen.

Ready Tours are designed to educate, orient and support refugee claimants as they prepare for their refugee hearing. Free virtual tours are available in Vancouver and several other cities.

In her UNHCR role, Lesley was well-positioned to reach out directly to the IRB, and she proposed Layne’s idea of bringing refugee claimants into the hearing room for orientation.

Just two months later, in May 2008, Layne, Lesley and I accompanied 10 refugee claimants living at Kinbrace for what was to become the first Ready Tour for refugee claimants in Canada.

Month after month, the three of us would gather at the IRB hearing rooms at 300 West Georgia with refugee claimants.

After the IRB staff made their presentation, Layne would talk about refugee hearings as a former IRB Member, the things he looked and listened for. His pastoral heart and easy humour put refugee claimants at ease. Lesley would help participants understand important legal information.

Over the years, under the leadership of Jamie Spray and Fran Gallo, and in collaboration with the IRB staff and partner agencies across the country, Ready Tours grew and replicated across Canada, providing thousands of refugee claimants with critical pre-hearing support.

Sophia Underhill led Ready Tours through massive change during the COVID-19 pandemic, as everything turned virtual. Currently, Masi Allahverdi is the Ready Tours organizer. Thanks to the Law Foundation of BC (LFBC), Ready Tours are guaranteed for refugee claimants (see the focus on Ready Tours in the LFBC 2021 Annual Report, pages 8-9).

Loren Balisky said, “The laugh in this one completely captures Layne.”

Layne Daggett passed away July 15 after a long battle with cancer.

His warmth, care, passion for justice, and deep concern for the wellbeing of refugee claimants lives on in the Ready Tour program.

A Celebration of Life in Layne’s honour will be held October 1st, 1 pm. You are invited to join family and friends at Kitsilano Community Church, 1708 West 16th Avenue.

The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to support refugee claimants through Kinbrace. If you choose to donate, please dedicate your donation to Layne Daggett.

This comment is re-posted by permission from the Kinbrace site.

Loren Balisky pointed out that Kinbrace and three other groups are hosting Ride for Refuge events October 1 to support people seeking refuge. Follow these links for more information:

Kinbrace, Columbia College, Inner Hope and Journey Home are looking for volunteers to help out, and riders to fundraise in support of refugee claimants.

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