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Somalia and Canada: Somali-Canadian associations in Canada, including their background, history, and connections with Somalia; whether they can establish the identity of Somalis and the techniques used for this purpose (2013)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 29 November 2013
Citation / Document Symbol ZZZ104663.E
Related Document(s) Somalie et Canada : information sur les associations canado-somaliennes au Canada, y compris leur contexte, leur histoire et leurs liens avec la Somalie; information indiquant si elles peuvent établir l'identité de Somaliens et information sur les techniques utilisées à cette fin (2013)
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Somalia and Canada: Somali-Canadian associations in Canada, including their background, history, and connections with Somalia; whether they can establish the identity of Somalis and the techniques used for this purpose (2013), 29 November 2013, ZZZ104663.E , available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. Somali Canadian Society of Calgary

According to its website, the Somali Canadian Society of Calgary (SCSC) was established in Calgary in 2002 (SCSC n.d.a). The organization describes its vision as follows:

The Somali Canadian Society of Calgary aims to aid in the settlement and enhance [the] reception of Somali immigrants in Calgary as well as further their full and equitable participation in all aspects of Canadian life. SCSC promotes equal access to education, employment, health, housing, etc. for Somali speaking immigrants, helping them to gain, develop and utilize their skills and experience in order to reach their maximum potential. We respond to the concerns and advocate the ideas of immigrants, particularly refugees and those not receiving any services/assistance from the government and non-governmental organizations. Finally, our organization promotes open dialogue, mutual cooperation, understanding and acceptance among the diverse ethnic communities in the Calgary area. (ibid.)

On its website, the SCSC describes the services it provides as including but not limited to:

General counselling and referrals




Resume and cover letter preparation, job referral network



Special needs for women, youth and seniors


Workshop and seminars

Mentoring (Children and Youth)

Poverty reduction

English as a second language and citizenship classes

Community development: advocacy, community capacity building. (ibid. n.d.b)

M2 Presswire, a global distribution service for press releases (n.d.), indicated in a 2011 article that the SCSC, in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area, was granted C$794,000 over a three-year period from the Government of Alberta's Crime Prevention Framework for a youth mentoring project (12 May 2011).

In a 14 November 2013 telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the President of the SCSC provided the following information about its process for establishing the identity of undocumented Somalis:

Clients are asked to come to the SCSC with a person who knew them personally for at least three years in Somalia and who can attest to their identity. The client is requested to sign a statutory declaration of identity. Based on a person's accent and the testimony of people who know them from Somalia, the organization is able to establish a person's identity, the region of the country that they are from (Somaliland, Puntland, or south-central Somalia) and possibly their town or village of origin. In general, the SCSC does not discuss clan membership and lineage as part of the identity verification process, but it could do so if requested, for example by immigration authorities. The SCSC provides this service only for natives of Somalia and not for Somali speakers from other countries.

In a follow-up interview with the Research Directorate on 29 November 2013, the SCSC president provided the following additional information:

A client can bring up to three witnesses who are willing to attest to the client's identity under oath. Clients should bring "trustworthy" individuals who can explain how and for how long they have known the client. People considered to be trustworthy by the SCSC include community elders and other people who are well-established in the community, i.e., people who have a family and are employed. The SCSC interviews the witnesses and records their answers to help the client through the process of establishing their identity, but it does not itself make a decision on the legitimacy of the information provided. The organization does, however, record the contact information of the witnesses, with their consent, so that they can be contacted for further information by the authorities.

According to the President of the SCSC, his organization has some contacts in Somalia but generally does not work with them; its focus is on providing services in Canada (SCSC 14 Nov. 2013).

2. Somali-Canadian Association of Etobicoke

The Somali-Canadian Association of Etobicoke (SCAE), located in Toronto, ON, is a non-profit community-based organization founded in 1987 that provides services to Somali immigrants and refugees (SCAE n.d.a). It describes its objectives as follows:

Provision of information and referral services to the Somali community in the areas of housing, legal assistance, health care, education and social services.

Orientation and counselling to Somali newcomers to help [them] adjust to the Canadian way of life.

Dissemination of information on Somali cultural and traditional values.

Preservation and promotion of Somali culture and heritage among Somali youth, in line with the Canadian policy of multiculturalism. (ibid. n.d.b)

According to its website, the SCAE provides the following services:

Information and referrals

Translation and interpretation services

Instruction of English as a second language

Counselling and Seniors program

Workshop to service providers on the cultural values of Somalis

Form filling and Youth services

Organizing of community advocacy groups (women, seniors and youth)

Organizing workshops on access to services

Escorting clients to government and social service office

Assistance to Somali refugees with proof of citizenship requirement. (ibid. n.d.c)

The SCAE's website also indicates that it receives funding from the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the City of Toronto (ibid. n.d.d).

In a 14 November 2013 telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the Director of the SCAE provided the following information about his organization's role in establishing proof of Somali citizenship for undocumented Somalis:

The SCAE itself does not write attestation letters that vouch for a person's identity; rather, it assists clients in collecting the information or proof necessary to have their identity confirmed through the local legal system. To confirm that a client is a Somali national, the SCAE asks the client to come to its offices with two individuals who knew them in Somalia and who can attest, under oath, that the client is a Somali citizen and can corroborate the client's city or town of origin. If the client does not know any people in the area who can confirm their identity, the SCAE may, if asked by the client, contact family members in other countries for verification. The SCAE will ask the client questions about Somalia or their personal history to assess their level of knowledge -- for example, questions about their clan, their place of birth, the area or district of the city in which they lived, the last time they were in that area, etc. The organization has a network of contacts in the community who come from different parts of Somalia; it may ask one of its contacts who is from the client's city or clan, such as an elder, if they know the client, the client's parents, or other family members, and if they can attest to the client's identity.

The SCAE director stated that his organization does not assist individuals that it does not believe to be Somali. He indicated that such individuals may be in possession of a Somali passport but do not speak Somali or do not know anything about Somalia, or they may refuse to answer questions about how they obtained the passport or any other personal questions. He noted, however, that young Somalis -- i.e., those born less than 20 to 22 years ago, after the collapse of the state -- have a very low knowledge of Somali geography because they may not have gone to school or may have gone to school in a refugee camp in another country where they did not learn about Somalia. He also indicated that young Somalis may not know very much about their clan or lineage if they grew up in a refugee camp, for example. The Director stated that it can be very difficult to verify the identity of such individuals.

3. Somali-Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton

The Somali-Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton (SCCSE) defines its mission and objectives as follows:

SCCSE's mission is to promote and foster the wellbeing of [the] Somali-Canadian community in Edmonton and its vicinity, as well as to integrate the community into Canadian society.

Develop and promote the community's traditional values and a sense of belonging.

Fight violence and delinquency by investing in children, youth and families.

Promote and protect the values and rights of Somali-Canadian community in Edmonton and its vicinity.

Encourage resilience to cope with ever-changing issues.

By providing guidance and sound foundations, SCCSE will build the community's capacity to cope with the ever-changing issues facing the community. (SCCSE n.d.a)

The SCCSE's website indicates that it runs programs that promote spiritual healing; capacity and skills building; awareness and understanding of health and social issues affecting the community; youth information dissemination and assessment; and crime prevention (ibid.). In the field of education, it provides a homework assistance program, established in 2002; a drop-in resource centre; educational support; and assistance with computer literacy (ibid. n.d.b). It also provides family support services, including: individual and family support; settlement services; job search and resume assistance; translation services; conflict resolution assistance; community referrals; advocacy; and healing (ibid. n.d.c). A 2012 article published by M2 Presswire reports that the SCCSE was one of twelve organizations that received funds from the Government of Alberta's Civil Forfeiture Fund for programs preventing crime and supporting victims (17 Aug. 2012).

In a 14 November 2013 telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the Programs Coordinator of the SCCSE provided the following information about the verification of Somali nationality for undocumented Somalis:

The SCCSE can provide a letter attesting to a client's nationality or identity if the client can demonstrate that immigration authorities have asked for such an attestation. The client is required to go to the SCCSE office with two members of the Somali community who are landed immigrants or Canadian citizens and can complete a form vouching that they are from Somalia and that they knew the client in Somalia. The SCCSE keeps a copy of the community members' IDs and contact information so that they can be contacted by immigration authorities if necessary. The organization will interview the client and their witnesses about their city or town of origin in Somalia, as well as how they know each other or how they are related, in order to assess their level of knowledge. The SCCSE may ask the client additional questions, for example, about their clan or lineage, if it is not clear that the client is Somali. It may also ask the client to bring in more witnesses.

The Programs Coordinator indicated that it can be difficult to prove the nationality of younger Somalis around the age of 18 because they may have grown up in refugee camps and may not have personal knowledge of Somalia or any knowledge about its geography. The SCCSE would ask them about their tribe and ask for a member of their tribe to attest to their identity. The Programs Coordinator noted that the SCCSE has contacts in Somali communities across Canada, so they are able to contact people of various clans or lineages who can confirm that a particular person is a member of their clan. He acknowledged that it is possible that younger Somalis have no knowledge of their clan lineage, but that his organization has not encountered any. He indicated that the vast majority of Somalis would know about their lineage and noted that even in refugee camps, people are asked what clan they belong to. He also indicated that his organization does not often encounter young, single Somalis, since Somalis under the age of 18 are more likely to have travelled to Canada with family members.

The Programs Coordinator indicated that there are ways that Somalis can identify other Somalis, even those who have lived abroad -- for example, by looking at their physical features, or by using certain words that are particular to the Somali community. He also stated that it is possible to distinguish Somali nationals from Ethiopian or Kenyan Somali-speakers because they have different accents and use different vocabulary. He explained that the Somali community in Canada believes that it is important to know who the people in their community are, where they are from, and whether or not they are genuinely Somali.

The Programs Coordinator indicated that the SCCSE does not have contacts in Somalia and that its focus is on working in Canada.

4. Somali Centre for Family Services in Ottawa

The Somali Centre for Family Services (SCFS) was established in Ottawa in 1991 and provides assistance to refugees and immigrants, particularly in the Somali community (n.d.a). It has been registered as a charity with the Canada Revenue Agency since 2004 (Canada 18 Sept. 2013). On its website, the SCFS explains its values and principles as follows:

SCFS is a broad-based, non-profit organization that enjoys strong community support and is respected by other service providers and its funders. The Centre was initially established in response to the large influx of Somali newcomers in Canada. Its original mission was to preserve culture and heritage; however, it quickly became apparent that the needs of the community were more in the realm of settlement, integration, and counseling.

Special emphasis has been paid to providing services to enhance the community's social well-being in Canada. Since its inception, the Centre has been delivering meaningful and culturally appropriate services designed to meet the specific needs of our community members. (SCFS n.d.a)

According to its website, the SCFS offers immigrant settlement and adaptation services, including orientation and information sessions, job search workshops, volunteer programs, English conversation groups, homework assistance, Canadian citizenship study, and drop-in services and referrals (ibid. n.d.b). It also has programs for seniors and youth, including a mentorship program to assist youth in career planning and job searching (ibid. n.d.c).

In an interview with the Research Directorate on 8 July 2013, a representative of the SCFS stated that, in general, his organization assists all Somali speakers and does not officially verify the nationality of its clients. He indicated, however, that the SCFS can assist an undocumented Somali in establishing their identity and can refer them to a lawyer to do so through the legal process (SCFS 8 July 2013). The client would be required to come to the SCFS offices with another Somali who has documentation and who can attest to the client's identity, either because they knew each other in Somalia or because they are related (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Canada. 18 September 2013. Canada Revenue Agency. "Canadian Registered Charities - Detail Page." [Accessed 19 Nov. 2013]

M2 Presswire. 17 August 2012. "Community Crime Prevention Projects Benefit from the Proceeds of Crime; A Total of $1.61 Million Provided from the Civil Forfeiture Fund." (Factiva)

_____. 12 May 2011. "New Initiatives Guide Calgary Children and Youth Away from Crime." (Factiva)

_____. N.d. "About M2." [Accessed 27 Nov. 2013]

Somali-Canadian Association of Etobicoke (SCAE). 14 November 2013. Telephone interview with the Director.

_____. N.d.a. "Introduction." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

_____. N.d.b. "Objectives." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

_____. N.d.c. "Services." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

_____. N.d.d. "Projects." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2013]

Somali-Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton (SCCSE). 14 November 2013. Telephone interview with the Programs Coordinator.

_____. N.d.a. "Mission and Objectives." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

_____. N.d.b. "Education." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

_____. N.d.c. "Family Services." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

Somali Canadian Society of Calgary (SCSC). 29 November 2013. Telephone interview with the President.

_____. 14 November 2013. Telephone interview with the President.

_____. N.d.a. "About Us." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

_____. N.d.b. "Our Services." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

Somali Centre for Family Services (SCFS). 8 July 2013. Telephone interview with a representative.

_____. N.d.a. "About the Centre." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

_____. N.d.b. "Settlement Programs and Outcomes." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

_____. N.d.c. "Mentorship." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2013]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Alberta Somali Community Centre, Canadian Friends of Somalia, Canadian Somali Congress, Factiva, Ogaden Somali Community Association of Ontario.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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