Remembering Francisco Rico-Martínez, a true voice for the rights of refugees in Canada
Along with many friends and colleagues, we are deeply saddened by the loss of Francisco Rico-Martínez on August 13, 2021. Almost 30 years ago, shortly after having fled El Salvador during its civil war and arriving in Canada as a refugee, he founded what is now known as the FCJ Refugee Centre together with his wife, Loly Rico.
Together, they have built a community that places the rights of the most vulnerable at the centre and made sure their voices were heard. I still recall the first time I was invited to their home and realized that home for them was where their family lived, but also the same place where refugees could find support, and sometimes a meal to share and a bed to rest. Francisco lived by the words, “my door is open for refugees.” It was personal and it was a way of being.
For many years, Maytree has been honoured to be part of this work – as a grantmaker, but also as colleagues staying connected and becoming involved in each other’s work. When we began our focus on immigration and refugee issues, we supported an initiative called “Refugee Help in Refugee Hands.” As a refugee advocate with lived experience, he understood and taught us about the need to empower refugees with the tools they need to claim their rights.
We continued to support FCJ Refugee Centre’s work over the next two decades. And they supported our efforts to reach out to refugee students for the Maytree scholarship program. Throughout this relationship, Francisco was a friend and an ally, and one who would both support and also challenge us to reach higher and push harder. These are the kinds of friends we all need.
Personally, I first met Francisco when I was a new volunteer in the sector, just learning about social justice movements in Central America and refugee rights. We later served together on the board of Sojourn House and eventually I had the honour of serving on the FCJ Refugee Centre’s board of directors. Throughout these years, Francisco was a friend, a mentor, a leader, and a voice of justice.
From all of us here at Maytree, we offer our condolences to Loly, her family, and the staff, volunteers, and community at the FCJ Refugee Centre. His spirit and vision will continue through your work and the many who have been inspired by his courage and conviction.