Many LGBTQ refugee claimants arrive in Canada with almost nothing. Most are dealing with the consequences of extreme trauma and are struggling with acute mental health issues as a result of the events that caused them to leave their homes and countries of origin. This is particularly true for LGBTQ refugees who have faced targeted violence, discrimination, and abuse in their countries of origin and throughout their journeys to safety.
In 72 countries, LGBTQ identities are currently criminalized. In nine, they are punishable by death. But in many others, social norms, traditions, and customs make life for LGBTQ people equally difficult and dangerous, even if the law is not officially against them.
LGBTQ refugees face unique challenges when navigating the complex refugee claims process. LGBTQ asylum seekers are expected to provide witness statements confirming their sexual orientation or gender identity. Obtaining such evidence is no easy task. It might endanger family members, previous partners, and asylum seekers themselves. Claimants often have language barriers and little to no understanding of Canadian legal processes.
Championing the rights of and supporting LGBTQ refugee claimants while meeting their unique needs must be a priority for all parties, this federal election.
We call on all parties to:
- Increase funding for, and make permanent, the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program, in order to assist the safe passage and settlement of LGBTQ refugees in Canada.
- Increase the number of annual private sponsorships and reduce wait time for sponsorship groups.
- Fast track asylum for highly at-risk LGBTQ refugee claimants.
- Commit to continued funding for legal aid representation for all refugee claimants in the wake of cuts to Legal Aid Ontario.