The Federal government’s historic partnership with the global non-profit will see more 2SLGBTQI+ refugees safely resettled in Canada…
By Jumol Royes
NOTE: This interview was conducted with Sean Fraser, who previously served as immigration minister, prior to the July 26 Liberal government cabinet shuffle. Fraser will now serve as Canada’s new housing and infrastructure minister.
It’s been said that the true measure of a society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.
There are few members of our society more vulnerable than refugees, specifically 2SLGBTQI+ refugees facing discrimination, hatred and violence and forced to flee their homes and communities and seek safety in Canada.
Rainbow Railroad is a global non-profit organization that helps 2SLGBTQI+ people around the world escape state-sponsored violence based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics. The organization has been working closely with the federal government for years, advocating for the establishment of a direct referral partnership to increase the number of people receiving international protection.
In June, the Government of Canada announced a historic partnership with Rainbow Railroad to protect 2SLGBTQI+ refugees and allow more of them to safely resettle in Canada. Rainbow Railroad will now be able to identify and refer at-risk 2SLGBTQI+ individuals and their families for resettlement in Canada.
IN connected with Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, to learn more about how the landmark partnership will work, the impact it will have and the message the government wants to convey to 2SLGBTQI+ refugees hoping to call Canada home.
Your government recently announced a partnership with Rainbow Railroad to allow more 2SLGBTQI+ refugees to safely resettle in Canada. How will the partnership work and what role will Rainbow Railroad play?
The importance of this partnership cannot be understated. It is a new avenue to ensure the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQI+ refugees, that is built on trust. Canada has a proud history of protecting and resettling those who are the most in need of resettlement, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) refugees and their families. In their new role as a LGBTQI+ referral partner under the Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) Program, Rainbow Railroad will build on the trust and expertise they have already established with LGBTQI+ communities around the world to help more persecuted people and their families find save haven in Canada. In addition to this new partnership with Rainbow Railroad, the federal government has additional supports in place for LGBTQI+ people from around the world. These referrals are done through the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership.
What are some of the challenges and circumstances that force 2SLGBTQI+ folks to flee their countries of origin and seek safety elsewhere?
Every day, LGBTQI+ people around the world face discrimination, persecution, hate and violence, just because of who they are and who they love. It is extremely disheartening that in 2023, we continue to see LGBTQI+ rights under attack – forcing people out of their homes and their communities. Everyone should have the right to be safe. With the number of LGBTQI+ refugees on the rise, the federal government is helping them find a safe home right here in Canada. With the support of settlement service provider organizations, and referral partners like Rainbow Railroad, LGBTQI+ refugees will have the opportunity to live and thrive in Canada.
What is the intended impact? How many 2SLGBTQI+ refugees are expected to be referred through the program?
The impact is two-fold: first being that this provides a safe and reliable refugee process for LGBTQI+ people. In nations where people face persecution because of who they love, having a reliable and trusted partner to disclose this sort of information makes a world of difference. Additionally, this program allows us to bring in more LGBTQI+ refugees as a whole. The initial number is set to about 250 right now, but as the program progresses, we will continue to allocate supports.
How long has this been in the pipeline, and why now?
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been working with LGBTQI+ communities, including partners like Rainbow Railroad, for many years to address mutual goals, and challenges communities may face in accessing resettlement. As mandated by the Prime Minister, I have been working tirelessly with civil society groups to be part of the solution. Partnering with Rainbow Railroad is an important step forward that will help us increase resettlement opportunities for the most vulnerable.
This new partnership makes Canada one of the first countries in the world to have this sort of arrangement with a 2SLGBTQI+ organization. What steps is the government taking to advocate for similar arrangements in other resettlement countries?
Canada continues to step up and do more to protect the rights and freedoms of LGBTQI+ people. Not only will this partnership with an organization found in Canada help us increase the number of LGBTQI+ refugees and their families being resettled here overall, but it will also showcase Canada’s leading role in refugee resettlement on the international stage.
What is your message to displaced 2SLGBTQI+ people requesting assistance to resettle in Canada?
We are here to support LGBTQI+ refugees across the globe, who face hate and severe discrimination and are criminalized just for being who they are. This is why Canada continues to step up and do more to protect the rights and freedoms of LGBTQI+ people, here and abroad. This new partnership with Rainbow Railroad helps Canada continue to be a safe haven for LGBTQI+ people at risk around the world.
JUMOL ROYES is IN Magazine’s director of communications and community engagement, a GTA-based poet and storyteller and a glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Instagram @jumolroyes.