Canada to assist persecuted gay refugees

Posted by admin on Mar 24th, 2011

Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star, Mar. 24 2011

On the eve of a likely spring election, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced an unusual partnership with Canada’s queer community Thursday: a pilot project to help refugees persecuted for their sexual orientation. Through the project, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will work with the Rainbow Refugee Committee to share the cost of sponsoring gay, lesbian, transgender, transsexual and bisexual refugees overseas to Canada.

The department will provide $100,000 in assistance to cover three months of income support for the refugees upon their arrival here, while the Rainbow committee will offer orientation services, accommodation, food and other basic needs.

“These funds are a welcome first step in response to the crisis facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the globe, at a time when 77 countries continue to criminalize homosexuality and five prescribe the death penalty,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, the country’s largest LGBT human rights organization.

“The Rainbow Refugee Committee provides critical support to asylum seekers fleeing homophobic and transphobic persecution in their countries of origin.”

As part of the agreement with Ottawa, the Rainbow committee must reach out to other groups to facilitate sponsorship applications and arrangements.

“Encouraging private sponsors to come forward is vital to refugees in need of protection and to the future of the private sponsorship program,” Kenney said in a statement.

“Canada has a proud tradition of opening its doors to people from around the world and providing a safe haven to those in need of protection. The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program plays a significant role in the resettlement of refugees from across the globe.”

As private refugee sponsors, groups identify individuals in need and must commit to providing a year of financial support for the asylum seekers’ first year of settlement in Canada. Applicants must still pass government security and medical checks.

Kenney’s warming to the gay community is in contrast to his department’s decision last year to exclude Canada’s gay rights history from an updated citizenship guide. That section of gay rights was reinstated in the guide’s latest edition this month after public outrage.

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