Tories urge government to accept more LGBTQ refugees, make program funding permanent


The Conservatives are calling on the federal government to increase the number of LGBTQ refugees it accepts every year, and to make permanent the funding for a pilot project that helps LGBTQ refugees come to Canada.


“Funding for immigration programs should ostensibly be tied to … immigration levels,” Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel told CBC News.

“I would like to see the ratio of LGBTQ refugees increased in Canada as part of our levels because, frankly, Canada is one of the safest countries in the world for that community.”

Rempel made the request in the House of Commons Wednesday but her motion did not pass. 

In March, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced that funding of $50,000 a year for the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Pilot Project would be extended for two years.

The project helps fund a project run by a Vancouver-based community group that assists people looking for refugee status in Canada due to persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender or HIV status.

Rempel said that Canada should not only permanently fund the pilot project — first launched under the Conservatives and extended under the Liberals — it should increase the number of refugees from this group.

The Conservative MP said she was not pushing for a specific funding amount, but rather for funding on a permanent basis so those working on behalf of LBGTQ refugees could conduct much needed long-term planning.

A long term strategy

The Conservative MP said she could not suggest a specific number of LBGTQ refugees that should be admitted to Canada without a better idea of the overall refugee number for the year.

She did say that Canada should do more to help people in this vulnerable group, who are often targeted for abuse in their home countries and in refugee camps.

That opinion is shared by the board chair of Rainbow Refugee, Sharalyn Jordan, who said that Canada can play a much larger role in helping LGBTQ refugees find safe havens.

I’m confident that there’s strong and good intentions there and I am cautiously hopeful– Sharalyn Jordan, Board Chair of Rainbow Refugee

When the government extended its funding, it said it would work with Rainbow Refugee and other LGBTQ2 stakeholders to develop “a longer-term strategy to support the resettlement of this vulnerable group.”

Since that announcement, Jordan said, her group has crafted a coalition of LGBTQ stakeholders and has been meeting with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada to talk about what a long-term strategy should look like.

“We have yet to see a permanent commitment, or even a long term commitment. The commitment that we got was a two-year commitment while we make plans for something longer term,” she said.

A priority for government

Jordan noted that it is her goal to have a clear recommendation on how to make the pilot permanent for Hussen’s approval by no later than this time next year.

“So we are seeing greater recognition within IRCC of the distinct challenges that LGBTQ refugees face, as well as the fact that communities need to be prepared to meet the specific needs of of LGBTQ newcomers,” she said. “There’s certainly greater recognition of this within IRCC than I have ever seen before.

“So that’s promising but we have yet to see a firm funding commitment. I’m confident that there’s strong and good intentions there and I am cautiously hopeful.”

A spokesman for the immigration minister told CBC News that the minister was “committed to work together to develop a longer-term strategy” for LGBTQ refugees and, in the meantime, would work with the UN and private sponsors to identify people at risk.

“Earlier this year, the Immigration and Refugee Board implemented new guidelines to ensure the respectful and fair adjudication of cases involving sexual orientation, gender identity and expression support of LGBTQ2 rights both at home and abroad is a priority to our government,” said Mathiew Genest, Hussen’s press secretary.