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CIMM Committee Report

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Dissenting Report of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition The Conservative Party of Canada

2011 LGBTQ Refugee Pilot Project Study

David Tilson, Member of Parliament for Dufferin – Caledon

Michelle Rempel, Member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill

Bob Saroya, Member of Parliament for Markham – Unionville

BACKGROUND

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration briefly considered the issue of LGBTQ+ refugees during this Spring 2017. In particular, it studied the 2011 Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program (RRAP) pilot project, through which the government offers three months of support to LGBTQ+ refugees who are brought in with the collaboration and support of private sponsors. This program has been renewed every year since its introduction in 2011 by then Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney. The Committee heard from civil society groups who have sponsored refugees through the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program, refugees themselves, and department officials.

As witnesses were quick to point out, 73 countries in the world today criminalize queer sexualities and gender diversity. In 13 of those jurisdictions, the death penalty applies for such crimes.[1] Beyond the institutionalized homophobia and transphobia, hate crimes occur frequently, including murders, and they are rarely reported or prosecuted in many countries.  LGBTQ+ individuals are not typical asylum seeker; they are often victimized by their own families and communities, by their home governments, and are even at risk in the countries of first asylum.[2] Furthermore, they are highly vulnerable once they leave their home communities and are often unable or afraid to access UNHCR support, often because they are internally displaced and therefore do not meet the definition of a conventional refugee.[3]

Despite its precarious funding model and lack of long term government support, the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program has had a significant impact. Through RRAP, 75 individuals have been welcomed to Canada, more than 800 people in Canada have been involved in direct sponsorship, and thousands more have volunteered indirectly.[4] As was clear from the witness testimonies, this is a program that punches well above its weight; it requires little government support and effectively capitalizes on the generosity and passion of Canadians to build a sustainable, reliable process for LGBTQ+ refugees that follows them from their home communities all the way through their integration in Canadian society.

Nobody should be persecuted or tortured for who they love or for living their own personal truth. Canada has to make that statement permanent, not just through tweets and nice words, but through programs such as Rainbow RAP.

REASONS FOR A DISSENTING REPORT

It is the opinion of the Conservative Members that the recommendations in the report tabled by this Committee had numerous deficiencies. As seen from the widespread outcry of Canadians over the current persecution of gay men in Chechnya, the Canadian public is demanding a proactive response to this issue.

This dissenting report therefore provides recommendations to address the deficiencies in the report tabled by the Committee. In particular, we would like to emphasize the following themes:

  • Canada’s refugee system does not reflect current realities
  • On-going need to address internally displaced persons
  • Lack of information

Canada’s refugee system does not reflect current realities

A reoccurring issue that this Committee has heard in its studies is that Canada’s refugee system does not reflect the current realities of conflict. Today, international drivers of instability are increasingly non-state actors, as is demonstrated by the atrocities committed by the so-called Islamic State. Our immigration systems need to be updated to reflect the current global context as they were developed in a different era.

One witness directly addressed this issue of non-state actors and their impact on LGBTQ+ persons. In their brief, Capital Rainbow Refuge describes the impact of current realities in international conflict with their quote, “LGBTQ refugees face potential persecution from multiple sources, including the state, militarized non-state actors or their own communities, and, for many, their own families”[5].

Canada’s refugee systems must adapt to these realities. The most vulnerable suffer because of outdated processes. This need to adapt was demonstrated through the special Yazidi refugee program, created by the government after great pressure from the opposition and Canadian public.

Canada must adapt it systems so that in times of emergency, we can swiftly respond without the need for applying political pressure.

Given these realities, we recommend:

1.     That the Government develop a plan to significantly reduce processing times when faced with demonstrated emergent situations of the four atrocity crimes or targeted state sanctioned persecution against religious, sexual, and ethnic minority groups, and that this plan be tabled in Parliament by June 2018.

On-going need to address internally displaced persons

Furthermore, the current realities of international conflict have also meant that the needs of internally displaced persons are not adequately met by Canada’s current refugee systems. Not only has this challenge proved a problem in cases like that of the Yazidi genocide survivors, it was also noted by witnesses to be an issue for LGBTQ+ persons as well. The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants made clear in their briefing that more needs to be done to help LGBTQ+ IDPs. This Council recommended that IRCC:

“Develop and implement initiatives to resettle internally displaced LGBTQIA+ persons, particularly those facing elevated risk in their current geographic location because of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Development of such a program should be undertaken in consultation with experienced and knowledgeable civil society organizations.”[6]

It is clear that Canada’s systems are not adequately responding to internally displaced persons, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. In order to review emergent cases of persecution, outside of the time constraints of the Standing Committee of Citizenship and Immigration, we recommend:

2.     That the Standing Orders of the House of Commons be amended to establish a Standing Subcommittee of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to study the internal displacement of persons around the world and Canada’s potential responses thereto.

Lack of Information

The Committee heard that accessing information about immigration to Canada was a further barrier. Eka Nasution, Director of Rainbow Foundation of Hope, described his own experience of seeking information on the IRCC’s website, which he found complicated. In the end, he sought help in making a refugee claim from an LGBTQ+ organization that referred him to a Canadian lawyer[7]. This lack of clear information was also a problem for specific information related to LGBTQ+ refugees. One witness pointed out that the RRAP has never been on the IRCC’s website and that some churches were not aware of its existence and had to be convinced that it is really a pilot project funded by IRCC[8].

To address these gaps in information provided, the Committee recommends as follows:

3.     That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada amend its website, to ensure that information and procedures related to immigration and in particular refugee applications is clear and easily understood and that information related to the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program is provided.

Recommendations

1. That the Government develop a plan to significantly reduce processing times when faced with demonstrated emergent situations of the four atrocity crimes or targeted state sanctioned persecution against religious, sexual, and ethnic minority groups, and that this plan be tabled in Parliament by June 2018.

2. That the Standing Orders of the House of Commons be amended to establish a Standing Subcommittee of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to study the internal displacement of persons around the world and Canada’s potential responses thereto.

3. That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada amend its website, to ensure that information and procedures related to immigration and in particular refugee applications is clear and easily understood and that information related to the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program is provided.


[1] CIMM, Rainbow Refugee Board of Directors, Written Submission, p. 5.

[2] CIMM, Rainbow Refugee Board of Directors, Written Submission, p. 5.

[3] CIMM, Capital Rainbow Refuge, Written Submission, p. 11.

[4] CIMM, Rainbow Refugee Board of Directors, Written Submission, p. 7.

[5] CIMM, Capital Rainbow Refuge, Written Submission, p. 11.

[6] CIMM, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, Written Submission, p.2.

[7] CIMM, Evidence, 1st Session, 42nd Parliament, 3 May 2017, 1640, (Eka Nasution, Director, Rainbow Foundation of Hope).

[8] CIMM, Evidence, 1st Session, 42nd Parliament, 3 May 2017, 1710, (Lisa Hébert, Coordinator, Capital Rainbow Refuge)