Groups are calling on Canada to make it easier for transgender Americans to seek asylum
A Nova Scotia organization that resettles LGBTQ refugees joins calls for the federal government to make it easier for transgender and nonbinary Americans to seek asylum in Canada.
This comes amid a series of anti-LGBTQ laws recently passed in the United States, including Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law, Alabama’s ban on gender-affirming grooming for transgender youth, and the new anti-drag law of Tennessee, which bans drag performances in front of children.
“We are seeing a major push against access to health care for children and adults. some states [are] They even go so far as to penalize medical providers for providing access to this gender-affirming care, so… it’s getting worse,” Rhiannon Makohoniuk, executive director of the Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia, told CBC radio Information morning Nova Scotia.
The situation prompted a parliamentary petition that has more than 132,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
But the federal government says LGBTQ Americans who are being persecuted can already seek asylum in that country.
In an emailed statement, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said LGBTQ people around the world, including Americans, can apply for asylum through two different refugee flows.
A person must be referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to be brought to Canada, which is based on vulnerability, or if the person seeking asylum is already in Canada, the application will be reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Agency Canada.
“Each application will be decided individually based on the evidence and arguments presented and in accordance with Canadian immigration laws,” Stuart Isherwood, a spokesman for the department, said in the statement.
“In their decisions, the [Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada] takes into account whether an individual has a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group, including 2SLGBTQI+.”
Still, Makohoniuk said there can be obstacles when Americans seek asylum in Canada.
The first, she said, is the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, which targets asylum seekers coming from outside the two countries.
“This is an agreement that basically says that the US and Canada are both safe countries for people to seek asylum in, and so this idea that the US is a safe country is inherently built in,” Makohoniuk said .
Another problem is the argument that asylum should be a last resort, she said.
“In the eyes of the Canadian government, people should consider options like relocating to their own country before moving to another country and applying for asylum,” she said.
Makohoniuk admitted there has been confusion over who can apply for asylum, but the spirit of the petition is that people from the United States and the United Kingdom should have equal access.
“All 2LGBTQIA+ people deserve to be safe, welcome and included wherever they are,” she said. “In an ideal world, people are accepted as they are, where they are and there is freedom of movement and I think that should be our goal.”
Kimahli Powell, executive director of the global nonprofit Rainbow Railroad, said the petition is a “powerful call to action” that shines a spotlight on the plight of LGBTQ people.
“The intent is to reiterate that Canada is a welcoming place and that people from around the world should be able to exercise the right to asylum when they need it from any country and circumstance,” Powell told CBC radio Main Street Halifax.
Powell said the petition highlights Canada needs to do more, including offering more tools and programs to asylum seekers.
The Rainbow Railroad has also been working to develop a partnership with the government, he said, so that the group could eventually become an additional partner of reference for asylum-seekers alongside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“The idea of a partnership is that when spikes occur, when requests for help are made, the government has a trusted partner — a Canada-based NGO that’s backed by Canadians — to help people resettle into the country.” said Powell.
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