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Feds extend funding to SFU-professor-led LGBTQ2+ refugee assistance program

August 03, 2018
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By Allen M. Quinn

Earlier this year (Mar. 23, 2018), the Government of Canada announced plans to work with stakeholders involved in the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Pilot (RRAP) program.

This extension allows for continued assistance and strengthening settlement and integration services for LGBTQ2+ refugees. As a result, additional funding of $100,000 was made available with the extension to March 2020. Federal funds are used to provide three months of support directly to each RRAP sponsored refugee. Sponsorship groups raise the rest.

The Rainbow Refugee Society is a Vancouver based community group. Founded in 2000, this group supports people seeking refugee protection in Canada as a result of persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression (SOGIE) or HIV status.

The group assists refugees with gaining entrance into Canada through a 12-month private sponsorship and helps them settle in a much more accepting and safer country.  Twenty-five communities across Canada have created sponsorships for over 125 individuals through the program.

Sharalyn Jordan, board chair of Rainbow Refugee, is also an SFU Education professor and is involved with LGBTQ2+ resettlement work across the country. As a scholar–practitioner and educator in Counselling Psychology, Jordan’s work mainly focuses on mental health and social justice, with recent and current projects exploring the implications of homophobic and transphobic stigma, trauma, and intersectional oppressions for refugee protection, settlement, and mental health.

“LGBTQ2+ refugee newcomers face distinct challenges during their settlement—how to find positive workplaces, whether to be out in English classes, accessing trans knowledgeable medical care, or finding accepting interpreters are some examples”, says Jordan. “Sponsorships create a social support network for navigating these challenges. The program has also shown that ordinary LGBTQ2+ Canadians want to be involved in refugee protection.”

This partnership between the Federal Government and the Rainbow Refugee Society stems back to 2011.

The news of the extension and additional funding is promising, as this will allow the society to continue working with its own Circles of Hope as well as other community organizations across Canada to sponsor LGBTQ2+ asylum seekers.  The Parliamentary Standing Committee report “LGBTQ2+ at Risk Abroad” recommended making the program a regular program with on-going funding commitments.