Positive Spaces Initiative

The main objective of the Positive Spaces Initiative is to support the immigrant- and refugee-serving sector to more effectively serve Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and additional sexually and gender diverse (2SLGBTQI+) newcomers.

Implemented in three phases (Phase 1: 2009-2010; Phase 2: 2010-2011; Phase 3: 2011-2013), the project engages in the following activities to achieve its objective:

  • Conducting regional and provincial consultations;
  • Providing sector-wide training and information sessions;
  • Promoting settlement services to 2SLGBTQI+ newcomers;
  • Enhancing the anti-oppression strategies within the sector in partnership with other organizations;
  • Working with community partners and others to collect resources, information, and tools to be included on the OCASI family of websites; and
  • Identifying safe, positive, and welcoming spaces for 2SLGBTQI+ newcomers

"The training was invaluable as were the tool kits and resources that enabled staff to ensure that the PSI remained visible in our agency after the two training modules were completed."

Participant from Chatham, ON (March 2011)


The initiative was born out of the recognition that 2SLGBTQI+ individuals are an integral, though often invisible, part of immigrant and refugee communities. It engages OCASI member agencies in fulfilling their obligation and responsibility to provide relevant, effective, and appropriate services for 2SLGBTQI+ immigrants and refugees who are often marginalized within multiple communities.

Service provider organizations and 2SLGBTQI+ newcomers have four main channels of access to the initiative:

  • An outreach campaign conducted in the fall of 2009 with online and offline components;
  • Workshops delivered at the OCASI Executive Directors’ Forums and Professional Development Conferences;
  • "Untold Stories" Project whereby the Positive Spaces Initiative gathered stories from 2SLGBTQI+ newcomers about their experiences in accessing settlement services in Ontario; and
  • Service provider feedback on issues facing 2SLGBTQI+ newcomers and promising practices to tackle these issues.

Four training modules totalling 16 hours of training have recently been developed and will be delivered across the province to all OCASI member agencies in 2011-2012.

Newcomer Involvement

The Positive Spaces Initiative has conducted an environmental scan to gather information on the realities of 2SLGBTQI+ newcomers in Ontario with its "Untold Stories" Project. This involved interviews with 2SLGBTQI+ newcomers and frontline settlement workers in all seven OCASI regions. A project summary with key recommendations was released at the 2009 OCASI Executive Directors' Forum and Professional Development Conference. Phase 2 led to the involvement of allies who were frontline workers and senior level management in the immigrant and settlement service sector. Their involvement resulted in the completion of four public service announcements (PSA) in English and one PSA in French.

Stakeholder Collaboration

A meeting of youth service providers was held in April 2010 to lay the framework for an Ottawa Regional Network focusing on 2SLGBTQI+ youth settlement. A multi-sector, province-wide Advisory Committee formed in Phase 1 has been maintained and has met throughout the year on a quarterly basis (July, September, December 2010, and February 2011). Leadership has been provided by Positive Spaces Initiative staff at OCASI.


The initiative submits to IRCC as its funder monthly funding reports and an annual report at the end of each fiscal year. IRCC’s Regional Program Coordinators have attended Advisory Committee meetings in Phases 1 and 2.

Positive Outcome

The Positive Spaces Initiative has produced several tools and resources for settlement workers, including online audio-visual tools, fact sheets, and other print and online material on issues facing 2SLGBTQI+ newcomers and how to serve them. These tools and resources have formed the basis of training sessions conducted among settlement service agencies. Additionally, several OCASI member agencies striving to create a safe, welcoming space within their organizations are offering training inclusive of 2SLGBTQI+ issues. A training curriculum was developed and piloted in four OCASI regions in 2010. In total, the curriculum provides 16 hours of training with each module lasting approximately four hours.


As the first of its kind in Canada, this initiative has put the spotlight on an under-served, often invisible newcomer population. As such, it has a lot to offer to other Canadian jurisdictions which are interested in developing similar initiatives.


Service Providers
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
Across Ontario
Year of Launch
Languages of Delivery
English, French, and—for postcards only—Arabic, Chinese (simplified), Hindi, Punjabi, Spanish, Swahili, Tamil, and Urdu
Newcomer Groups Served
Settlement service agencies and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ) newcomers
Expected Results
Welcoming Communities (Newcomers receive help to establish social and professional networks so they are engaged and feel welcomed in their communities)
Policy and Program Development (to ensure effective delivery and achieve comparable settlement outcomes across Canada)

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