LGBTQI+ refugees

Canada has a proud history of providing protection to and helping resettle those most in need. That includes those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and additional sexually and gender diverse (LGBTQI+)Footnote * community.

Resettlement program

People who are persecuted because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) are generally identified or referred to Canada by

LGBTQI+ people resettled to Canada come through either the

Government-Assisted Refugees Program

The UNHCR, Rainbow Railroad and other referral organizations can identify and refer LGBTQI+ refugees to be resettled under the Government-Assisted Refugees Program.

Refugees resettled under this program get 12 months of income and settlement support through the Resettlement Assistance Program.

Privates sponsorship of refugees

Private sponsors can identify LGBTQI+ refugees for resettlement. Refugees resettled under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program get 12 months of income and settlement support from their private sponsor.

We encourage refugee sponsorship organizations, as well as organizations across the country that support two‑spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and additional sexually and gender diverse (2SLGBTQI+) people to privately sponsor refugees who face violence and persecution. This includes those persecuted based on SOGIESC.

Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership

One of the ways we support the LGBTQI+ community is through the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership with the Rainbow Refugee Society.

The partnership helps Canadian citizens and permanent residents privately sponsor LGBTQI+ refugees fleeing violence and persecution.

Canada expanded the partnership in 2019. Between 2020 and 2024, Canada

  • increased the number of cost-sharing spaces from 15 to 50 refugees per year
  • added 150 cost-sharing spots dedicated to Afghan LGBTQI+ refugees

In the cost-sharing model, for each refugee

  • Canada provides start-up expenses and 3 months of income support
  • the sponsoring group provides income support for the other 9 months and settlement support for the 12-month sponsorship period

Afghanistan humanitarian program

In 2021, Canada was among the first countries to launch a special humanitarian resettlement program for vulnerable Afghans, including LGBTQI+ refugees.

We expanded the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership in response to the Afghanistan crisis. It provides 150 more spaces for Afghan LGBTQI+ refugees between 2022 and 2024.

Capacity building under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program

As part of capacity-building funding for the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, Canada supported the National Network for Enhancing LGBTQI+ Refugee Sponsorship project from 2022 to 2023. This project aimed to improve the settlement experiences of LGBTQI+ refugee newcomers in Canada.

From Borders to Belonging, a group bringing together organizations from across Canada, managed the development, delivery and evaluation of needed training, resources and tools for this project.

Settlement supports

We fund more than 500 settlement service provider organizations (SPOs) across Canada to

  • deliver pre- and post-arrival settlement services
  • help newcomers settle and become part of Canadian society

Support for LGBTQI+ immigrants and refugees include

  • assessing needs and referring for support
  • information and orientation
  • job and training services
  • language training
  • community connections

To help refugees access these services, we also provide

  • transportation
  • help for people with disabilities
  • translation/interpretation for immediate settlement needs
  • child care
  • short-term counselling

In-Canada asylum program

As part of the in-Canada asylum program, people facing persecution in their home country because of their SOGIESC can seek refugee protection in Canada.

To support this inclusive system, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), which determines refugee status, has put guidelines in place to promote greater understanding of asylum cases involving SOGIESC, as well as barriers a person may face due to social nonconformity.

These guidelines include

Other ways we support LGBTQI+ refugees

Canada also worked with the 2SLGBTQI+ community to point out and take concrete actions to address discrimination.

In November 2020, we updated our sex and gender identifier policy to let refugee claimants change the sex or gender identifier on their Refugee Protection Claimant Document. This document is

  • issued to in-Canada refugee claimants once their claim is referred to the IRB
  • used both to confirm identity and when applying for some provincial benefits

Follow @freetobeme_ca, the Government of Canada’s Twitter account on LGBTQI+, and use the hashtag #FreeToBeMe on any posts related to gender and sexual diversity and other LGBTQI+ issues.

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