The following article was published in The Society Record, and the full article with photos is available here.
by Kyle DeYoung
The Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia (RRANS) is a small non-profit dedicated to helping LGBTQ refugees settle in Nova Scotia and highlighting international LGBTQ issues. The group formed in 2011, after noted Ottawa-based activist David Pepper made a stop in Halifax to host a public information
forum as part of a 10-province advocacy tour.
Pepper helped found the North Star Triangle Project, to educate and mobilize the Canadian LGBTQ community about the issues LGBTQ refugees face both internationally and when they attempt to settle in Canada. During the event two years ago, he highlighted the opportunities that exist for community groups to work together to sponsor LGBTQ refugees who would like to come to Canada.
After the forum, a group of LGBTQ community members in Halifax decided to take action. Working with Evelyn Jones, the private refugee sponsorship coordinator at Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services (Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia) in Halifax, the group met in a local coffee shop. The group decided to hold a public event to further highlight the issues facing LGBTQ refugees, and to gauge the community interest in the idea of private refugee sponsorship.
Twenty-five people attended this first workshop, and this led to the creation of the more formal organizational structure of RRANS. Initially the group was only three very energetic people working together, but RRANS has grown over time and continues to receive much appreciated help from Evelyn Jones at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia. RRANS is now a registered Society in Nova Scotia.
The cost of refugee sponsorship is high, and RRANS has received generous support from the local community. To qualify to privately sponsor a refugee, a group has to demonstrate that it has the financial capacity to support an individual for their first year in Canada. The government provides some matching funds but this cost, based on the current social assistance rates, is between $11,000 and $12,000. RRANS has solicited tax-deductible donations from many private individuals and groups and has hosted bake sales, 50/50 draws and fundraisers with student societies. The local community has been generous beyond our wildest dreams, and for that we are very thankful.
In February 2013, we began the process of sponsoring an LGBTQ individual; an Iranian citizen who is living in a neighbouring country and who is looking for a safe host country. Even though RRANS now has the financial capacity to sponsor this individual, the average processing time for all the required paperwork and documentation at the Canadian High Commission in this neighbouring country is 48 months. We’re very hopeful that this individual’s application can be
processed much faster, but it is barriers like these that make private refugee sponsorship very difficult.
Given this extended period of idle time, RRANS made the decision to look for more immediate opportunities for LGBTQ sponsorship. Citizenship and Immigration Canada launched a new program in 2013 called the Blended Visa Office Referred (VOR) program. This program matches refugees who have been identified for resettlement and who have completed all the required documentation with groups like RRANS.
RRANS is happy to announce that sometime during the autumn of 2013, a couple will be arriving in Nova Scotia to settle and continue their lives together. This is very exciting for everyone involved, and we hope it’s just the first of many LGBTQ refugees who will arrive in Nova Scotia. If you’d like to learn more about RRANS or would like to make a financial donation to help with the settlement of these two new Canadians, please visit our website, our Facebook page, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.