Less than a day before the Canadian government was (expectedly) defeated in a vote of non-confidence, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that $100,000 would be available to the Rainbow Refugee Committee, an organisation dedicated to assisting gay refugees.
Canada’s record is not good when it comes to accommodating refugees persecuted in their home countries simply for their sexual orientation. Many of these refugees are fleeing nations that imprison gay people—or worse, leaving very few avenues for escape other than through the refugee system.
Thursday’s announcement was a welcome surprise, but also a suspicious one. Jason Kenney has an atrocious record when it comes to recognizing the equal rights of GLBT citizens. Just last month, for example, he voted against a bill that would forbid discrimination in housing and employment for trans Canadians. He also repeatedly ignored pleas regarding individual gay refugee cases despite numerous concerns about the procedures that these refugee seekers have had to endure. It’s not unusual, for example, for adjudicators to require impossible proof that a refugee is gay, even though claimants had to hide such evidence at all costs in their home countries. It’s doubly unfortunate that claiming they’re gay as part of the refugee process also leaves them vulnerable to severe punishment should they be deported back home instead of accepted as a refugee.
The Rainbow Refugee Committee deserves the funding that was announced, and I hope they get it—no matter which party forms our next government. That said, a single token announcement doesn’t make up for Kenney’s past actions.
Considering that this announcement is probably the result of months-long talks that easily overlapped with Kenney’s vote against equal rights for trans Canadians last month, this is likely just a token gesture—a sad example of electioneering to get some GLBT votes for a party that doesn’t deserve it.
- Canada to assist persecuted gay refugees [Toronto Star]