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Delays make Canada a poor choice for gay Ugandans


Delays make Canada a poor choice for gay Ugandans

Refugee system failing gays
Gay Ugandans fleeing persecution are being discouraged from applying to Canada for refugee status because of overwhelming delays at the Canadian mission in Nairobi, according to testimony at the Commons subcommittee on international human rights.

University of Ottawa law professor Nicole LaViolette, who specializes in sexual minorities and refugee law, appeared before MPs Feb 17 to lay out some of the realities faced by gays and lesbians trying to flee Uganda, beginning with those delays.

“It’s the main stumbling block to anything that you might want to do to put in place assistance to people fleeing persecution in Uganda,” LaViolette says. “That’s true of any refugee who happens to be in that part of the world. Their chances of being resettled in Canada are just lousy because of the processing time and the processing delays in Nairobi.”

Under a UN convention, a refugee has to be outside of his or her own country before a refugee claim can be made. LaViolette says that the possibility of gay Ugandans fleeing to, for instance, Kenya for five years is unrealistic. Neighbouring countries are not necessarily any more supportive than their home country.

Exceptions have been made: a Canadian program contains a list of countries from which refugees can apply without leaving.

“The department has been unable to modify the list, to be flexible, to respond to changing concerns because it requires a change going to cabinet, and it requires a regulatory change,” LaViolette says. “The in-country process that does exist is not one that’s going to work here. It’s just not adaptable and flexible enough to use it.”

News that refugee claimants – even those going through private sponsorship – are being told explicitly to avoid applying for resettlement in Canada was alarming news for MPs on the subcommittee.

“I found that shocking, and it’s one place where we have to deal with the officials and figure out what is going on there,” says Liberal MP Mario Silva. “We’ve got to figure out how to expedite the system because it’s a life-and-death situation that we’re dealing with. The government has to look at it as a priority.”

NDP MP Wayne Marston found the revelation to be sad.

“To find that there’s obstruction or a layer of bureaucracy or systemic homophobia in places that slow down that process and make it so the point where it’s 'Don’t bother trying to go to Canada – they’ll stall you until you can’t make it,'” Marston says. “That was very troubling.”

LaViolette said that while officials in Nairobi may not be homophobic necessarily, they simply might not understand the on-the-ground realities of gay Ugandans and suggested that more training was needed. She also suggested that the mission have some visible identifiers that Canada is a safe place for gay people by using posters in the offices, or other such cues.

LaViolette also suggested looking at a Canadian program where the families of Afghan interpreters can come to Canada and get permanent residency and some of the same support as refugees, given that their lives would be in danger because of their aid to Canadians.

“There clearly is a mechanism somewhere to create that kind of a special program,” LaViolette says. “I suggested to the committee that they look into it.”

One of the complicating factors is that, unlike previous resettlement programs, like the Karen refugees from Burma, gay Ugandans are not easy to locate within the population. To help Canadian officials identify them, work would have to be done on the ground with refugee groups familiar with the situation and able to identify those most at risk.

One way of facilitating that would be to set up a satellite mission in Kampala, assuming that a special in-country resettlement program could be created.

“What you would do then is maybe send someone who’s working out of Nairobi maybe once a month to go to Kampala, process applications and work that way – work with some local refugee groups who can identify individuals who are in dire need of fleeing, and that’s the idea,” LaViolette says. But it would need new resources.

“My concern is again, if you’re going to do a satellite mission of that sort, you cannot be pulling away the already insufficient resources in Nairobi to create that,” LaViolette says. “Then that just means other refugees are going to suffer, and as much as I care about [lesbian, gay, bi and trans] refugees, there are refugees in Kenya who’ve been waiting years and years for their file to be processed.”

Both Silva and Marston hope that LaViolette’s recommendations can be brought to the minister. Neither of the two Conservative members of the subcommittee asked questions of LaViolette, and while the chair, Conservative MP Scott Reid, did ask a few questions, he did not make himself available to Xtra for an interview.

“I’m really pushing strongly to have a report because I want to have something tabled in both Foreign Affairs [committee] and in the House, and put some concrete recommendations forward,” Silva says.

“These are people that are on a death watch,” says Marston. “We’re saying to the minister, Take action. Let’s find a way. If we have to send a special team over there, that’s what we need to do.”
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Straight applying as Gay refugees
Gay refugees have a new setback --with Straights applying as Gays-- for refugee status. The NewYorkTimes wrote an article about this, as it is a problem that compounds the lives of Gay refugees in various countries which have a separate status for Gay refugees. In Toronto, I have personally met a Straight Gypsy man from Hungary who said that he is applying as a Gay refugee. Someone from the Among Friends Refugee group at the 519 also suspects several Africans in the group who may not be Gay, yet claim to be Gay. How do they determine who are Gay refugees in various countries? According to the NYTimes article: In the U.S. there are companies who coach refugees --for a price-- on how to dress and behave at a Gay refugee interview, to fool the evaluators... In the Czech republic they attach genital cuffs to refugee claimants, while they watch pornography, to see their level of arousal to either sex... http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/29/nyregion/29asylum.html?scp=1&sq=gay%20refugees&st=cse ____So how does the Canadian Refugee Board determine who is Gay or not?
roots of evil
when will all concerned honestly deal with the cult of religion that has been granted money and allowed to teach hate as a value under the guise of humanitarianism(for lack of a better definition)?
Let's not be prejudiced
Comments implying that there is a single gay 'lifestyle' and that begin gay is something that is 'chosen' exemplify ignorance and prejudice. Similarly so with comments that make sweeping judgments about all of Africa. Africa is a huge continent with enormous diversity.
African words
Teme's words are just an example of the insidious ignorance and hatred of gay and lesbian people that pervades African culture. ie....''in spite of being devastated by their chosen life styles''. All the more reason to help the Gay and Lesbian people of Uganda and save them from that barbarous culture.
The Kenney Way
Any refugee, family class sponsorship or overal anyone wanting to come to Canada is giving up thanks to a system that came to a halt after changing to supposedly speed up the application process and eliminate the backlog. That is the Kenney way
Dont panick about nothing
Come on, Ugandans may not like the idea of being gay, but I really don't believe anybody would go out of his/her way to harm his/her own child for being gay. These gay individuals have loving parents and I am aware of families with such children who are very protective and loving of their children in spite of being devastated by their chosen life styles. You are surely going to end up with economic refugees claiming to be gay. We are a poor country and every other person dreams of finding a way out to the first world.That is the truth of the mater.
We need to help
Our refugee system is completely broken. I mean think about it a bunch of line jumping Tamils with thousands of dollars payed to human smugglers get in before genuine people who are dying in Uganda. Also, keep in mind that the British system of law in Canada and Britain for that matter (after a lot of hard work) allows us to be free GLBTQ, the reason for homophobia in Africa is a lack of education, and pure hatred and ignorance on the part of the people living there. If anything we should be trying to change their culture to one that is more egalitarian or civilized.
LGBT Ugandan refugees need to be given priority at this time. From the several reporters who have gone there, it is clear that if you ask any random person on the street, LGBT Ugandans' lives are in great peril, even without the kill-the-gays bill, but certainly more so with it. Canada is part of the British system of law that led to this disaster of homophobia, and we are responsible for dealing with it, not just in Uganda, but throughout Africa.
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