LGBT Refugees Face Barriers in Canada- New Report from Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights

Canada’s current immigration regime poses challenges for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) asylum seekers, says new report

 Recent changes such as the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act (Bill C-31, 2012) have led to a refugee system that creates particular barriers for LGBT asylum seekers. Many come from over 75 countries where homosexuality is illegal. In fact, the overall system is “anti-refugee for all potential claimants.” This is the conclusion reached by the report Envisioning LGBT Refugee Rights in Canada: The Impact of Canada’s New Immigration Regime. The report states:

 “The Conservative government’s anti-refugee attitude has resulted in serious erosions of Canada’s obligations in regard to international protection, as evidenced by sharp drops in refugee claims and acceptance…”

“The changes negatively affect all refugees, but LGBT asylum seekers bear particular burdens as a result of their unique cultural position and marginalization.”

 One of the burdens identified is that shortened timelines in the claim process make it very difficult to build a case, especially for LGBT claimants who have spent a lifetime hiding their identity. They are generally expected to provide evidence “proving” their sexual orientation or gender identity, and lack of such evidence may be used to undermine their credibility. In addition, some decision-makers may rely on stereotypical or inaccurate conceptions of LGBT identity despite the fact that such decisions have been overturned by judicial review.

 The report was produced by Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights, a research project of community partners and York University. Many of the community partners provide key services for LGBT asylum seekers in the GTA. They spoke of the need for more resources related to the themes of the report, particularly with regard to: impacts of the new system; effects on mental health; analysis of grounds on which claims are rejected and later overturned on appeal; and guidance for potential claimants to navigate a complex system. To help meet these needs, Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights is proud to announce the publication of the report and three information sheets.

Find the report and information sheets at:


Report: Envisioning LGBT Refugee Rights in Canada: The Impact of Canada’s New Immigration Regime

By Rohan Sajnani, June 2014

This report examines the impact on LGBT asylum seekers in Canada of federal Bill C-31 (December 2012) and the resulting Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, as well as other recent changes. It explores Canada’s international obligations, Canadian LGBT refugee jurisprudence, stereotyping, credibility assessment, resettlement, refugee health care and concludes with recommendations.

Information Sheet: Mental Health Challenges for LGBT Asylum Seekers in Canada

Contains: survey of common stressors and resulting mental health challenges encountered by LGBT asylum seekers in Canada. Based on research data gathered by Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights in India, Africa, the

Caribbean, and Canada as well as a broader literature review.

Primary Audience: service providers who work with this population

Information Sheet: Lesbian and Gay Refugee Issues: A Review of Federal Court Jurisprudence

Contains:  outline of Canadian Federal Court appeal decisions over the past 10 years that have overturned rejections of lesbian and gay asylum claims. Challenges unique to these asylum seekers are analyzed. (Note: Claims based on bisexuality or gender identity are not covered here, since the jurisprudence is different and specific treatment is necessary.)

Primary Audience: guidance for adjudicators of lesbian and gay claims seeking to ensure that their decisions avoid or survive judicial review; reference for asylum seekers and counsel in preparing gay and lesbian claims

Information Sheet: Making an LGBTI Refugee Protection Claim in Canada

Contains: information and resources on what is involved in making a refugee protection claim in Canada, geared specifically toward LGBTI persons.

Primary Audience: individuals who are considering seeking asylum in Canada due to persecution, violence or threats because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI), or because others perceive them to be.

Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights is an international research and participatory documentary film project, working to research, document and analyze issues of social justice and equality for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people. We are based at York University, Centre for Feminist Research, Toronto, Canada. The project is funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Community University Research Alliance (CURA) grant, and conforms to Tri-Council research ethics guidelines. 

For more information on Envisioning and to access our resources, please see:


Contact: Giselle Gos, Project Administrator

Phone: 416-736-2100, ext 44567



Centre for Feminist Research, York University

606 Kaneff Tower

4700 Keele Street

Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3

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