More than 75 countries have outlawed homosexuality and at least a half dozen countries have official legislation allowing for homosexual acts to be punished by death. Because of the physical and emotional abuse that some people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) receive from their communities – coupled with the ongoing threat to their well-being – many have fled, and continue to flee, to Canada in search of a safe haven.
That being said it would be safe to say that LGBTQ refugees (and community members in general) receive a minimal welcome upon their arrival in Canada and service options available to them are limited at best. By extension, these services, although meeting some needs, will simply not be able to meet the majority of needs. The result is the exacerbation of identity conflicts and a deepening of isolation. The collaboration between the Centre for Newcomers and Calgary Outlink highlights the importance of providing a more expansive and thus more inclusive range of settlement service options to LGBTQ newcomers through the integration of said LGBTQ services into settlement agencies that are both mainstream and culturally specific.
Through extensive research and conversations, we know that although some immigrant serving agencies receive training on the issues faced by LGBTQ newcomers - such as rejection by their local ethnic community, or the rest of the population - currently there are no specific settlement services targeted at assisting LGBTQ immigrants and refugees in Calgary. CFN, working in partnership with Calgary Outlink, is seeking to change that. Watch below as we speak to Calgary Outlink Executive Director Kelly Ernst, along with Support Worker Michael Cacace and Centre for Newcomers Settlement Manager Dario Ontolan about this groundbreaking initiative. For more information on this program please contact Dario at D.Ontolan@centrefornewcomers.ca