2017: the year Canada really got Proud

“Privilege is invisible to those that have it” – Terri Currie, TD Bank

In August of this year, as Foundation of Hope Board Directors, Chad Wilkinson and I were privileged to attend an LGBT+ human rights conference in Montréal. It was an integral part of the inaugural 2017 Fierté Canada Pride, a landmark celebration for the entire nation. We are deeply grateful to TD Bank for the Aeroplan miles donated that offered us travel to attend as we work to grow FOH nationally.

The conference on LGBTTIQA2S Lives: Our Struggles, Our Victories, Our Challenges brought LGBT+ organizations together from across the country with the goal of building a stronger network and deeper connections. It was a chance to showcase Canadian pride in our LGBT+ community. The conference promoted visibility of LGBT+ folks and advocated for continued advancements of LGBT+ rights in Canada.

What I learned at the conference will undoubtedly benefit FOH moving forward. The range of emotions felt and several learning moments throughout the conference were tremendous for me. Not only did it demonstrate the fantastic work being done in different communities across Canada and the world, but it also highlighted the work still needed, differences co-existing within the community, gaps needing to be filled, the importance of coming together, and all members of the community (along with allies) so exceptionally dedicated to the cause.

At the conference, I learned about the impact of immigration laws on transgender individuals. Specifically, Québec stipulates an individual must be a citizen of Canada before applying to change their gender identity on government identification. This is one of many areas requiring focused engagement through continual advocacy of LGBT+ Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Newcomers to Canada. I also learned about Bill C-16, which received royal assent in Parliament on June 19, 2017 to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Diverse representation of participants from various community groups, organizations, individuals, and academics allowed me to communicate with persons involved in the work, both at different levels and in different capacities. This provided a better understanding as a whole and in turn, greater appreciation for the work needed as FOH moves forward.

The Foundation of Hope connected and engaged with LGBT+ Refugee support and resettlement initiatives across Canada including AGIR MontréalDignity InitiativeAfrican Rainbow Family,  Franco Queer, and Centre de Solidarité Lesbienne (CSL is a recent grant award recipient thanks to the connection made at the conference). We were delighted to see representation from our important partners including Rainbow Refugee, Rainbow Railroad and Egale. It afforded the opportunity to make these organizations aware of funding available through FOH to assist in their important humanitarian work with LGBT+ migrants.

To me, having such an opportunity propelled FOH in enhancing the Purpose and Mission to realize our Vision, as a national organization operating under a common umbrella from coast to coast to coast.

As I sit and write, I want to remind folks that FOH is entirely volunteer-based. We hold full-time jobs in our everyday lives, so it’s not always easy to manage our schedules, make the time, or afford trips across the country. It is so very worthwhile when we can make direct use of the generosity of TD Bank’s Aeroplan miles through its cause marketing program.

The power of community has the potential to rejuvenate and inspire. The field of work in which FOH remains so dedicated connects us to better understand the issues we face. After attending the conference, I returned to Vancouver with a greater sense of direction, inspiration, and strength. As a dedicated ally, I was thrilled to attend and am excited to see what comes next for the Foundation of Hope.

The experience of Fierté Canada Pride was a highlight of 2017 for FOH in an historic year of achievement and recognition for Canada’s LGBT+ community. As a nation, we have never been in a better position to open our hearts to the global LBGT+ community.

“Pride is the Opposite of Shame.” – Randy Boissonnault, Member of Parliament


Circling back on the RRAP: enhancement for safe LGBT+ migration through a Call to Action

In the spring of this year, FOH was invited to testify alongside multiple civil society groups across Canada at the hearings of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in Ottawa. These groups included Rainbow Refugee and Capital Rainbow Refuge, organizations FOH actively supports, which spoke on the importance of the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program (RRAP) in fulfilling their goals for safe migration.

The RRAP was established in 2011 to support private sponsorship of LGBT+ Refugees and Asylum Seekers persecuted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). The program has been renewed annually up to and including 2017. It is administered nationally by Rainbow Refugee Society, but its fate has remained uncertain.

Following the hearings, the Standing Committee voted unanimously in favour to maintain the program. Such acceptance led to an important next step by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to host a consultation event in Toronto with the civil society groups doing this important work on the ground. These groups hold the wealth of knowledge about the state of SOGIE persecution across the world and the Government of Canada now recognizes this.

Willingness by the parliamentary standing committee to undertake deeper consultation through a “Call to Action” to enhance the RRAP has resulted along with 15 recommendations for the Government of Canada.

In anticipation of the Committee consultation proceedings, Foundation of Hope has worked with Rainbow Railroad as the Toronto-based organization taking a leading role. Four broad priorities have been tabled for the Government of Canada to consider as a form of enhancement:

  1. Establish the RRAP as a regular program with multi-year funding commitments;
  2. Create a multi-year program to increase resettlement by LGBT+ Refugees, through government assisted refugees (GARs) and joint assistance (JAS) streams specifically;
  3. IRCC and Global Affairs Canada (GAC) collaborate directly with civil society groups to recognize and act on situations of critical need for rapid action (e.g., through the Urgent Protection Program, temporary visas, or other measures); and
  4. Enhance SOGIE Refugee settlement support to be inclusive of all types including GARs, JASs, and inland Refugee claimants.

In partnership with TD Bank and Aeroplan, FOH teamed up with Rainbow Railroad to facilitate travel and accommodations for the groups across Canada to gather in Toronto and prepare, then meet with the Government of Canada on October 26th and 27th, respectively. Kimahli Powell, Rainbow Railroad’s Executive Director sees it as a national movement to support the arrival and settlement of LGBTQI+ people in Canada and FOH is in total agreement.

“The Foundation of Hope is a crucial partner to the community groups across the country, and we’re thankful in their support in convening a national coalition of organizations working together towards this common goal.”

Capital Rainbow Refuge (CRR) Coordinator Lisa Hébert attended on behalf of numerous members and CRR mentor groups for Refugee sponsorships happening out of Ottawa.

“We are very grateful to TD Aeroplan for their generous donation of travel miles. The donation allowed us to facilitate a rare opportunity to bring together civil society groups from across the country. We were pleased to coordinate our efforts and to be able to share best practices. Our group presented a workshop on our Foundational Principles of Empowerment and Confidentiality.”

Vancouver’s Rainbow Refugee also headed to Toronto to help steer the engagement. Sharalyn Jordan offered a huge thank you to Foundation of Hope support for travel and accommodations during the affair.

“Support from the Foundation of Hope and generous hosting by Rainbow Railroad and the 519 Centre in Toronto made it possible to bring groups from across Canada who work directly with LGBTQI+ refugees together for two full days. We share a vision and commitment to greater safety and belonging for LGBTQI+ refugee newcomers in Canada. At the meetings we developed strategies and strengthened our collective voice.”

All three major parties support Canada taking a more substantial role in the global LGBT+ Refugee protection system. The 519 hosted multiple government agencies including IRCC, GAC and Honourable Randy Boissonault, LGBT2QI+ PM Secretariat. All gathered together to consult as a group working directly with LGBTQI+ Refugees.

“Civil Society organizations know what is needed and we were able to bring our agenda forward with a stronger voice because of conversations with IRCC and GAC.”

– Sharalyn Jordan of Rainbow Refugee
Soon groups will meet with IRCC and everyone is hopeful that the government will commit to a renewed RRAP. Key recommendations also include increased government sponsorship to expand emergency pathways as well as bolstering support for agencies that deal with LGBT+ Newcomers and inland Refugee claimants.



Reflections of Vancouver Pride 2017

As the President of the Foundation of Hope, walking this year in the Vancouver Pride Parade evoked strong feelings of pride, appreciation, and hope for the future. 2012 seems like a lifetime ago when I first met with Chris Morrissey, founder of Rainbow Refugee, at the Trout Lake Community Centre to discuss a possible sponsorship over coffee. This was the beginning of the incredible journey we have come to know as the ultimate conception of the Foundation of Hope.

In 2014, Foundation of Hope became a registered charity; the same year we created STRUT, our main fundraising event that brought in over $50,000. Today the Foundation has granted and gifted over $100,000 to Canadian charities.

As I began walking in the parade, I couldn’t help but feel deeply emotional. This image of having flags of nations that persecute LGBT communities in the forefront of our parade contingent was an ominous, but powerful reminder that we still have much work to do. Additionally, the diversity our group represented was so important as many were Newcomers who saw the Foundation to be an ally to walk alongside. One powerful moment for me was having a newcomer bring her partner, who had never felt safe to be visible and now was marching in a public parade.


This year has been an epic year, having so many people ask to join in the walk with us. It is also a time of my own personal reflection as I approach to the sunset of my role, the conclusion where I will have served my term as President. I feel so proud to see the Foundation raised to new heights as we reach for an increased national profile with the diversity is takes to ensure we are a Foundation of the people, for all the people and all the voices that have yet to be heard.

LGBT+ Refugees we stand with you.

The 2017 Vancouver Pride Parade was a great display of solidarity and support for LGBT Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Newcomers.

Carl Meadows, President

Photo courtesy

STRUT 2017: year 3 and counting…

Foundation of Hope reached out again this year to ask for community support for the 3rd annual STRUT walk-a-thon. Our goal was to exceed $40,000 for the flagship fundraiser, which we’ve managed to do every year since FOH’s inception. 

Because of STRUT and your generosity, we have granted over $90,000 to Canadian charities working directly with LGBT+ Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Newcomers to Canada.

Funds have brought Asylum Seekers out of immediate harm in places like Uganda, Jamaica, and Pakistan; sponsorship applications have been approved for Refugees from Syria and Iraq living in Turkey and Lebanon, and several more sponsorship applications are pending hearings in Canadian visa offices across the Middle East. 

Last summer, Canada’s Prime Minister marched in the Toronto Pride Parade alongside a Newcomer who arrived through Lifeline Syria, a project we supported through a partner organization in Canada’s largest city.

Canadian charities have benefited from FOH funding dedicated to LGBT+ Newcomer support for PTSD counselling, safe housing needs, legal assistance for transgender personal identification needs, group counselling sessions, and queer youth peer support across Canada, among other community services. 

For the third year in a row, we walked in solidarity. We withstood pain and suffering together with love in our hearts and hope in our hands. 

Walking high in our heels, we blew our fundraising goal out of the water and surpassed $54,000 with donations still coming in.

This is all because of people like you. 

Asking for money can be awkward and difficult. As Director of Grants for FOH, I prefer to devote my time and energy towards giving. Still, I remain a standing monthly donor and a dedicated fundraiser for STRUT. 

Please trust in knowing that your contributions directly influence the lives of those less privileged. We are all volunteers; no one gets paid for our work. It is your generosity that enables us to give. 

For those of you have contributed to STRUT, whether as a donor, strutter, volunteer, or any combination thereof, we thank you. 

Please consider taking a more active role in our organization. Whether you have the time, talents, or ‘treasure’, whatever to can afford will go a long way to this cause. Community engagement is critical to getting and giving out funds. 

Here are a few examples of what you can do:

  • Become a standing monthly donor – easiest way to contribute, especially if time is limited
  • Be a volunteer – learn about the work and commit ideas and skills to committees and events 
  • Represent on the Grants Committee – assist to evaluate applications as a show of accountability to our donors
  • Join the Board of Directors – bring leadership and commit to an incredibly rewarding experience.

STRUT 2017 has raised the bar for donor participation and amount of funds raised. This is a milestone for the Foundation and all signs indicate momentum for growth and expansion, across Canada and across the world.

For us, it means the world is benefiting from your involvement. And that involvement truly means the world to us.

Be a part of this movement. Send us a note at

Post-Standing Committee Hearing

Foundation of Hope testifies in Parliament on behalf of the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program

Foundation of Hope (FOH) Board Directors and Grants Committee representatives went to Ottawa to testify before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on May 3rd, 2017. Chad Wilkinson and Eka Nasution appeared as witnesses and presented the position of Foundation of Hope as a funding partner to the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program (RRAP).

Our mission was to bring evidence for recommending the continuation of the RRAP. We testified to the Committee alongside Ottawa-based Capital Rainbow Refuge (CRR) and Vancouver-based Rainbow Refugee Society. Rainbow Refugee founded RRAP as a federal program in 2011. It has been extended to 2018, but its future is uncertain. Both organizations presented compelling arguments in their individual strengths and successes in terms of advocating for RRAP’s reinstatement.

Established in 2011 under Canada’s private sponsorship program, RRAP has been, for many years, encouraging LGBT+ Refugee sponsorship from organizations across the country. Privately sponsored Refugees from abroad have faced violence and persecution on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Thanks to RRAP, Canada represents an important safe haven for SOGI Refugees.

RRAP does three critical things:

  1. Allows any sponsorship agreement holder (SAH) to accept SOGI Refugee applicants irrespective of annual government quotas;
  2. Reduces limits on the number of visa offices across the world accepting private sponsorship applications for SOGI Refugees;
  3. Provides three months of resettlement assistance funds to privately sponsored Newcomers.

Some 73 countries criminalize same-sex relationships and gender diversity, which can be as severe as a death sentence. Given the threats faced by LGBT+ Refugees and internally displaced Asylum Seekers, RRAP has proven to be successful. Seventy-five beneficiaries of RRAP have been resettled in fourteen municipalities across Canada. The Government of Canada is studying RRAP to deliberate on reinstating it as a regular program, given that it specifically targets among the most vulnerable members of society.

Foundation of Hope strongly encourages the RRAP move beyond a pilot program to become a regular program with dedicated funding, much like the other resettlement assistance programs (RAPs) offered by the Government of Canada. We see ourselves as a lasting partner through RRAP.

Private sponsorship takes donors, volunteers, and government resources. Foundation of Hope aims to provide unwavering support of the private sponsorship initiatives championed by organizations like CRR and Rainbow Refugee amid the worst humanitarian crisis in our history.

The Government of Canada must do what is morally right as a nation so revered in the world in its respect for human rights.


You can view FOH’s briefing provided to the Standing Committee, as well as our speaking notes.



Reflections: our first Board retreat

On November 26th, 2016, the Foundation of Hope (FOH) Board of Directors had our first full day retreat. The purpose of the retreat was to connect on a personal level and bring together the values and commitments of the board members. The retreat also included new FOH recruits that are not yet formal board members.

This was my first experience doing this kind of work with a non-profit charity. On the business side, my life is in health care leadership, but the non-profit side is quite different. For one, it is all volunteer-based – people giving their heart and soul that are driven by a deep sense of purpose and giving back. Despite absences from a few board members, we successfully built on the group process to share our creativity with each other to the benefit of all board members.

This is vital work that will help to build a strong, relevant, and lasting organization.  

The day’s focus was different from the two previous strategic planning sessions held by FOH since its inception. The group retreat focused on what’s inside (the human) and worked to bring it all out through lived experiences and values. Strategic planning is really about who we are as an organization, what we do, how we do it, and when to act. The retreat was all about why we as individuals are doing this – that comes from deep within, as a core set of values.

Our focus of the day targeted 5 key areas of exploration:

  • Creating simple rules of engagement
  • Defining levels of commitment
  • Setting team agreements
  • Establishing group alignment
  • Applying social skills and working styles

All five areas focus on Team strengths. It was truly wonderful to connect with a group of people so committed to a Vision.

Our facilitator was amazing and able to adapt to different issues and events throughout the day. One technique I thought was really powerful was to ask a thought-provoking question, then get participants to go for a 30-minute walk in groups of 3. It amazed me how much deeper the conversations went!

It is just incredible that FOH started as an idea in a living room among a group of 30 caring people! We created a possibility for LGBT+ refugees and today we have granted over $70,000 to charitable organizations across Canada! These are the charities actively doing the individual case work.

This retreat reminds me that everything is possible when you care so deeply about something. This retreat will be one of my most memorable, as an historic moment in the evolution and growth of the Foundation of Hope.

Carl Meadows, President



Welcoming diversity: at the heart of what we do



It is unfortunate that the Foundation of Hope exists. In fact, I actually wish we didn’t. I wish that people did not need refugee-supporting organizations and I look forward to the day – if ever possible –  when we are able to disband and go our separate ways.  However, the sad truth is that we do have to exist, and we must continue working to support other charities and sponsors in their quest to give LGBT+ Refugees a better life.  Our world is seeing an unprecedented number of refugees and our LGBT+ family across the globe are still struggling for a breath of fresh air.

Today, my friends, it is ever important to ensure that we press on to make our Vision a reality: a world where LGBT+ refugees and newcomers can live safely and be themselves.



I am sitting in an airplane right now, rather exhausted and irritable, waiting impatiently for the attendants to wheel their caffeine cart to my row so I can fuel up.  You see, it’s late, but I have to write.  I have to somehow find a way to transform my reflections and experiences into something tangible.  I spent three days last week at the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) Fall Consultation in Montréal on the traditional territory of the Mohawk peoples. I am feeling incredibly impacted and inspired by the consultation.  I feel hopeful, and somehow conversely, I also feel hopeless.

To contextualize this consultation, “the CCR is a non-profit umbrella of more than 180 organizations across Canada committed to the rights and protections of refugees and other vulnerable migrants and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada” (CCR Handout, 2016).  The CCR hosts recurring consultations, to which they invite their member organizations and other interested stakeholders, including Newcomers themselves. These consultations facilitate a coast-to-coast information exchange.  This consultation in particular was titled Welcoming Diversity: At the Heart of What We Do. It comprised 450 registrants who were engaged from across Canada and FOH fit right in; we were graciously welcomed. The consultative agenda consisted of various working groups, caucuses, presentations, and workshops. I only wish I was able to attend all sessions.  What a wealth of dialogue, discussion, and most importantly, action planning!

In order for you to get a sense of my experience, I will list the sessions in which FOH was present:

  • Overseas Protection and Sponsorship Working Group Meeting
  • Opening Plenary with keynote speaker Johannes can der Klaauw, Canada’s  UNHCR representative
  • Promoting Refugee Protection Internationally
  • Sharing Best Partnership Practices in Building Welcoming Communities
  • LGBT Refugees
  • Current Issues in Immigration Detention

As you can imagine, after these sessions I am feeling full of shared knowledge and new information.  It is truly amazing to see so many diverse people dedicated to the improvement of lives around the world, lives of unknown people, often with untold stories. In light of the election south of the border, its current sociopolitical landscape of xenophobia and racism, it felt refreshing to see so much drive for our world’s betterment.  Canada has an incredible opportunity to lead by example and continue to fortify its humanitarian characteristics of vigilance and perseverance, held deeply within our national culture. If one thing was particularly thematic over these past few days, it is that Canada is doing something right.  As was stated yesterday, “We need more Canada in the world.

However, to humbly deflate my nationalist ego for a moment, we certainly have a lot of work to do.  Our immigration system is not perfect and progress is often slow.  I can say in confidence, though, that actions are being undertaken, voices are being heard, and flaws are being addressed.

What excited me at the consultation was the moments in between sessions, the social mingling and networking that occurred among people from the various member and guest organizations. It is particularly exciting that there was so much interest in the Foundation of Hope… I suppose this is not a surprise, since our main goal is to distribute grants! There are many people coming into contact with sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), or LGBT+ Refugees and other Newcomers, and it seems to me like this consultation and connection to CCR will deepen our roots within this work.  I predict that some grant applications will be headed our way.

Throughout the sessions I was scribbling notes in my trusty notebook, and I want to share these with you.  I captured what caught my attention and what moved me in order to report back to my team and supporters, to evoke further discussion and quiet contemplation. Here are some points to consider:

  • Article 14 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights guarantees the right to asylum – it is not a matter of charity.
  • Newcomers are people first and seeking refuge is one of a diverse set of components of “oneself”.
  • A need for policy coherence: e.g., does it make sense for Canada to resolve the Refugee crisis and continue to sell weapons internationally?
  • Engagement and commitment of civil society is essential; rhetoric without action is fruitless.
  • The Canadian response to an international call to support and welcome Refugees will go down in history.
  • The current “refugee crisis” is not a crisis of numbers, it is a crisis of global solidarity.
  • Global support is not administered equally;  developing countries host the most Refugees (i.e., Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey).
  • Of the 65+ million people displaced, 40 million are displaced within their own country and 20+ million are Refugees.
  • Most of the world’s Refugees come from 3 countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
  • Canada’s model for private sponsorship will be disseminated and implemented across the world.
  • The CCR is about people coming together; people helping people.
  • A need to address “Month 13” after a sponsored Refugee transitions out of the first year of legal sponsored support.
  • Refugees today spend an average of 20 years in exile.
  • There are 32 prolonged Refugee situations globally, 11 of which have been occurring for over 30 years.
  • A Trump Administration may threaten funding to UNHCR and Canada must preserve and bolster its asylum system.
  • Resettlement is only one solution. Remedial effort by the whole world is essential to target root causes of asylum. 
  • Canada is well-positioned to shape the asylum narrative going forward.
  • The Refugee and migrant voice is imperative: nothing about us without us!
  • A bridge must be constructed between Newcomers and Canada’s First Nations.
  • The IRBC is creating partnerships with “trauma-informed approaches” to assist SOGI Refugees.
  • A Newcomer detention system is unacceptable, but improvements include a trend toward in-community detentions.

Well, my friends, the coffee cart has come and gone. It is time to tuck my laptop back into its case and ride out the rest of this flight.  Before I go, I must make an important acknowledgment.  The Foundation of Hope would not have been able to attend this consultation if it were not for the TD Aeroplan Pride campaign’s generous donation of 3 million Aeroplan miles.

This is an incredible contribution to our Purpose and I speak for the entire FOH Board of Directors when I say we are very grateful.  Thank you.

Chad Walters, Board Director



Round 3: Foundation of Hope teams up with our community

While others were out parading and masquerading, colors spread amid ghoulish and fantastic costumes of Halloween, Team FOH gathered at QMUNITY in the heart of Davie Village with sleeves rolled up.

New faces from the LGBT+ community joined the table, including a former refugee that found his way to FOH after receiving emergency travel services from Toronto’s Rainbow Railroad, an important partner of FOH. Grants Committee members and community reps evaluated the latest round of grant applications.

Round 3 focused mainly on Sponsorship funding for individuals in dire situations. A more salient example involved a trans couple that narrowly escaped acute death threats from their own families in a predominantly Muslim nation where LGBT+ are frequently killed. If convicted under Sharia law, punishment can include whipping with 100 lashes or even death by stoning.

Outed individuals can be killed in before criminal prosecution begins and violent mobs have beaten suspected homosexuals to death. Rainbow Railroad helped the couple escape with the utmost urgency to another country on same continent where they are considered safe from death threats and violence, but face ongoing hardships.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) no longer acknowledges their struggle as legitimate refugees. Still, the couple must hide from public exposure and faces discrimination from local people fearing they will take their jobs. Non-violent forms of discrimination are not considered to be persecution, but UNHCR still deems the couple to be a case for private sponsorship and will assist with an application.

This case was brought to FOH through Capital Rainbow Refuge (CRR) in Ottawa, with endorsement by Rainbow Railroad. It is further complicated by the fact that the couple has a young child that remains in the country of origin and cannot be released by law. It all poses to be an immense challenge CRR hopes to resolve, ultimately by reuniting the child with its parents.

Once resettled to Canada, the couple intends to make use of the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program (RRAP). Initiated in 2011, the Government of Canada appealed to efforts from Rainbow Refugee Committee (RRC) by creating a $100,000 federal pilot program dedicated to rsettlement of LBGT+ refugee. It generally amounts to about $3000 per individual refugee. Success of the pilot program led to the reinstatement of RRAP for an additional two years as of March 2015. Through the program, RRC continues to enable private sponsorship of LGBT+ refugees across Canada.

In reviewing these applications, it can be difficult to read the stories of inhuman struggle that is so hard to imagine. The few that do survive such trauma still face barriers once they arrive in safe countries, often surrounded by a foreign culture where they cannot speak the language and still face discrimination.

That’s why FOH supports the work of MOSAIC BC and its I Belong Project, which received grant funding in 2015 through the Community Services stream. Funds are dedicated specifically to clinical counselling services for LGBT+ newcomers that have endured traumatic forms of persecution leading to PTSD. In consideration of renewed funding, FOH Board Directors will meet with MOSAIC at the end of the month to learn more about the success of I Belong and its role in fulfilling our Purpose.

Foundation of Hope encourages ongoing support from anyone and everyone that would like to help realize our Vision:

A world where LGBT+ refugees and newcomers can live safely and be themselves.

Please consider sending us a donation or become a standing monthly donor today.

Just click here


Reasons to STRUT: your generosity at work with Rainbow Railroad

Rainbow Railroad of Toronto received $17,500 in grant awards from FOH last year, largely thanks to funds brought in through our inaugural STRUT event held last year, which raised nearly $45,000 through grassroots fundraising efforts and corporate partnerships.

Justin Taylor, Executive  Director at Rainbow Railroad was pleased to provide FOH with a status report on how those funds went to help LGBT individuals find a safe ­haven from state­-sponsored violence. Funds directly contributed to assisting four individuals at significant risk.

Travel support went out to a young gay Jamaican man who sustained severe stab wounds while defending a homeless LGBT+ youth against a violent attack. Rainbow Railroad assisted him to travel to a safer destination.

Rainbow Railroad stepped in to help a young lesbian Jamaican woman and her young son travel to safety after witnessing the murder of a suspected gay man in their neighbourhood. Following the murder, she was threatened from a local gang so her family asked her to leave their home out of concern that she would attract violence.

A young woman from Uganda experienced extreme violence, abduction, and “corrective therapy”, which included rape. Ostracized from her community just weeks before Rainbow Railroad could help her get to safety, she was abducted, drugged, and assaulted by religious extremists.  Rainbow Railroad relocated her to a safe haven in Western Europe and she is now in the process of claiming asylum.

These situations are real. They are often hard to digest and all too easy to overlook in countries like Canada. Even in Canada, we are not yet there, although the government recently tabled legislation to protect and enshrine the rights of transgendered individuals, which is a huge win. Still, the walk is not over for us and it has only begun in places like Jamaica and Uganda, among many other nations in the world.

FOH is committed to enabling the Canadian charities like Rainbow Railroad fulfill their purposes, which closely align with our own. Our vision is a world where LGBT+ asylum seekers, refugees, and newcomers live safely and are free to be themselves.

The Foundation of Hope is committed to transparency and accountability. We exist through volunteerism and fundraising, which is why STRUT is such a high-profile event that enables the work we do.

These are all tenets of our constitution, which is predicated on success. Rainbow Railroad has demonstrated this by sharing these stories so that we can in turn share them and remain transparent and accountable to our volunteers and funders. We are nothing without you.

So come out and STRUT with us on June 11th. Your support is what will sustain these gifts and effect real change. It’s that simple.


Funds in action – a look at how Foundation of Hope works

It has been almost three years since a small group of Vancouverites came together and put forth an application as community sponsors to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, now known as the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). Our group helped two gay Syrians living as refugees in Beirut make it to Canada, where they now reside as permanent residents.

This was neither an easy nor inexpensive process and it presented both challenges and opportunities that came as important lessons. The main lesson was learning that myriad organizations, many of which are registered as charities in Canada, already exist to provide unique support services to the LGBT+ refugee and newcomer community. These organizations are doing important work on the individual level, but they still require the financial means to do so.

It has now been more than a year and a half since the same group came together in August 2014 on different level to establish itself as RAINBOW FOUNDATION OF HOPE (Foundation of Hope or FOH). The foundation is a registered society in Canada with a mandate to extend financial support towards charitable organizations actively assisting LGBT+ individuals in need, whether as asylum seekers, refugees, or newly settled migrants (i.e., newcomers to Canada).

Those that have suffered through what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) deems as “well-founded threats of persecution” are a defining characteristic of what it means to be a refugee. Entire cultures throughout the world are currently under various forms of persecution, with millions either living in refugee camps or seeking asylum (i.e., have fled their countries, but are not yet accepted yet as refugees). Despite this injustice, some of those very cultures also hold strong religious perspectives that continue to view alternative expressions of gender or sexuality as deplorable, even punishable by death. This leads to a subset of refugees and asylum seekers, those that identify as LGBT+, trapped by inescapable persecution. They must hide in fear, yet many are actually living in refugee communities and are hiding among refugees. This seems hard to imagine, but it is very much a reality.

A year ago FOH created STRUT to raise this issue through a symbolic event that demonstrates what freedom of expression can look like when combined with the privilege of living in an open, accepting society like Canada’s. Fortunately for all, the timing of the inaugural STRUT launch coincided with Canada Revenue Agency bestowing charitable status to FOH. Now a registered charity, this allowed FOH to more readily reach out to donors that would in turn be provided with a tax credit as an incentive.

Amazingly, STRUT brought in well over $40,000 last year. Entirely through voluntary efforts, FOH re-organized its Board of Directors in August 2015 after drafting bylaws and forming a legitimate internal governance structure. We established committees dedicated to community volunteerism, fundraising efforts, the development of collaborative partnerships, and grant administration. We built the infrastructure needed for accepting grant applications and disseminating financial awards to other registered charities across Canada.

And we started to give.

Foundation of Hope has since administered over $25,000 in grants to charitable organizations like MOSAIC, which has used FOH funds to supply counselling service to LGBT+ newcomers suffering post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) from former acts of persecution and violence. RAINBOW RAILROAD is another organization supported by funding from FOH. It works to privately sponsor LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers to be resettled as newcomers to Canada, as well as to supply emergency travel assistance for individuals escaping acute persecution and get them to immediate safety.

Each of these organizations represents one of two streams of dedicated funding from FOH:


2) SPONSORSHIP GRANTS in the case of Rainbow Railroad

Several new applications have come in from other organizations and are currently under review. Our goal is to continue to reach out across these organizations, meaningfully engage the volunteer community at the grassroots level, and build up a strong donor community on a long-term financial level.

This is the ultimate support network that will fulfill the vision and accomplish the mission of Foundation of Hope.

STRUT 2016 kicks off at the Launch Party tonight, April 23rd at 6:00 PM at Celebrities Night Club. Registration of participants and the pledging of donations by sponsors will continue through spring and up to the walkathon on Saturday, June 11, 2016 at Sunset Beach. 

We sincerely HOPE those that CARE about this issue will show up, STEP up to the task, and lend SUPPORT to this symbolic event so we can all WALK collectively to the BENEFIT of LGBT+ refugees and newcomers to Canada.

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