Did you know that citizens and permanent residents of Canada can sponsor LGBT+ asylum seekers or refugees that qualify for resettlement as newly settled migrants (i.e., newcomers)?
You can apply through the federal Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP). Support for each newcomer is expected over the length of the resettlement (at least one year).
It includes helping to find housing, clothing, and food, as well as providing social and emotional support. Private sponsors will also be expected to have the necessary funds to support any sponsored individual(s).
In fact, the very process is what brought the folks in Vancouver together, first as private sponsors to two gay Syrian refugees. It later led us to create Rainbow Foundation of Hope.
There are a few things you need to know, so this blog post discusses the many ways to privately sponsor LGBT+ refugees in Canada through the PSRP.
Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH)
Sponsorship agreement holders are groups in Canada, often registered charities and faith-based organizations, holding agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees with the support of Canadian citizens as private sponsors.
Rainbow Foundation of Hope awards grants for sponsorship support, which tend to involve SAHs and include private sponsors known as Constituent Groups (CG) working with co-sponsoring organizations like Rainbow Refugee (Vancouver), Capital Rainbow Refuge (Ottawa), and Rainbow Railroad (Toronto) as relevant examples.
As registered Canadian charities, each co-sponsoring organization is directly eligible for grants from RFOH of up to $7,500 per application on behalf of the CG. Eligible applicants for private sponsorship support must demonstrate collaboration through affiliation with Rainbow Refugee and the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership (RRAP).
Blended Visa Office-Referred Program (BVOR)
The Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program involves Canadians working as private sponsors with the Government of Canada to support refugees that have been referred by the UNHCR. These individuals tend to be particularly vulnerable and in urgent need of asylum and resettlement.
BVOR applicants hold Refugee status under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These individuals are otherwise known as “Convention Refugees“.
The definition of grounds for refugee status comes from the 1951 UN Convention signed in Geneva, Switzerland:
“Persecution is a threat to life or freedom because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.“
The UNHCR identifies the refugees for private sponsorship under the BVOR program. Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia (RRANS) and St. Andrews-Wesley United Church are examples of Canadian organizations actively working to resettle refugees through the BVOR program.
Community Sponsor (CS)
A Community Sponsor is an organization, association, or corporation sponsoring one or more Convention Refugees to come to Canada. The CS similarly must also represent or be aligned with a registered charity to receive and administer FOH grants.
Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program (JAS)
The Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program involves organizations that work as partners with the Government of Canada to resettle refugees with special needs. Refugees coming to Canada through JAS are considered highly vulnerable and tend to require the greatest level of care and support during resettlement.
Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership (RRAP)
Only SAHs working with a CG across Canada through Rainbow Refugee in Vancouver are eligible for resettlement assistance under the RRAP. This government program was the initiative of and remains administered by Rainbow Refugee Society in Vancouver.
Rainbow Refugee identifies its Constituent Groups as Circles of Hope.
The RRAP provides government assistance to LGBT+ refugees across Canada for the first three months of resettlement. It also permits LGBT+ refugee sponsorship applications to be reviewed in Canadian visa offices around the world. This includes “safe countries” where SOGIE persecution exists, but would otherwise not accept refugee claims. Finally, it ensures that SAHs have the capacity to take on LGBT+ private sponsorships without having to factor them into their annual resettlement quotas.
The RRAP is a valuable mechanism for enabling LGBT+ refugees to escape persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (i.e., as SOGIE migrants). Rainbow Foundation of Hope supports the efforts of Canadian civil society groups working to ensure the RRAP can remain a regular element of the PSRP in Canada.
Rainbow Coalition for Refugee (RC4R)
In 2019, thanks to extensive efforts by the Rainbow Coalition for Refuge (RC4R) to actively consult the federal government, the RRAP was expanded for another 5 five years with an $800,000 funding commitment. Support from our corporate partnership with TD Bank has also helped to financially back RC4R consultation efforts with the Government of Canada.
All six of the RC4R founding members have received grants from RFOH.
This is all thanks to donations that have come from Canadians through our grassroots fundraising efforts led by our flagship event known as STRUT. Across Canada, RC4R member organizations include:
Rainbow Refugee in Vancouver
End of the Rainbow in Calgary
Rainbow Railroad and Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto
Capital Rainbow Refuge in Ottawa
Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia in Halifax