News

12

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 FamilyFranco 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 RefugeeRainbow 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.

“Pride is the Opposite of Shame.”

~ Randy Boissonnault, Member of Parliament

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, Canada has never been in a better position to open our hearts to the global LBGT+ community.

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Circling back on the RRAP: 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.”

~ Kimahli Powell, Executive Director of Rainbow Railroad

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, Board Chair of Rainbow Refugee

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.

Soon these groups will again meet with IRCC and everyone is hopeful that the government will commit to a renewed RRAP.

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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.

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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

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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 engagement@foundationofhope.net.

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Foundation of Hope testifies behalf of the Rainbow RAP

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:
Allows any sponsorship agreement holder (SAH) to accept SOGI Refugee applicants irrespective of annual government quotas;
Reduces limits on the number of visa offices across the world accepting private sponsorship applications for SOGI Refugees;
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.

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View the briefing FOH provided to the Standing Committee, as well as our speaking notes.

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