Capital Rainbow Refuge

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Volunteer with our Review Subcommittee in 2021

Ever felt like volunteering, but not sure where to begin?

Rainbow Foundation of Hope (RFOH) relies on community support to help us review grant applications from our National Partners.

They are Canadian registered charities leading projects and programs for LGBT+ refugees and newcomers (i.e., SOGIE migrants) through three RFOH funding streams:

Whenever RFOH receives a new application, we draw upon a growing database of community volunteers on our Review Subcommittee to review and evaluate each application.

The process provides transparency and accountability of our grant administration process to volunteers and donors.

Commit whatever time you can. Each application is based purely on your interest and availability. We look for a minimum of two (2) community representatives outside of the RFOH Board of Directors to help with a goal of 50% community representation.

Over 30 volunteers have helped us with the review process to date. Message us at volunteer@foundationofhope.net and we’ll happily add you to our growing list.

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Explaining Private Sponsorship of LGBT+ Refugees in Canada

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 help to find housing, clothing and food, as well as to provide social and emotional support. Private sponsors will also be expected to have the necessary funds to support any sponsored individual(s).

 

This is where RFOH fits in.

 

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)

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 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 backed 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

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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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Welcoming diversity: at the heart of what we do

montreal

 

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.

 

montrealplane

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

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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

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