LGBT in Canada
Lesbian Gays and Bisexual in Iran and world: One fifth of n the Canadian population is foreign-born. Canada is considered to be a vibrant multi-ethnic democracy that enjoys a global reputation as a defender of human rights. The government has taken significant steps domestically to advance the rights of LGBTs including passing legislation to protect transgender people from discrimination and creating a non-binary gender option on passports. Same-sex sexual activity has been lawful in Canada since June 27, 1969, when the Criminal Law Amendment Act (also known as Bill C-150) came into force upon royal assent. Canada has frequently been referred to as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, with its largest cities featuring their own gay areas and communities, and being named amongst the most gay-friendly cities in the world.
As Iranian politics have undergone dramatic changes in the last 40 years, so has the nature of Iranian migration to Canada. As the Middle East crisis in Syria and surrounding countries worsens, it seems that LGBT Iranian refugees and regular applicants who wish to migrate to Canada have to face a very rigorous screening process that citizens of many other nations do not. How to balance between national security concerns and the rights of immigrants to a fair process is becoming a very difficult act for the current government.
Previously Canada had officially requested that Iranian refugees who identified as LGBT be quickly processed and settled in Canada at a high priority. Since 2015, this has changed attributed in part to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to prioritize refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria.
Saghi Ghahraman, the head of the Canada-based Iranian Queer Organisation stated “We don’t like to think it, but it seems that Prime Minister Trudeau’s campaign promise to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees had an impact even though they said right at the beginning that it wouldn’t impact all other refugees, it did. Even if the refugee admissions system resumes processing applications, and these LGBT refugees from Iran are allowed to enter the U.S., Ghahraman says there is doubt about whether or not they want to go. ” Ghahraman, stated that up until 2013, the wait-time for the LGBT to be determined and resettled by the UNHCR in Turkey was about a year and a half, which was barely manageable. The war in Syria changed things as the United States and Canada undertook resettlement of large number of displaced Syrians. LGBT wait-time before resettlements went up to three years. It is highly plausible that the Syrian civil war has had an impact.
In 2017 Canada started referring LGBT Iranians to the United States for resettlement. Under the previous Harper government, conservatives gained international praise for the programme that brought hundreds of LGBT asylum seekers from Turkey. It was explicitly said as Canada increased the number of referrals for Syrians, Canada decreased the number of referrals from Iran. Canada’s federal immigration department has acknowledged it resettled fewer LGBT Iranians from Turkey, in order to make space for the late-2015 Syrian airlift. “We never stopped taking LGBTQ Iranians. We had a large flow of referrals that involved Iranians. As we increased the number of referrals for Syrians, we decreased the number of referrals from Iranians,” says David Manicom, the associate assistant deputy minister for Strategic and Program Policy.
Whilst data on how many refugees identify as gender and sexual minorities is hard to come by, the immigration department’s internal figures show an 85 percent drop in all Iranians resettled to Canada through the UNHCR. LGBT Iranians in Turkey, and their advocacy groups, say referrals drastically slowed starting in November 2015, as the Syrian program got underway. Six-month delays grew into year-long holds, before the UNHCR started referring the refugees to the US by October 2016. The department’s data shows that Canada took in 1,022 Iranians through that process in 2014, 374 in 2015 and just 152 in 2016.
Ghahraman reported that if Canada does not change its procedures for LGBT applicants from Iran, they will continue to be stuck in Turkey, a country that also struggles with homophobia. “These are the gay and lesbian and Trans people, who are at risk by their Turkish neighbours, and by their Iranian neighbours,” Ghahraman says. “They cannot get a job. When they get a job they are attacked, they are asked for sexual favours.”
The government was under increased pressure to explain why it started turning away LGBT Iranian refugees during the Syrian airlift, ending a program that resettled hundreds of persecuted Iranians through UNHCR. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cried during a formal apology to LGBT individuals on behalf of Canada. He stated “For the oppression of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities, we apologize. He continued, wiping tears away from his eyes with a handkerchief. “On behalf of the government, parliament, and the people of Canada, we were wrong, we are sorry, we will never let this happen again.”
Read more: Migration and Gender for Iranian LGBT