Canada’s “very generous” refugee system likely to welcome gay Russians

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

It looks like Canada is garnering a reputation of being a 'gay friendly' country.

As reported by the Globe and Mail, that seems to be a growing consensus among Russians whose government recently imposed anti-gay laws.

Lawyer Rob Hughes, who is representing two gay Russian men claiming refugee status in Canada, says he expects more Russians to make claims based on sexual orientation.

Mr. Hughes, who focuses on sexual orientation and gender-based claims, says his two clients told him numerous people in Russia have expressed interest about seeking asylum in Canada.

The Globe quotes newly minted Immigration Minister Chris Alexander who says that these types of asylum cases "will of course be looked at very seriously by our very generous system."

In an email exchange with Yahoo! Canada News, Alexander's press secretary reiterated the minister's comments but clarified that decisions made by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) are made without government interference.

"Canada has a fair and generous immigration system," Alexis Pavlich said.

"Refugee claims are heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

"The IRB is a quasi-judicial, independent body, which provides a fair hearing to asylum claimants. Decisions are made based on the merits of the specific facts presented in an individual case, and in accordance with Canada’s immigration laws."

[ Related: Petition to relocate 2014 Olympics to Vancouver reaches 66,000 signatures ]

Canada has, however, been proactive in the recent past in resettling gay refugees from transitional camps abroad.

Last year the Associated Press reported that Canada relocated approximately 100 homosexual Iranians from a refugee camp in Turkey.

"Canada has indicated to the United Nations that we are ready to accept anyone, if they're a gay Iranian refugee," former immigration minister Jason Kenney told AP referencing asylum claimants in Turkey who felt threatened because of their sexual orientation.

Saghi Ghahraman of the Iranian Queer Organization told AP that Canada is a favoured destination.

"They prefer Canada over other countries, when they leave Iran, and they have very good reasons for this," she said.

"[It's a] friendly and supportive society, and with great social services which are utterly crucial for most gay, lesbian, and transsexual Iranians who need all the support when they arrive in a new country."

[ Related: Right-wing women’s group slams John Baird for gay rights stance, everyone else comes to his defence ]

There was a time that the left accused the Harper Conservatives of being anti-'gay: They re against 'gay marriage' and 'they don't attend pride parades' was the common refrain from supporters of the opposition parties.

Well, they've proven, once again, that's not the case.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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