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Providing LGBTQI+ people with a safe home in Canada

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Every day, LGBTQI+ people around the world face discrimination, persecution, and violence, just because of who they are or who they love. In 2023, we continue to see LGBTQI+ rights under attack – forcing people out of their homes and their communities. Everyone should have the right to be safe, no matter their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. With the number of LGBTQI+ refugees on the rise, the Government of Canada is helping them find a safe home right here in Canada.

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced that the Government of Canada is partnering with non-profit organization Rainbow Railroad to protect LGBTQI+ refugees and welcome them to Canada. Through this partnership, Rainbow Railroad will work to identify LGBTQI+ people and their families who are fleeing violence and persecution, and refer them to the Government of Canada for resettlement under the Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) Program.

In their new role as a LGBTQI+ referral partner under the GAR Program, Rainbow Railroad will build on the trust and expertise they have already established with LGBTQI+ communities around the world to help more LGBTQI+ people and their families find safety in Canada. The partnership will also provide an example for other resettlement countries who are seeking to provide additional protection for members of LGBTQI+ communities.

Canada has a proud history of helping those most in need of resettlement, including members of LGBTQI+ communities. Today’s announcement reaffirms the Government of Canada’s commitment to protecting the human rights of LGBTQI+ people, at home and abroad, and building a better, more inclusive future for everyone.


“Everyone deserves a safe place to call home, and Canada continues to be a destination of choice for people looking to start a new life with new opportunities for them and their families. Together with Rainbow Railroad, we will help LGBTQI+ people start a new, safe chapter here in Canada.”

The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“In many parts of the world, LGBTQI+ people face severe discrimination and are criminalized just for being who they are. This is why Canada continues to step up and do more to protect the rights and freedoms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people. This new partnership with Rainbow Railroad – making us one of the first countries to have such an arrangement with an LGBTQI+ organization – helps Canada continue to be a safe haven for LGBTQI+ people at risk around the world. It will also better equip us to respond to emerging situations anywhere in the world.”

The Hon. Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

“This partnership represents a landmark milestone in Rainbow Railroad's history. For several years, we have worked tirelessly to advocate for direct referral partnerships with governments around the world. We are delighted that Canada has stepped up as the first country to partner with us in this capacity and hope other countries will follow suit. In a time when there are more displaced people than ever, LGBTQI+ people are uniquely vulnerable due to systemic, state-enabled homophobia and transphobia. We are proud to work with the Government of Canada to bring even more at-risk LGBTQI+ individuals to safety in Canada.”

Kimahli Powell, CEO, Rainbow Railroad

Quick Facts

  • Rainbow Railroad is a global not-for-profit organization that helps LGBTQI+ people facing persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics. It has helped thousands of LGBTQI+ refugees from around the world escape violence and persecution to find a path to safety, including right here in Canada.
  • In addition to this new partnership with Rainbow Railroad, the federal government already supports at-risk LGBTQI+ people from around the world who are referred to Canada by the United Nations Refugee Agency and other referral organizations, as well as those arriving to Canada through the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership.
    • Under the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership, the Government of Canada works with the Rainbow Refugee Society to encourage Canadians to sponsor LGBTQI+ refugees by providing start-up costs and three months of income support, while private sponsors provide nine months of income support to LGBTQI+ refugee newcomers and their families. This initiative is strengthening collaboration between LGBTQI+ organizations and the refugee sponsorship community in Canada.
    • In 2022, the partnership was expanded in response to the Afghanistan crisis to provide an additional 150 spaces for Afghan refugees between 2022 and 2024. As of May 2023, more than 235 LGBTQI+ refugees arrived through this partnership.
  • To make sure LGBTQI+ refugee newcomers and their families, like any other refugees, thrive after they arrive in Canada, the Government of Canada provides funding to settlement service provider organizations that offer programming available to diverse newcomers.
  • From 2021 to 2023, Canada also supported the National Network for Enhancing LGBTQI+ Refugee Sponsorship project. The project brought together five organizations who are leaders in LGBTQI+ refugee sponsorship to improve the settlement experiences of LGBTQI+ refugee newcomers in Canada.
  • To help support refugees fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, Canada was among the first countries to launch a special humanitarian resettlement initiative for vulnerable Afghans, including LGBTQI+ individuals. Over 16,700 Afghans have already arrived in Canada under this program since August 2021.
  • In August 2022, the Government of Canada launched Canada’s first Federal 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan… Building our future, with pride, a whole-of-government approach to address persisting disparities faced by 2SLGBTQI+ communities and to build a safer, more inclusive country.

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