The Liberal government says it's committed to bringing more LGBT refugees to Canada, but advocates say funding uncertainty, lengthy processing and lack of specialized training for visa officers are threatening resettlement efforts. Next year, Canada will bring in about 43,000 refugees, among them lesbian, gay, transgender and other people facing persecution based on sexual orientation.
Sharalyn Jordan, chair of the B.C-based Rainbow Refugee, said lives are at risk in nearly 80 countries which outlaw certain sexual orientation. Her organization has resettled 95 sponsored LGBT refugees with the assistance of federal funding. But she's worried that money will soon dry up.
"The uncertainty means we can't go forward with this work and potentially ends the sponsorship of LGBT refugees,"Jordan told CBC News.
In its response to the committee report, the government did not make any guarantees, but said it would consider funding and next steps beyond March 2018. Canada is regarded as a champion of human rights protection around the world, and she said there is mounting global pressure for the government to do more.
Earlier this year, the Immigration and Refugee Board issued new guidelines on handling issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity to promote a greater understanding of the diversity and complexity of individuals and the potential harms they face.
Canadian Council for Refugees director Janet Dench said she is disappointed in the government's lack of commitment to strengthen policy and training for visa officers, which she said is inconsistent across the country and around the world.
"Sometimes Canadian officials are not suitably sensitive to the realities of LGBT individuals," she said.