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The significant growth in LGBTQ rights organizations around the world has led to advances in LGBTQ rights and calls for further changes. However, there has also been increase in systemic discrimination and violence against LGBTQ populations in certain regions around the world. It is illegal to be gay in over 75 countries around the world, and in 5 countries being gay can even be punishable by death. In many of these countries, policies and laws reflect how the state conveys their perception of sexual and gender non-conformers. Often times LGBTQ communities are framed in a criminal lense, which is a contributing factor to fostering public stigma and prejudice against LGBTQ people. Increases in violence, negative stereotypes, and criminalization of the LGBTQ populations are forcing them to seek safe haven in other parts of the world, including Canada.  So, how is Canada rising to these challenges? Why have Canadian policies allowed Canada to become a primary destination for individuals who make refugee claims on the basis of sexual orientation persecution?

Mr. Arsham Parsi is the founder of Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees which provides services to all self identified Iranian LGBTQ peoples. Mr. Arsham Parsi is a well-known Iranian gay activist who has dedicated himself to help LGBTQ/queer Iranians who has fled their country because of the government’s violent homophobic and transphobic policies. In 2004, while still living in Iran, Arsham founded the first Iranian gay group that later called the Iranian Queer Organization – IRQO. Having been pursued by the police because of his gay activism, Arsham fled to Turkey in 2005, where he continued his work to publicize the plight of LGBT Iranians. He was eventually granted asylum in Canada and he pursued his work for the cause while being interviewed extensively by media and featured in two documentary films, the CBC’s (Out in Iran); and Parvez Sharma’s (A Jihad for Love). In 2008, Arsham was twice honoured, first by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)’s Felipa Sousa Award for pioneering gay activism and then by Toronto Pride with its award for Excellence in Human Rights. [Interview at 3.18]


“Crucial to have an understanding of the local context when implementing resettlement policies.” – Petra Molnar, Refugee and Human Rights Lawyer.


Petra Molnar is a Refugee and Human Rights Lawyer, a Research Associate with the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and an Affiliate at the Detention and Asylum Research Cluster of the Refugee Research Network.  She holds a Master of Arts in Social Anthropology with a diploma in Refugee Studies from York University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Toronto. [Interview at 28.20]


“I like to put my best foot forward, share my story, and that is the best way for me to be an advocate.” – Biko Beauttah, Kenyan-born trans woman, activist, and champion of refugee and sexual minority rights.


Ms. Biko Beauttah is a Kenyan-born trans woman, activist, champion of refugee and sexual minority rights, and student of jewelry arts at George Brown College. In 2006, Biko sought asylum in Canada because it is a crime to be LGBTQ in Kenya. She has promoted tolerance and equality as a panelist at the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Refugee Pride Convention. Biko is also a board member of Pride Toronto and The 519, an organization committed to the health, happiness, and integration of LGBTQ communities. Prior to her involvement with Pride Toronto, Biko began advocating for LGBTQ rights by lecturing for a gender studies course and acting as the Women and Trans Persons representative at George Brown College. Biko is currently working on Trans Workforce, the world’s first job fair geared towards people who identify as Trans and Gender Nonconforming. An initiative she is determined to launch so as to get transgender people out of underground economies. [Interview at 47.00]

Amanda Lane, Host, Technical Producer, Junior Producer
Dimitri Treheles, Technical Producer,
Nuri Kim, Junior Producer, Technical Producer
Mary Shin, Host, Junior Producer
Leanna Mora, Executive Producer

Music Credits
Not Dead 
by Fine Times
Can’t Leave the Night
by badbadnotgood
Main Girl
by Charlotte Cardin
Keeping Running
by Tei Shi


flickr /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0