LGBTQ+ REFUGEE PROGRAMS: Empowerment, Resilience and Hope

35

Refugees sponsored to-date

54

Settlements attempted each year

3000

Participants in peer support programs

A world in crisis

The world is facing the worst refugee crisis in history. One person becomes displaced every 2 seconds and one in every 110 people globally is either a refugee, a refugee claimant or an internally displaced person. MCC Toronto’s LGBTQ+ Refugee Programs provide hope for LGBTQ+ refugees and refugee claimants in Canada who have experienced persecution, violence, or risk to their lives in their home countries.

We are a Sponsorship Agreement Holder and have sponsored 35 refugees from Middle Eastern and African countries where it is dangerous to be LGBTQ+, including some where the penalty is death. As well, over 3000 refugee claimants have benefited from our programs and services . We advocate with our allies for improvements to refugees quality of life and the conditions and struggles they faced abroad and here in Canada. 

It's been one year since I arrived in Canada. Every day I am feeling a little better and less shocked. I never imagined myself starting a new life in another country, but Toronto has been a great place to start over. Things I dreamed could someday happen in my country are real here. Now, I don't see myself as a gay person in the middle of a battleground. Instead, I see myself as a resident of a country that I can emotionally connect with and call home.

Refugee sponsored by MCC Toronto

Sponsorship

Sponsorship

Sponsorship includes financial support for the first year in Canada plus start-up costs for items such as clothing and furniture. We sponsor using different government programs: Rainbow Refugee Assistance program (Rainbow RAP), Blended Visa Office Referred program (BVOR) and sometimes we become community sponsors to government sponsored refugees through the Joint Assistance Sponsorship program (JAS). If you would like to know more about our sponsorships and would like to be involved in the beautiful work of bringing hope to and LGBTQ+ refugee, please contact us at refugeesettlement@mcctoronto.com  

We provide ‘wrap-around’ supports needed to help a refugee build a new life in Canada.​

We help sponsored refugees find housing, access language training, healthcare, counselling, education, employment and other services. We assist with required paperwork and we provide orientation to banking, transportation, and city resources. We also provide emotional, social and spiritual support if desired.

A volunteer Settlement Team, supported by our LGBTQ+ Refugee Programs staff, will work with a sponsored refugee for a minimum of 12 months.

Apply

Are you living outside your country of origin, identify as LGBTQ+ and are fleeing persecution based on you sexual orientation or gender identity/expression?
Need help?

When I was 18 and my boyfriend was 20, Iranian officials discovered I was gay. They gave me three choices – they could kill me and I would be ‘fixed’ when I went to Paradise; I could undergo therapy to 'become' heterosexual; or, because I had completed my mandatory military service, they could give me a passport and I could leave the country. I knew others who chose the ‘therapy’ – they later killed themselves. I chose to leave. My boyfriend didn’t have a passport, so he paid someone to lead him over the border. That was a hard night for me. They sweep border areas with searchlights and if they spot you, they shoot you. But he made it. We spent two years in Turkey waiting to be sponsored to Canada, because we knew here, we would be free and our relationship respected. MCC Toronto sponsored us both. They met us at the airport and helped us find permanent housing. They helped us get into ESL classes, get our health cards and other documents. They introduced us to Toronto and gave us emotional and practical support. Now we’re both working, we love Toronto and love our new lives together.

Refugee sponsored by MCC Toronto

Peer Support

Peer Support

We host a monthly meeting for refugee claimants attended by 80 to 120 people, most of whom are waiting for their Immigration Refugee Board hearings. Meetings have speakers and discussion to help people learn about the LGBTQ2+ community in Toronto and available services; deal with stress while waiting for their hearing or settling as a refugee; and get oriented to Toronto. It also gives people an opportunity to meet other LGBTQ+ refugees and refugee claimants.

Over 3,000 refugees and claimants have participated in peer support activities provided by our volunteers, many of whom are current or former program participants themselves, and staff. We are working to provide more activities for Refugee Claimants. We do not provide counselling or in-depth one-on-one support to avoid duplicating services that are available through other organizations.

Meetings

Refugee Claimants meetings happen on the fourth Sunday of every month. Orientation meetings are on Mondays and we hold an Information Session every Wednesday.
Make friends

Thank God you’re doing this work and saving lives. Thank you for asking me to help support it.

MCC Toronto Refugee Fund monthly donor

Our Volunteers

Our Volunteers

The Refugee Strategy and Fundraising Advisory Committee is a group of experienced volunteers who develop program strategy to recommend to the MCC Toronto’s Board of Directors, oversee implementation of approved strategy, and raise funds for the LGBTQ+ Refugee Programs.

We always need volunteers! 

If you would like to volunteer to work directly with LGBTQ+ refugees by helping them get settled or facilitating peer support activities, it’s important for you to make a one-year commitment to provide consistency for program participants. Other volunteer tasks have more flexible time commitments.

Sponsorship Settlement Team

Volunteers help to integrate LGBTQ+ refugees as they build new lives in Canada. Volunteers help newcomers as they learn to navigate the city and get established. Each sponsored refugee is matched with a team of 5 to 10 volunteers who support them for at least a year as they become settled in Toronto.

Refugee Claimants Program 

Volunteers help with weekly Orientation and Information Sessions, and Monthly Refugee Claimant Meetings with refugees and refugee claimants. They can help by facilitating sessions or booking on: community services; preparing for Immigration Refugee Board hearings; orientation to Toronto; wellbeing practices and stress management; employment. They can help at refugee social events and peer support activities.

We’re saving lives. We want to share our freedom to love who you want without fear. We’re privileged and we need to share that. We have a responsibility to leave a legacy, as we did with same-sex marriage ... a global impact.

Volunteers working on the Refugee Oversight, Strategy and Fundraising Committee

Our Donors

Our Donors

If you would like to share the freedom, we have in Canada with LGBTQ+ people who are in danger in other countries, and help them become settled refugees in Canada, please consider providing financial support for our work. You can be a monthly donor for $10 or more a month or make a one-time donation to the Refugee Fund. Monthly donations are set up as automatic withdrawals from your credit card or bank account. This reduces our administrative costs and helps us plan ahead.

Cheques can be mailed to:

ATTN John Farrell
MCC Toronto
115 Simpson Avenue
Toronto ON M4K 1A1

Please note on your cheque that it is for the Refugee Fund.

All donations are tax deductible. MCC Toronto is a registered charity with CRA.

Online Donations

We accept secure credit card donations online.
Thank you for your support.

Click the button below to submit your donation using our secure payments gateway.
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Our Allies

To stay up-to-date on issues and contribute to a collective voice on changes needed, MCC Toronto through our LGBTQ+ Refugee Programs  is a member of the Canadian Rainbow Coalition for Refuge (CRC4R), the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), the Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association (SAH association), the 2SLGBTQ Service Provider Network and the LGBTQ+ Settlement Network of Toronto. We also sit in the Executive Committee at CCR. We use our experience working with LGBTQ+ refugees who are trying to navigate the complex refugee system to advocate for changes to protection mechanisms in Canada.

 

We work with other refugee service providers in Toronto to avoid duplication and promote good relationships. 

We have formal partnerships with Constituent Groups (organizations and teams of people) to help them sponsor LGBTQ+ refugees. One of our main partners is Rainbow Railroad, through us they submit application for refugee sponsorship to the government of Canada, as the only Sponsorship Agreement Holder in Canada that works exclusively with LGBTQ+_ refugees. We also provide support and oversight for all of Rainbow Railroads sponsorships. 

 

We work to educate our congregation and the public about the particular challenges faced by LGBTQ+ refugees around the world and here in Canada.