Rainbow Foundation of Hope has considered the complexity of terms regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, all of which have historical, regional, cultural, class, and activist implications (refer to Mulé and Gates-Gasse 2012). The terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) are used internationally by human rights activists, although the use of queer is also considered an umbrella term. Use of LGBTQ+ by RFOH is not meant to be exclusive; rather, it is intended to safely respect the notion that gender and sexual identities comprise myriad forms of expression beyond LGBT, yet all share this common root. It includes individuals who are questioning (Q) their sexuality or gender identity, those that identify as intersex (I) or asexual (A), those individuals that represent an ally (A), and those Indigenous folks identifying as two-spirit (2S).

Canada is a colonial state founded on the adverse possession of myriad self-identifying Indigenous peoples and their lands by European settlers. Legacy impacts on the rich tapestry of pre-existing Indigenous societies include attempts to assimilate their citizens by imposing colonial perspectives and values that diminish their dignity and have caused intergenerational trauma. This has led to the adoption of harmful stereotypes around gender and sexuality within Indigenous societies such that a refugee crisis exists within Canada for two-spirit folks. For RFOH, this warrants foremost acknowledgement and recognition of the harms and injustices created.

Rainbow Foundation of Hope similarly acknowledges that terminology may differ according to region or topic, but we identify as united within a global community.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has produced a Gender Integration Framework document that RFOH has used to develop a glossary of terms intended to facilitate a common understanding around sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression.


Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA): responsible for carrying out enforcement functions related to immigration and refugee matters. These include detention, removals, investigations, and intelligence and immigration control functions overseas.

Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association: national membership association for SAHs in Canada established to develop a common national perspective and voice for the Private Sponsorship of Refugee Program (PRSP), which is integral to Canada’s Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program. Refugees who have fled their home countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution or have suffered massive violations of human rights may be eligible for resettlement to Canada. Approval by a Canadian visa officer requires that no reasonable prospect, within a reasonable period of time, exists for the refugee to voluntarily return to the home country, to “locally integrate” in the country of refuge or to be resettled in a country other than Canada.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB): the Government of Canada tribunal responsible for making decisions on immigration and refugee matters. The IRB decides, among other responsibilities, who needs refugee protection among the thousands of claimants who come to Canada annually.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC): federal agency with the overall responsibility for immigration and refugee matters in Canada (formerly Citizenship and Immigration Canada, or CIC). It also determines claims for refugee protection made abroad at Canadian embassies and consulates. It is responsible for selecting immigrants, issuing visitors’ visas, and granting citizenship. It is also IRCC that determines the eligibility of all refugee protection claims made in Canada and refers eligible claims to the IRB for a decision.

Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP): Canadian citizens and permanent residents are able to provide opportunities for refugees living abroad to find protection and build a new life in Canada through the (PSRP). This guide explains how the private sponsorship program works, who may be sponsored, the obligations involved and the application process.

Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP): a program designed to support the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) of Canada, their Constituent Groups (CG), Groups of Five (G5) and Community Sponsors (CS) in Canada. The objective of the RSTP is to address their information and on-going training needs as well as the initial information needs of sponsored refugees.


We are a National Partnership from Coast

Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA): supports the full integration of newcomer immigrants and refugees into the social, economic and civic life of Victoria and the Capital Region of British Columbia. We help immigrants form community bonds and deep friendships to reduce isolation and foster positive connections. The work ranges from guiding immigrant entrepreneurs and job creation, to supporting vulnerable newcomers to become healthy, contributing members of our community.

Reaching Out Assisting Refugees (ROAR): based in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, British Columbia as a volunteer organization, ROAR is dedicated to providing a safe haven to queer refugees facing serious persecution. In its work to bring refugees to Canada and respectfully help them begin a new life in safety, ROAR partners with Brechin United Church, a registered charity in Nanaimo, and cooperates with organizations around the country. 

LOUD Foundation: Vancouver-based Gay & Lesbian Business Association (GLBA) created LOUD Foundation to invest in future leaders of the Canadian LGBTQ+ community by supporting the development of students who possess drive, vision, compassion and knowledge. LOUD’s scholarship initiative support individuals to further their skills and training and is meant to improve society and increase awareness of our diverse community.

MOSAIC: this multilingual organization in Vancouver facilitates queer newcomer integration through it I Belong program support from with direct and annual support from RFOH.

QMUNITY: a non-profit organization based in Vancouver that works to improve queer, trans, and Two-Spirit lives, QMUNITY provides a safer space for these folks and their allies to fully self-express while feeling welcome and included.

Rainbow Refugee: the Vancouver-based charity that nationally supports and advocates on behalf of people seeking refugee protection based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status. Rainbow Refugee Committee is volunteer-driven an engages in outreach, advocacy, and public education on queer and HIV+ refugee issues. They also provide information to asylum seekers outside Canada.

Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST): offers mental health support through counselling, documentation, education, and referrals. As a Vancouver-based organization, VAST provide trauma-focused psychological counselling for refugees and newcomers in one-on-one and group settings.

Centre for Newcomers: a key not-for-profit resource centre for immigrants and refugees of all nationalities in Calgary to receive settlement and integration services and information. Founded in 1988, the Centre provides training programs and collaborative support services to promote full integration, cultural diversity, community participation, and citizenship, for more than 10,000 newcomers each year.

Reaching Out Winnipeg (ROW): a program to help people who face serious persecution and intense discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. ROW’s objective is to create an increased number of permanent resettlement opportunities for queer refugees in Winnipeg.

Egale Canada Human Rights Trust (EGALE): founded in Toronto in 1986 to advance equality for Canadian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families, across Canada, Egale works to improve the lives of queer folks in Canada. Egale’s mission is to enhance the global response to queer issues by informing public policy, inspiring cultural change, and promoting human rights and inclusion through research, education and community engagement.

Metropolitan Community Church (MCC): Toronto-based MCC started as a LGBTQ+ church, but we have become so much more – straight, gay, trans, lesbian, queer, questioning, immigrant, Canadian, young and old – a Christian community that includes all people. MCC Toronto covers the overhead costs of the LGBTQ+ Refugee Programs.

Rainbow Railroad: internationally focused, Toronto-based charitable organization that assists LGBTQI individuals in countries where they are under persecution and open targets of violence. Rainbow Railroad primarily volunteer-driven and focuses its efforts on assisting LGBTQI people who have faced physical violence or face an imminent threat of violence, imprisonment, or death.

Sherbourne Health: an primarily queer healthcare team in Toronto that promotes health and wellness by addressing the specialized health issues of those who identify as queer in an open, safe, and welcoming environment.

The 519 Community Centre Newcomer Settlement Services: the community centre is in the heart of Toronto‘s gay village and offers a number of programs for newcomers, including support groups and programs for people of diverse backgrounds within the queer community.

Capital Rainbow Refuge (CRR): this Ottawa-based organization is committed to providing safe haven to sexual minority refugees fleeing persecution. Capital Rainbow Refuge aims to provide a compassionate and welcoming environment where queer newcomers can build a better life. Through these actions CRR demonstrates the humanity and the value of the lives of queer folks.

Centre de Solidarite Lesbienne (CSL): situé dans la Province de Québec et s’appuyant sur l’analyse féministe, le CSL a pour mission d’améliorer les conditions de vie des lesbiennes en leur offrant des services et des interventions adaptés à leur réalité, et ce, dans les domaines de la violence conjugale, du bien-être et de la santé. Le CSL à Montréal est un lieu d’échanges et d’entraide par et pour les lesbiennes. Également, de la sensibilisation s’effectue auprès de diverses institutions sur les différentes réalités des lesbiennes.

Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia (RRANS):  a registered non-profit society in Halifax that has successfully sponsored queer refugees and assisted with the local settlement of queer newcomers. As part of its mandate, RRANS is actively sponsoring refugees and continues to provide advocacy.

Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax (UUCH): As a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) authorized by the federal government to select and settle refugees in Canada, UUCH focuses on refugee settlements in Nova Scotia, though it occasionally partners with Rainbow Refugee groups to assist in the settlement of SOGIE migrants farther afield.

…to Coast.


Citizenship and Immigration Glossary of Terms

CIMM Report on LGBTQ+ at Risk Abroad and Canada’s Call to Action

Proceedings Before the IRB Involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression

Envisioning LGBT Refugee Rights in Canada: Exploring Asylum Issues [Report – Jun. 2012]

Envisioning LGBT Refugee Rights in Canada: The Impact of Canada’s New Immigration Regime [Report – Jan. 2015]

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants Positive Spaces Starter Kit

LGBT Refugee Rights Booklet

Envisioning Mental Health Information Sheet

Envisioning Making a Claim Information Sheet

Envisioning Jurisprudence Information Sheet

The 519 Settlement Support for Refugees and Newcomers

QMUNITY Drop-in with Rainbow Refugee Committee

M.O.S.A.I.C. I Belong Refugee and Newcomer Support Group

Rainbow Railroad 2020-2022 Strategic Plan

The Impact of COVID-19 on Displaced LGBTQI Persons

IRCC Guidance for Private Sponsors Regarding COVID-19


1 Comment

  1. Anna Perry | May 30, 2015 at 11:55 am

    I am thrilled to discover your organization thanks to the Georgia Staight article this week and would love to participate and contribute.
    I could be a corporate sponsor or an individual sponsor.
    I am a cheery, energetic, reliable, resourceful, organized, confidant volunteer candidate, age 58, been around a long time & value people for their values.
    Bless you for your contribution to the community.

    Anna P
    Westside Family Law
    Vancouver, BC

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