Celebrating Pride and 2SLGBTQ+ immigrants in Canada

Edana Robitaille
Published: June 8, 2023

June is Pride Month in Canada and around the world. It is a time to celebrate the 2SLGBTQ+ community throughout the country and recognize the struggle they have endured to attain equality under the law and in society.

Pride celebrations started in Canada as a form of protest against discrimination. Women and Gender Equity Canada says the first demonstrations took place in Ottawa and Vancouver in 1971. By 1973, Pride events were held in several Canadian cities, including Montréal, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.

Canada now celebrates 2SLGBTQ+ individuals throughout June in several ways. One is by flying a rainbow flag, often seen on homes and businesses as well as City Halls and schools.

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Toronto’s celebrations cumulate in one of the largest Pride parades in the world. This year it is being held on June 25 and will feature over 100+ groups marching. There are also parades, parties, concerts, and discussions throughout the month in cities all over Canada.

These events have the full support of the federal government which recently committed $1.5 million to Pride organizations to ensure Pride events in Canada have adequate funding to hold all events as planned.

Additionally, on June 8th Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced that Canada is now partnering with the Rainbow Railroad, a non-profit organization to seeks to identify and assist 2SLGBTQ+ refugees who are escaping persecution in their home country.

“In many parts of the world, LGBTQI+ people face severe discrimination and are criminalized just for being who they are, " said Minister Fraser. "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.”

Canada was also recently ranked as the safest travel destination in the world for 2SLGBTQ+ travellers and is a leading destination for 2SLGBTQ+ immigrants. This is in many ways due to its reputation for safety and tolerance. Discriminating against a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited under the Canadian Human Rights Act and cannot be used to reject an immigration application.

2SLGBTQ+ immigrants in Canada

All 2SLGBTQ+ immigrants in Canada have the same rights and freedoms as a heterosexual or cisgender person on a similar visa or permit. A same-sex couple can marry, sponsor a same-sex partner or spouse for family-class immigration, and adopt children. Couples are entitled to all the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex partners or spouses.

2SLGBTQ+ immigrants are often well-suited for immigration to Canada. Statistics Canada data shows that as of 2018, more than half of gay or lesbian immigrants (55.0%) and nearly half of bisexual (49.6%) and heterosexual (45.8%) immigrants aged 25 to 64 had at least a bachelor’s degree. This is a higher percentage than that of Canadian-born people of the same sexual orientation.

The same study also noted that a larger proportion of gay or lesbian and bisexual individuals (6.3% and 5.0%, respectively) than heterosexual people (3.0%) spoke both of Canada’s official languages, English and French (or both languages and a non-official language) most often at home.

Immigrating to Canada as 2SLGBTQ+

The immigration process for anyone who identifies as 2SLGBTQ+ is no different than it is for anyone else.

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says that when you immigrate to Canada, you will not be asked to disclose your sexual orientation or gender identity. When you apply to immigrate, you will be asked to mark ‘F’ for female, ‘M’ for male or ‘X’ for another gender.

If your gender identity changes or is different from what is on your application to IRCC (information on your application must match your passport, which you may not be able to change in your home country to reflect your identity) you can apply to have it changed on your permanent resident card, work or study visas or citizenship certificate. No supporting documents are required.

History of 2SLGBTQ+ rights in Canada

The history of 2SLGBTQ+ rights in Canada hasn’t always been positive, especially regarding immigration. In 1953, the Immigration Act was amended to prohibit “homosexuals” from immigrating to Canada.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada in 1969, with then Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau famously remarking that the “state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” Even so, it wasn’t until 1978 that “homosexual” immigrants were deemed admissible to Canada.

In 1995, same-sex couple adoptions were legalized in Ontario and other provinces quickly followed. The following year, sexual orientation was added to the Canadian Human Rights Act as an illegal reason for discrimination. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that in Ontario, same-sex couples should be entitled to equal benefits as married or common-law partners. The court said that defining a spouse as a partner of the opposite sex was unconstitutional.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Canada in 2005. It was the third country in the world to take this step after Belgium (2003) and the Netherlands (2000).

Bill C-279 was passed in 2013 and extended human rights protections to transgender and transsexual people in Canada, In 2017, gender identity and gender expression were added as protected grounds from discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

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