The Mission of the Advocacy Committee is to advocate on behalf of ATESL on issues which affect the members and their learners.
LGBTQ Advocacy and Awareness
As members of the Advocacy Committee of ATESL, we seek to advocate for the needs of newcomer groups, as well as teachers of English as a Second Language. In this newsletter, we would like to take this opportunity to provide a brief overview of some recent research on one such newcomer group – individuals who identify as LGBTQ - and share a few resources for both teachers and for students in your classes who may wish to connect with these resources.
A recent influx of LGBTQ newcomers has led to an increase in awareness and services for this population, in particular, refugee claimants seeking asylum because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. A 2016 report entitled “Provisioning Settlement Services for LGBTQ Newcomers to Edmonton” prepared for the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) offers some insight for individuals working with LGBTQ newcomers:
- Confidentiality is critical for LGBTQ newcomers because of the homophobia that exists within many newcomer communities (p.4)
- Settlement agencies may have a role to play in connecting LGBTQ newcomers to their co-national communities and combating homophobia in these communities to make LGBTQ individuals feel safer.
- LGBTQ individuals may need to be referred to counselling and supports to help them navigate their new life in Canada, including the homophobia that they may encounter, as well as the re-traumatization that they may face as they go through the refugee process.
The full 85-page report can be found at http://refugeealberta.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Provisioning-Settlement-Services-for-LGBTQ-Newcomers.pdf.
For newcomers, there are several new supports available to help them find their way in Edmonton.
- In September 2017, EMCN hired Basel Abou Hamrah to work as an LGBTQ settlement practitioner. His role at the centre is to assist refugee claimants with their refugee applications, and to help them find housing, medical care, and social connections.
- Basel and another colleague from EMCN, Sara Buczynski, also started up an LGBTQ newcomers group to encourage them to support each other and socialize together. Interested individuals can contact Basel at EMCN for details about when the group meets. The group can also be found on Facebook by searching “LGBTQ + Newcomers Edmonton.” Allies (individuals who are supportive but do not identify as LGBTQ) are also welcome to attend weekly events and offer connection.
For teachers or other interested allies, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) offers a free LGBTQ+ Positive Space Webinar Series that provides some general training on LGBTQ topics. Go to OCASI.org to sign up for these free webinars or search for other useful resources on their site. Additionally, teachers may wish to find information on the following websites:
- International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ilga.org)
- Egale Canada (Canada’s LGBT Human Rights Organization (egale.ca)
- The Pride Centre of Edmonton
- Calgary Outlink: Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (calgaryoutline.ca)