Canada has quietly accepted 22 gay men and women from Chechnya since the end of June, amid a crackdown on the LGBT community in the conservative Muslim region.
Rainbow Railroad, a Toronto-based non-profit organization that helps gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people escape from state-sponsored violence, revealed the clandestine initiative, which involved the Canadian government, on Facebook on Friday.
Kimahli Powell, the organisation’s executive director, told The Telegraph that his group reached out to Randy Boissonnault – who serves as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special adviser on LGBT issues – in April following reports that gay men were under attack in conservative Chechnya.
Mr Boissonnault helped coordinate the secret evacuation program with the Canadian Global Affairs and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship departments.
Nine more LGBT people from Chechnya are expected to arrive in Canada this week.
All of the refugees were first sheltered in safe houses elsewhere in Russia. Most are men, and most will settle in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, said Mr Powell, who was in Russia in May to help coordinate the secret underground railroad.
France and Germany have each accepted a gay Chechen refugee, and Lithuania has taken in two of them.
But so far Canada has opened its doors to the most LGBT refugees who have fled Chechnya, where mainly gay men have reportedly been detained, tortured and murdered because of their sexual orientation.
In July, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said in an HBO interview that if there were gay people in Chechnya “take them to Canada.”
“It sends a very powerful statement about our leadership in the global community when it comes to LGBT rights,” said Mr Powell.
“Part of the reason I thought we could call on the [Canadian] government to act because I was proud of our Prime Minister’s powerful tweet about Canada being the place accepting of all people in response to the proposed U.S. travel ban in January.”
The day after US President Donald Trump released his Jan. 27 executive order that issued a 90-day travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, Mr Trudeau released a statement on Twitter that read: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”
Canadian Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland who is of Ukrainian descent, was an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and is among 13 Canadians banned from travelling to Russia – played a key role in bringing the gay Chechens to Canada, said Mr Powell.
“Minister Freeland was passionate about helping, and has met all of the arrivals,” he said.
by Christopher Guly, ottawa
Source – The Telegraph