There’s been a growing call on social media for Canadians to sign an e-petition asking the federal government to allow transgender and non-binary people to claim asylum in Canada — though that right is already protected under law.
On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, dozens of posts pointing to the digital petition, which was established in January, have been shared this month, alongside encouraging words for other Canadians to join the cause. (Especially as multiple anti-trans and LGBTQ2 bills are being introduced in the United States.)
The viral petition has already been signed more than 132,000 times. It has more signatures than any other petition on the House of Commons’ website.
The petition, created by Caitlin Glasson from Waterloo, Ont., calls on the government to allow trans and non-binary people from “so-called ‘Western democracies’” like the U.S. and the United Kingdom to be able to apply for asylum (something already permitted in Canada).
“The world is becoming increasingly hostile to transgender and nonbinary individuals,” reads the petition. “Transgender and nonbinary people’s rights to live as themselves are being restricted and removed in many places.”
It goes on to mention trans-exclusionary legislation in the U.K. and U.S. The petition explicitly references the U.K.’s Equity Act, which says trans people can be barred from single-sex services such as housing shelters, toilets, prisons and changing rooms. The appeal also notes that more than a dozen U.S. states “have enacted or are considering legislation eliminating or criminalizing gender-affirming care.”
According to the petition, since Canada prides itself on being “an inclusive, tolerant, and welcoming society for everyone,” the country must then protect trans and non-binary folk facing “eliminationist laws in their home countries, whatever country that may be.”
However, regardless of one’s country of origin, LGBTQ2 people can already qualify for refugee status in Canada by citing a risk of persecution, including risks relating to discriminatory legislation.
The petition is backed by Green Party MP Mike Morrice of Kitchener Centre, Ont. He told CTV that he was not aware that asylum is already possible for trans and non-binary people regardless of country.
Possible but not simple: What are the barriers to obtaining asylum?
In order to claim asylum in Canada, LGBTQ2 people must jump over several hurdles. One such challenge is proving “impact.”
To file a successful asylum claim, one must establish that the anti-LGBTQ2 or trans-exclusionary legislation in their country has a direct impact on their daily lives. Legislation restricting access to gender-affirming care, for example, can be seen as impact.
The greater challenge is a concept called the “internal flight alternative.” The Canadian principle may lead to an asylum claim being declined if the individual has the option to safely move elsewhere in their native country. For example, it may be possible for a trans person from Utah, where youth are banned from receiving gender-affirming health care such as surgery or hormone treatments, to move to California, the first sanctuary state for trans youth.
In short, an LGBTQ2 person must prove there is no safe residential option in their country.
Kimahli Powell, the CEO of Rainbow Railroad, a non-profit organization that helps relocate LGBTQ2 people facing “systemic, state-enabled homophobia and transphobia,” said they received 10,000 requests for help in 2022. Of those, 300 were from inside the U.S., Powell claimed.
“As anti-trans laws rose, and Roe v. Wade was rolled back, these requests spiked,” Powell wrote.
Is Canada really a safe haven?
Though many international LGBTQ2 people have filed for asylum in Canada, the country is not a sanctuary without faults.
According to a 2019 report from Trans Pulse Canada, 43 per cent of the nearly 3,000 trans and non-binary Canadians surveyed identified as having mental illness, 45 per cent said they had unmet medical needs in the past year, and 31 per cent considered suicide in 2019.
Regardless, MP Morrice can present the e-petition in the House of Commons at the end of March, as it has garnered more than the required 500 signatures. The federal government does not have to respond to the petition or its calls for action.
The e-petition is open for signatures until March 26.
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