Canadian immigration minister Sean Fraser says he’s committed to LGBTQ2S+ refugees

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3/25/22

Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser has a lot on his plate right now with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting refugee crisis. That’s on top of the commitment to resettle at least 40,000 Afghans, including members of the country’s LGBTQ+ communities, facing violence under Taliban rule, and a labour shortage in which the need to bring in more immigrants is acute. It’s a lot to deal with, but Fraser considers himself fortunate to be able to serve in his own way. Unlike some of his colleagues, Fraser eschews talking points and speaks in full paragraphs. He has so many things in his portfolio that he is eager to talk about that it’s hard to know where to begin. Part of Fraser’s remit is the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), which has recently made progress on updating their guidelines for dealing with LGBTQ2S+ claimants. But challenges remain when it comes to decision-makers on the board, some of whom have records that might indicate biases against granting claims. The appointment process may be where Fraser can make an impact. “You’re not going to achieve perfection in a system purely by implementing guidelines—you also need to have a process in place that appoints good people,” Fraser says, noting that for government appointments across the board, there has been an attempt to move away from partisan patronage appointments toward to a merit-based approach. “We do need to be doing more to ask about a person’s history of support or discrimination toward persecuted groups,” says Fraser. “It’s particularly important when you look at a group like the IRB in particular, because the clientele that they deal with are not industry stakeholder groups that have an agenda to support a particular sector or who are trying to achieve a particular policy outcome—these are human beings who are trying to advocate for themselves. They are asking to not be discriminated against on the basis of immutable characteristics who define who they are.” Fraser says that when you appoint good people to implement guidelines that are informed by communities and experts, you can change the experience for the better, and make it more inclusive. “I want to be careful not to be critical of individual officers, given the need to respect the independence of the organization, but I’m always looking for ways to improve the outcomes our system generates,” Fraser says. “If we can implement stronger screening processes for appointees and combine that with new guidelines that we introduced a few years ago, we can build a more inclusive system.”

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