Immigration Officer Refuses Residency to Gay Refugee

Jul 10, 2012 National Post reported: He provided a letter from a Toronto community centre attesting to his participation in a “Coming Out Being Out” meeting, as well as a letter from a man who said the two were in a relationship.

Still, a senior immigration officer determined that Francis Ojo Ogunrinde — who is seeking residency in Canada on the grounds that he’ll be persecuted in his native Nigeria for his sexual orientation — failed to provide sufficient evidence that he is gay.

But now a federal judge has found that the officer erred by failing to consider the “complete picture before her,” and ordered that Ogunrinde’s claim get a second look in a case that raises questions about the extent to which immigration officers should be probing the bedroom activities of claimants.

Ogunrinde, 40, came to Canada in 2007 as a refugee claimant. In early 2010, the Immigration and Refugee Board rejected his claim for protection after concluding that he was not credible and not homosexual.

In late 2010, Ogunrinde applied to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for an assessment of the risks he faced if he was returned to his home country. Those who are deemed to face the possibility of persecution, death or torture can usually apply for permanent resident status.

In his submission, Ogunrinde provided letters from several individuals, including his roommate and landlord, confirming that he is gay. He also provided a letter from a man who said the two had been going out since April 2010, as well as photographs of the two of them together.

Ogunrinde also provided a letter from a friend in Nigeria, who said that police had come looking for Ogunrinde because of his “homosexual activities.”

In addition, Ogunrinde submitted a letter from the manager of the 519 Church Street Community Centre in Toronto attesting to his continued membership and participation in the gay community.

But a senior immigration officer wrote Ogunrinde in August 2011 rejecting his application.

While she acknowledged that conditions in Nigeria were “not favourable” for gay people, she said she was not convinced that he was gay.

She said the letters provided by Ogunrinde failed to provide enough details of his sexual orientation or evidence that he was in a genuine homosexual relationship.

For instance, the letter from the man claiming to be Ogunrinde’s boyfriend did not include details of how they met or whether there was a sexual or romantic component to their relationship.

But in a decision last month, federal Judge James Russell set aside the officer’s decision, saying that the officer seemed to have been guided by stereotypical beliefs about how a gay person should behave.

“It is inappropriate for officers to rely on stereotypes when evaluating whether or not a person has established any ground of risk, including sexual orientation,” Russell wrote.

The judge said he was mindful of the difficulties immigration officers face when assessing these types of cases.

“At the same time, the acts and behaviours which establish a claimant’s homosexuality are inherently private,” Russell wrote. “When evaluating claims based on sexual orientation, officers must be mindful of the inherent difficulties in proving that a claimant has engaged in any particular sexual activities.”

Two immigration and refugee lawyers said Tuesday the court decision highlights a need for Canada’s immigration officials to develop better training and guidelines for assessing claims based on sexual orientation. Continued