The back and side of Rolston Ryan’s body still bear the marks of the stabbings in two gay bashing attacks that he suffered in St. Kitts.
The popular island resort in the Caribbean may be paradise for many Canadians, but the 31-year-old man says it was hell for him, and he finally made an escape for Toronto in 2013 with help from Rainbow Railroad, a Toronto-based group that helps rescue sexual minorities abroad to safety here.
However, the break from daily taunts and harassment — and threats of his life — is short-lived as Ryan struggles with the prospects of deportation from Canada.
Despite the scars of his stab wounds — and acknowledgement that he would “face a serious possibility of persecution” as a gay man if he returned to his homeland — the Immigration and Refugee Board denied Ryan’s refugee claim because, in refugee judge Brenda Lloyd’s own words, “the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis provides adequate protection to its citizens.”
A subsequent appeal to the refugee appeal tribunal was also rejected in 2014 on the same ground by adjudicator Stephen Gallagher.
“I don’t believe St. Kitts, where being gay is criminalized, can protect Rolston. They’re too feared to call the police,” said Joel Dick, a lawyer who, along with his wife, Dara Douma, sheltered Ryan for five months at the request of a friend at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.
“We are just so sad for him,” added Douma, a firefighter. “All his life, he was not able to be himself. It goes beyond harassment. He was a victim of physical violence.”
Although the refugee appeal tribunal’s decision had been quashed by the Federal Court earlier this year and a new hearing was scheduled, the rejection of Ryan’s asylum protection was upheld by a different adjudicator in a recent decision.
“While the evidence in the record establishes that there are laws which prohibit same-sex conduct, the record does not provide persuasive evidence of the enforcement of that legislation,” wrote appeal adjudicator Roslyn Ahara in her decision.
“There is insufficient evidence in the record which suggest that an individual’s sexual orientation would preclude the availability of state protection for crimes committed against them.”
A customer services representative, Ryan said he was attacked twice by mobs, who taunted him by calling him “anti-man” and “batty-man.” He was taken to the hospital but no police report was taken in either incidents.