Human-rights and LGBT-aid groups have been urging the Liberal government to offer emergency aid that would permit victimized Chechen homosexuals to apply for refugee status in Canada.
But in a statement provided to The Globe and Mail, a spokesman for the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship indicated the men would not qualify because they were hiding out in Russia.
“In order to be considered for resettlement, individuals must be outside their country of origin,” Remi Lariviere said via e-mail. Last word was that the Russian LGBT Network had found shelter for about 30 Chechen men. Because Chechnya is a semi-autonomous republic within the Russian Federation, they don’t qualify as refugees.
As for the possibility of issuing special visas to get these men from Russia to Canada, “we cannot speculate on any future policy,” the statement said.Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen similarly refused to make any commitment when asked on Thursday about the persecution of gay Chechen men.
“We strongly support that community and the difficulties that they are going through,” Mr. Hussen said. But he would not promise any specific action, saying the government was “responsibly looking at what options we have in responding to that really difficult situation in a complex and volatile region.”
“I’ve run out of patience with the government,” said B.C. MP Randall Garrison, the NDP’s critic on LGBT issues. “All we hear is that they’re world leaders, and that they’re great at this, but when you ask them to do something, it’s not there.”
Russia is hardly a safe place for gays fleeing persecution. Homosexuals face widespread discrimination; there are reports of beatings and hate crimes that go unpunished. But to escape Russia and come to Canada, Chechen gays would need to obtain special visas.
Should the Canadian government issue those visas? There is a good argument that it shouldn’t. Homosexual acts are illegal in 73 countries; in several of them, the death penalty applies. In other countries, women are at daily risk of rape and religious minorities face discrimination. Why should these Chechen men go to the front of the line?
The answer is that, from time to time, ethnic, religious or sexual minorities are subject to purges, such as in Chechnya, where the government appears to be inciting, or at least condoning, the rounding up, incarcerating and torturing of gay men.