Canadian foreign affairs minister John Baird pledged that Canada has will continue to help and has aided ‘a large number’ of gays and lesbians immigrate from Iran, which renounces them for their homosexuality.
Too many countries have regressive and punitive laws that criminalize homosexuality,’ he said.
His speech at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations on Friday (15 September) highlighted Canada's efforts to promote the rights of women, as well as those of gays and lesbians abroad.
He also stated that Canada will defend the rights of women against forced marriage, violence and rape: ‘I'm not going to stay quiet on an issue that is morally wrong and deserves to be condemned. How can anyone defend the practice of having a nine-year-old girl forced into marriage? If Canada won’t speak up for these girls, who will?’
Baird said that Canada’s government has committed nearly $3 billion over five years to health funding for women and children, as well as $14 million for programs to end sexual violence and encourage women's participation in emerging democracies.
Baird also mentioned that Canada's immigration minister, Jason Kenney, ‘is working with groups that are active in this regard and helped a large number of people come to Canada'.
Baird also praised Kenny for 'working to make Canada a safe haven for Iran's persecuted gay community.'
His statements come a week after Canada severed relations with Iran by pulling Canadian diplomats from Tehran and sending Iranian diplomats in Canada packing.
Following Baird’s pledges, Kenney stated that his country welcomed over 100 gay refugees from Iran since 2009.
Kenney said his country’s efforts include getting about 800 Iranian refugees currently in Turkey resetelled in Canada.
‘One of the things I did was to increase our resettlement target for refugees out of Turkey in general, partly to respond to the particularly acute resettlement needs of gay Iranian refugees but also other Iranian refugees like dissidents, journalists, Christians and Baha’is, all of whom face persecution,’ Kenney said in an interview with Postmedia News.
While Turkey is more tolerant than Iran towards homosexuality, many Iranian LGBT refugees face ‘secondary persecution’ there. Kenny will work with the Toronto-based Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, a group that supports and advocates on behalf of gay Iranian asylum seekers to ensure that UN officials know that Canada is prepared to ‘fast-track’ those in ‘urgent need of resettlement’.
For a little over a year, Canada has also been assisting sponsored gay refugees with resettlement costs, he said.
Kenny said that while Canada does not track refugees and asylum claims by sexual orientation, he is aware of a small number of sponsored gay refugees from East Africa.
He also stated that pf the roughly 9,000 positive asylum claims approved by the Immigration and Refugee Board every year a couple of hundreds are likely related to sexual orientation.