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How not to play favourites

I had an excellent conversation with my friend Kimahli Powell, the executive director of Rainbow Railroad, an organization that strives to provide immigration support and safety for LGBTQI+ people fleeing persecution from countries hostile to queer people. Rainbow Railroad has always advocated broadly for immigration access, not favouring any particular group or nationality, but Kimahli admitted that’s become increasingly difficult. Since Russia’s Putin regime invaded Ukraine in February, there has been an obvious pressure from Canadians to help LGBTQI+ Ukrainians who are leaving the country but this is a pressure that’s been lacking for other marginalized groups. “Canada does not view the migration of refugees from Ukraine as being threatening to Canada,” Vancouver immigration lawyer Zool Suleman told Glacier Media in March, “There's a huge difference between how refugees from other parts of the world, Afghanistan, Syria and Africa are viewed.”

This spring, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) was served with a policy grievance alleging longstanding and systemic discrimination within the organization’s workforce. Many past and present IRCC employees have joined a $2.5 billion class action lawsuit alleging the Canadian federal government has had a systemic practice of excluding skilled Black employees from career advancement opportunities for the past 50 years. Systemic racism within organizations deciding on who gets admitted into Canada – especially as visa processing becomes increasingly automated – has resulted in unequal treatment and unacceptable backlogs, which has a direct impact on Rainbow Railroad’s work on behalf of LGBTQI+ asylum seekers as costly appeals get dragged out. Fortunately, says a spokesman for Rainbow Railroad, “in crisis situations, civil society organizations have expertise and knowledge that many governments lack, and we need to be empowered to deliver on our capabilities.” This expertise includes a data-driven approach with a focus on equity. Rainbow Railroad collects extensive data about the populations they serve in order to ensure they are supporting individuals of all identities. “In particular,” they report, “we internally track live/updated metrics to ensure we are improving our reach and ensuring sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics diversity within our emergency travel support program. With this, we can actively call-out any biases, disparities, or gaps in our assistance and we are able to visualize the populations requesting our help (as seen here in our annual report).”

Rainbow Railroad’s methodical approach continues to help LGBTQI+ refugees regardless of any systemic discrimination elsewhere. “We continue to advocate to the IRCC for a referral partnership,” says the organization, while encouraging volunteers and donors to take action and support their work to help queer refugees navigate Canada’s system. In April of this year, IRCC announced that they have established an Anti-Racism Task Force and will hire an independent firm to do an Employment System Review. This is a similar process to Breakfast Culture’s Diversity and Inclusion Audit that, developed in conjunction with management, can transform an organization’s workplace culture for the better. Canada prides itself on being a beacon of fairness to the world so we all must ensure that we walk our talk.

Happy to jump on a call to discuss how Breakfast Culture can help with your organizational diversity and inclusion journey. Schedule a 30-minute meeting today: Let's Break Some Eggs! – Jefferson Darrell, Founder and CEO, Breakfast Culture™ Inc.


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