The 519 Welcomes LGBTQ Chechen Refugees in Toronto

The 519 is expanding its Refugee Support Program to provide settlement services for government assisted LGBTQ Chechen refugees in Toronto

Toronto, October 19, 2017: The 519 has entered into a partnership agreement with Rainbow Railroad to expand its settlement support services to help the government assisted Chechen refugees in Canada. The services include broad-scale language assistance, housing support, and trauma-informed counselling services. Engagement in art and cultural activities, volunteering opportunities at The 519, and sports and recreation initiatives are also part of the settlement plan to reduce social isolation and contribute to their mental and physical wellbeing. The 519 is working to expand capacity to be able respond to the increasing demand for LGBTQ-focused newcomer settlement support.  

“The LGBTQ Chechen refugees have endured unspeakable atrocities we know from our experience delivering services for LGBTQ refugees their settlement will be a long and ongoing process. LGBTQ newcomers and refugees face additional challenges in integration due to layers of oppression intersecting with their LGBTQ identities. There is a dire need for more LGBTQ focused settlement support services in Canada, and The 519 is fully committed to not only delivering those services, but also advocating for them.”  

–  Maura Lawless, Executive Director, The 519

In order to be responsive for the needs of the Chechen refugees, The 519 is working closely with Rainbow Railroad and other community partners, and seeking assistance from the community for interpreters, and Russian-speaking counsellors.

“Rainbow Railroad is committed to helping persecuted LGBTQI individuals from dangerous situations all over the world find safety. This includes helping persecuted LGQBTI people in Chechnya find safe haven in Canada and other countries. As part of the resettlement process, Rainbow Railroad relies on dedicated community partners to help these new refugees adapt to their new lives in cities across Canada, and we are grateful that The 519 Community Centre is taking a leadership role in this effort.” 

–  Kimahli Powell, Executive Director Rainbow Railroad

The 519 Refugee Support program focuses on helping LGBTQ newcomers access information, resources, and relevant services, while building strong community connections. The program has seen a sharp increase in demand over the last year - group program visits have increased by 87%, and one-on-one support has increased by more than 27%. The program serves LGBTQ newcomers and refugees from all over the world and has seen a steady influx from countries including Nigeria, Uganda, Jamaica, and Ukraine.

Media Contact:

For interview requests with the Refugee Support team at The 519, please contact:

Soofia Mahmood
Manager, Communications & Fund Development
416-392-6874 |

About The 519

The 519 is committed to the health, happiness and full participation of the LGBTQ community in Toronto and beyond. We are a City of Toronto agency and a registered charity with an innovative model of Service, Space and Leadership. With our programs, services, and capacity building initiatives, we strive to make a real difference in people’s lives while working to promote inclusion, understanding and respect.



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October 19th 2017
Press Releases, support, programs, Refugee, Refugee Support, Settlement