June 22, 2018
Deborah came to Canada as a Phd student in public policy. She was always a strong feminist, but her evolving identity as a queer woman made it necessary for her to remain in Canada after her student visa expired. After years of searching for a way to stay as a resident, Deborah had reached an impasse. Going back to Barbados was not an option. Staying in Canada seemed impossible. Just when she had lost hope, she found the guidance she needed from our friends and partners at a human rights conference at The 519.
“My life changed the day I came to The 519 to attend that conference.”
It was the first time Deborah learned that she had the choice and all the reasons to claim refuge. She joined our Among Friends program and was supported by the program coordinators throughout her process. She also attended A Place to Talk, a trauma-informed support group at The 519 for refugee claimants. Now Deborah is a permanent resident and is excelling in her career as a finance expert.
“Every part of my identity may still not be fully accepted here, but I truly appreciate the protection I get under the law, as it gives me a choice to demand my rights as an equal. I also appreciate safe spaces like The 519, which allow people to find their chosen family.”
Among Friends is The 519’s weekly program for LGBTQ refugee claimants. It is designed to ease the transition for individuals who arrive in Canada escaping persecution at home as a result of their sexual orientation. The 519 has offered this peer support program since 2005.
The Among Friends program has grown dramatically each year, becoming one of The 519’s most successful initiatives and producing our largest source of volunteers. A reflection of the changing demographics of Toronto’s LGBTQ community, Among Friends is a proud demonstration of The 519’s response to emerging needs.