Local Research: Mapping Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer Migrant Needs in Surrey, BC
Friday, June 2, 2017

DIVERSEcity has recently released their report, Mapping Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer Migrant Needs in Surrey, BC, conducted with the help of SFU Students.

From the report:

Surrey is the fastest-growing part of the Lower Mainland, with many young people and young families. This large, young population also includes many migrants and refugees. We recognized that the people of Surrey will also include LGBTQ+ people, and that some will fall into both the “newcomer” and “LGBTQ+” categories.

This research was commissioned by DIVERSEcity to ascertain the needs of LGBTQ+ migrants, refugees, and newcomers in Surrey, BC. Additionally we were requested to map any existing services. DIVERSEcity, a Surrey-based community resources society, asked us to determine what services specifically geared for LGBTQ+ migrants and refugees were needed but not yet available in Surrey.

This was for a number of reasons, including Surrey’s growing population, the number of newcomers included in it, and changing discourses around being LGBTQ+ and being a newcomer. There was also concern about how, even though Surrey is the fastest-growing part of the Lower Mainland, the majority of LGBTQ+-centred services are in Vancouver.

These developments are happening in the larger context of changing discourses about privilege and exclusion regarding what it means to be LGBTQ+, what it means to be a newcomer to Canada, and how the Greater Vancouver Area should respond to both questions. While we have observed that many Canadians consider acceptance of LGBTQ+ people to be a point of pride, the “mainstream” movement is nevertheless facing challenges from less-privileged lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who do not seem themselves reflected as the norm. These may include, but are not limited to, LGBTQ+ immigrants and people of colour. Furthermore, the movement is also being challenged by transgender and gender non-conforming individuals for ignoring their specific needs and difficulties(3):

Meanwhile, the debates around the currently arriving newcomers have been similarly heated. While we have long observed that many Canadians consider welcoming newcomers to be a point of pride, many newcomers have been labelled as “dangerous.” A survey of Canadian history will reveal that this trend of distinguishing “desirable” newcomers from “undesirable” newcomers is a longstanding one.(4)

Particular scepticism, if not outright hostility, has often been a public response to the government resettling refugees in particular. As refugee claimants must successfully prove that they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to political activities or various categories of identity (which will be further discussed), there is a popular notion that most refugee claims are “bogus” and that most nevertheless succeed. Neither of these ideas is true(5). However, the suspicion they create, along with the expected narratives of how claimants should act, gives them great power to determine who is and is not admitted to Canada as a refugee(6).

The LGBTQ+ newcomer experience can include fulfilling a popular narrative or not, privilege or the lack thereof, and multiple intersecting barriers. Recognizing the multiple barriers that LGBTQ+ newcomers may face in settling and fully participating in Canadian society, and understanding their larger social and political contexts, were the most important understandings we drew from this project. We also recognized the disconnect between the growth happening in Surrey and the location of the majority of LGBTQ+ centered services, and how even though many mainstream newcomer settlement services are located in Surrey, they are not necessarily LGBTQ+-friendly. This gap must be addressed as current trends continue.

read the report