A new program designed for new Canadians who are also LGBT is filling up with clients before it even officially launches, one of its organizers says.

The Calgary Outlink Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity has partnered with the Centre for Newcomers to create the LGBTQ+ New Canadians Resiliency Project.

The goal of the project is to help new Canadians who identify as LGBT make an easier transition into their new community.

The project officially kicks off next month, but clients have been signing up since February, said Calgary Outlink executive director Kelly Ernst.

'You're dealing with a lot of issues'

"Without advertising, we're easily getting 30 people a month," he said.

The two-year pilot program is the only one of its kind in Calgary, Ernst said.

"It's very complex and you're dealing with a lot of issues," he said.

"And you're also dealing a lot of fear around how do we deal with LGBT new Canadians in diverse communities? So you're also dealing with issues of inter-sectionality, and you're also dealing with systemic problems within immigrant serving organizations."

The project will also help refugee claimants — whose applications are based on fear of persecution because of sexual orientation — present their cases at hearings.

Ernst says the project might collaborate with other immigrant services providers as time goes on. 

'It was a huge struggle'

A 25-year-old engineer who emigrated from India told the Calgary Eyeopener Thursday that when he grew up, the LGBT community was non-existent, the subject was taboo and he had never met an openly gay person in his birth country.

He said he had no role models when he realized he was gay a few years ago and began to come out.

"It was a huge struggle, because there were absolutely no resources available. And the only thing that helped me out at that time was Ellen DeGeneres' biography," said the man.

He asked that CBC not use his name or photo because his parents in India do not know that he is gay, although he has told a sibling who has supported him.

Now living and working happily in Calgary, the man has signed up to be a mentor in the LGBTQ+ New Canadians Resiliency Project.

"So they can walk in Calgary Outlink and then we have peer support groups for them, we have a lot of different resources, and then mostly we are mentoring these people so that they can fully realize that it's totally okay to be who they are," he said.

"For us to find a peer support group, to see someone, see a person of colour who's also gay, who is also successful in life, it means a lot to me." 


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener