Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program extended for 2 years

One of the people involved in helping to bring three gay men to Nova Scotia as refugees is happy the federal government has extended funding to the project for another two years.

Pilot program launched in 2011 to help LGBT refugees come to Canada

Citizen and Immigration Canada says since 2011, the program has helped sponsor more than 30 refugees. Nine live in Nova Scotia. (iStock)

One of the people involved in helping to bring three gay men to Nova Scotia as refugees is happy the federal government has extended funding to the project for another two years.

However, Corrie Melanson is still worried over the long-term future of the Rainbow Refugee initiative.

"They're extending for two years. They're continuing it as a pilot. And so my mixed emotion is that it's not becoming a permanent program," she told CBC news on Tuesday.

"We're not guaranteed that this will continue beyond the next two years. And there's a real need for this program to be permanent."

The Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program receives third-party funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to help cover the cost of sponsoring overseas LGBT refugees to come to Canada. When the program started four years ago, a total of $100,000 was set aside to help sponsor LGBT refugees within the private sponsorship stream.

A spokesperson with Citizenship and Immigration Canada said Tuesday another $100,000 will fund the program for the next two years.

'I'm not surprised'

The Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia has financially sponsored five men in all, but two have yet to arrive in Canada.

Melanson said the group has also helped another six LGBT people, four men and two women, get settled by offering whatever non-monetary help it can.    

She said the Harper government appears reluctant to commit to the program over the long term.

"Given that it's an election year, I'm not surprised that they've extended the pilot funding," she said. "However, what we're ultimately hoping for and will be pushing for when this money runs out is that it will go beyond a pilot project."

Last month, activists from the Halifax-based Rainbow Refugee Association expressed concern the program would be cut, putting people in danger.

The federal program provides money to help LGBT refugees setup in Canada and three months of living expenses. The amount is approximately $3,000 for each refugee.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada said since 2011, the program has helped sponsor more than 30 refugees. Nine live in Nova Scotia.

Over the past 18 months, the Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia has sponsored five Iranians.

With files from Jean Laroche

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