LGBTQ immigrants need place where they feel safe, says Centre for Newcomers in Calgary

LGBTQ Calgarians and supporters gathered at the Centre for Newcomers on Thursday to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Alberta marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Kelly Ernst says it's important to have programs that welcome LGBTQ newcomers to Calgary. (Mike Symington/CBC)

LGBTQ Calgarians and supporters gathered at the Centre for Newcomers on Thursday to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. 

"We know that being LGBT is criminalized in at least 72 countries around the world and, unlike Canada where we enjoy equal rights, people are facing death threats, they're facing extreme violence, they're facing imprisonment all the time around the world," said Kelly Ernst, the lead for LGBTQ projects at the centre.

"They're coming to Canada to try to enjoy equal rights that all of us enjoy here."

Ernst says it's critical to have a program that welcomes LGBTQ newcomers in the city. 

"People coming to Canada for the very first time who are LGBT need to be in a place that they can feel safe, but also in a place where they can get help to settle here," he said. 

The international day is celebrated in "dozens of countries," according to Ernst. 

'I feel safe in Canada'

Edgar Ayala, originally from Peru, says being gay in Latin American is "complicated."

"Here in Canada, I found a very good place for minority communities," he said. 

Edgar Ayala says he feels safer in Calgary than in his original home country of Peru. (Mike Symington/CBC)

"Yes, I feel safe in Canada, in Calgary, compared with my country."

Even in Canada there is more work to be done, said Ernst.

That sentiment was shared by Premier Rachel Notley. 

"Homosexual, trans and bisexual Albertans are more likely to be bullied verbally or physically, more likely to experience domestic and other forms of violence, and more likely to consider, and to attempt, suicide than Albertans who are not part of sexual and gender minorities," she said in a statement released to mark the day. 

"As Albertans, let us all mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia by standing up against hatred and intolerance, and by ensuring that our province is a safe, inclusive and welcoming place for everyone."   

With files from Mike Symington