As we head into Pride Weekend in Vancouver, we reflect on the privileges and freedoms afforded to Canadian citizens. While not perfect, they’re far better than many places around the globe, especially for those identifying as LGBTQ+. Rights have been extended in more and more countries but unfortunately, there are still at least 14 countries where homosexuality is legally punishable by death.
Rainbow Refugee is a Vancouver based community organization supporting people seeking refugee protection in Canada because of persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Since 2011, Rainbow Refugee Society has worked in partnership with the Federal government to direct a blended sponsorship program called the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Project (RRAP). This is a national project and Rainbow Refugee has the responsibility of working with its own Circles of Hope as well as other community organizations across Canada to sponsor LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.
The Rainbow Connection is one of the Circles of Hope hoping to supporting Rainbow Refugee. We are a group of friends, lead by Mr. Gay Canada 2019, working together to assist a LGBTQ+ person hoping to resettle in Canada. We are grateful to live in Canada and have the ability to live and love in a safe and supportive community. Supporting a person, presently living in an African refugee camp, whose life is in danger because of who they are is our way of sharing the benefits that we have through our citizenship and friendships.
We have set up a Canada Helps donation page to help raise funds online as well as raising offline funds to support our goal. Along with our knowledge and support, the money we raise will assist this Rainbow Refugee to set up a new life in Canada. It will go towards food, housing, transportation, personal health… anything and everything needed every day to live a full life. We hope you will support us in this endeavour, any little bit you can contribute is greatly appreciated and if you cannot provide monetary support we ask that you share the donation page with your network.
Balancing a fair refugee system and public safety are especially topical subjects with the current global debate on immigration. Halagonian Mary Vingoe’s play, Refuge, reminds us that even a country as diverse as Canada has been touched by class, culture and sectarian violence as well as blemishes in our treatment of refugee claimants.
A powerful and relevant work, Refuge is a based on actual transcripts from an award-winning CBC Radio documentary “Habtom’s Path” about Eritrean asylum-seeker Habtom Kibreab. Using the radio factual radio script as the centre of the story, changing the character’s name to Ayinom, Mary Vingoe has dramatized the rest of his time in Canada. Director Donna Spencer, has staged and cast the play nicely to keep the intimate story centred in the realism of the radio interviews with the rest of the staging kept sparse leaving focus on the human drama.
Refuge feels a bit like a mystery, through the past vignettes we get clues to piece together the story being referenced in the radio interviews. Although Ayinom is the central character, he never appears in the play, perhaps reflecting his uncertain refugee status. His limbo-like status is referenced by Pamela Ross (Sangeeta Wylie), the Halifax-born half-Indian woman who helps Ayinom’s mother Amleset (Angela Moore) learn English. Pamela learns of Ayinom’s plight and enlists her ex-boyfriend, human-rights lawyer Saul (Robert Moloney) to take his refugee case.
Brought together by the case, Pamela and Saul work through their own personal baggage, much involving the Air India bombings, and her family. Pamela’s husband Allan, played by Frank Zotter, is the voice of caution and fear of the unknown foreigner in his spare room. Perhaps a healthy dose of jealousy is nudging Allan to take the counter-argument to Saul as he sees his wife drawn to her human-rights activist past. Allan’s character is perhaps the least likeable character but also offers up dialogue that could be heard on any current-day debate on immigration. Since Ayinom is never present but ever-present, his friend and interpreter Mebrahtu, (Aadin Church) becomes his surrogate as he reads from his diary and shares his own first hand recollections. As the soft-spoken gentleman, Aadin’s performance offers up the most emotion and emotional scene of the 90 minute play.
See Refuge at the Firehall Arts Centre until April 1st, 2017 (dark on Mondays). Runtime is 90 minutes without intermission.