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REFOCUS: LGBTQ+ refugee assistance in Sackville, New Brunswick

['Refocus with Gerard Veldhoven']
Refocus with Gerard Veldhoven

By Gerard Veldhoven

The United Church in Sackville, N.B., a town close to the Nova Scotia border, has announced efforts in partnership with the Sackville Refugee Response Coalition to resettle those who are persecuted because of their sexual orientation, gender identity expression, or HIV status.

The church is an affirming congregation, meaning a welcome is extended to all members of society, bar none. After being approved to sponsor a person by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the congregation recently stepped up efforts to bring a member of the LGBTQ+ community to Sackville in the very near future.

Rev. Lloyd Bruce of the Sackville church is calling for assistance in accomplishing a smooth transfer to aid this person in fleeing a part of the world where safety for LGBTQ+ persons is constantly at tremendous risk. Beatings, imprisonment, harassment and even death, are consequential to LGBTQ+ lives, and coming out is severely reduced as a result of blatant discrimination.

“Because it is urgent that this individual be removed from harm’s way as soon as possible, they will soon arrive in Sackville, within 12 to 16 weeks,” Bruce said.

He goes on to say that much work remains to be done. “The Sackville Refugee Response Committee and the Welcoming Committee of the Sackville United Church are busy sourcing housing options and beginning to consider other needs that this individual may arrive with.”

LGBTQ+ citizens in many nations are the subject of unimaginable horror, and we live in a country where they are protected by law, though many obstacles still occur, with discrimination a reality. We are diligent in our work towards that goal and with profound determination, we will surely make a huge difference.

We live in a time where discrimination continues to be a burden, and considering the 7.6 billion inhabitants that occupy the globe, the work is arduous and time consuming. Will we experience an end to this dilemma? Do we see a lowering of this curse that society faces on a daily basis? Not as yet, as discrimination rose sharply as of last year. We must, however, not give in, but raise awareness, not only on this side of the world, but internationally.

After 40-plus years as an activist for equality, I have experienced positive outcomes, but regardless of those outcomes, the fight continues. There are so many of us, and so many are involved in the fight for inclusion that it would indicate a speedy recovery. Not so. Our peaceful and loving existence depends on how we treat our fellow beings.

Discrimination is not a local problem, but a global reality. The alarms keep up the warnings and with that comes our natural desire to fix the problems we face. Our neighbours to the south, who have the unfortunate experience of living with a leader who disrespects so many in our society, who, as a wannabe dictator, keeps the fires of intolerance burning brightly. This so-called leader of the ”free world,” hinders progress to bring people together, regardless of our identity. The problem is that his influence does carry weight, and that unfortunately slows positive progress.

The outstanding progress we have made is in the fact that the laws of many nations are inclusive, and that, dear readers, we must emphasize. But keep in mind that the work we must yet do is demanding but attainable. Progress is slow, and patience, being a virtue, so we are told, must prevail.

So, with the story of an LGBTQ+ refugee coming to Sackville, N.B., we learn of the positive thinking and love projected by this community. It is heartwarming and so inclusive!

I urge readers to contact the Sackville United Church at 506-536-0498, and support this effort that spells equality, while perhaps saving a life. This is Canada!

Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime gay rights activist and resident of Pictou County. Comments and information: lgbtconnectionsgv@gmail.com

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