One of the interesting questions floating around right now is about the role of place in incorporation, and within that the role of local bureaucracies and non-profit organizations in shaping places of incorporation. Because while people immigrate to new countries they settle in particular cities and neighbourhoods, and so the resources in those places play an important role in representing the places where people settle, and their potential roles in those places.
The Rainbow Resource Centre based in Winnipeg is getting actively involved in questions of immigration, settlement and incorporation, working on several different fronts to make and represent Winnipeg and Manitoba as a safe, welcoming, inclusive places for LGBTT* (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Ally) and immigrant people and communities.
Manitoba in general, and Winnipeg in particular, are places where the question of immigration has become more important, and literally more visible, in the past ten years. The rates of immigration are rising in the city and province, and people are increasingly coming from countries in Asian, Latin America and Africa as opposed to the more historic waves of European immigration.
RRC’s work around immigration evolved in the same way that all of their work evolves, out of consultation and conversation with the community. First community members noted in the last Community Needs Assessment that RCC didn’t seem to be seeing or connecting with LGBTT* members of the growing immigrant communities, but people figured they must be out there! At the same David Pepper was making his way across the country speaking to promote the North Star Triangle Project educating and advocating for GLBT/Queer refugees, and making a stop in Winnipeg hosted by RRC. And at the same time a group of community members approached RCC to support their work in bringing an individual to Winnipeg as a privately-sponsored refugee.
RCC is approaching the question of immigration and the LGBTT* community from multiple perspectives working to reach out to and support individuals who are have immigrated and are LGBTT* and connecting them to health, mental health and settlement support.
RCC is also reaching out to mainstream settlement and immigration service organizations trying to engage, and educate them around LGBTT* issues and how they might better support their clients. For example, a recurring theme in RCC’s research was the idea of people constantly having to decide what, and to whom,they should reveal about themselves, based on how open or not they perceive the organization or individual staff member?
Finally, RCC is making it a priority to address questions of racism within the LGBTT* community, educating around immigration issues, and encouraging community members to get involved in actively advocating around immigration and refugee issues.
So back to where I began with the question of place and the role of non-profit organizations in shaping the context for incorporation. RCC’s work is particularly interesting because of the ways that they are dealing nimbly with questions of intersectionality — the ways in which various aspects of our identity overlap and interact. Their work is articulating a clear representation of the kind of places they would like Winnipeg and Manitoba to be, and the kind of places into which they hope immigrant residents can arrive and make their way. These are simultaneously LGBTT* places that are anti-racist, and Canadian places that are anti-homophobic.
And on top of all that they’ve started by talking to the people that have most at stake in all of this, people who are both migrant residents and LGBTT*, and making the effort to get a better sense of what an anti-racist/anti-homophobic place might look like from their perspective.
Since I don’t have a whole lot of good visuals from RRC I’ll also toss in this episode of Queer Conversations featuring Julio Salgado a great artist and UndocuQueer activist living and working in California. Enjoy!