The Positive Spaces Initiative (PSI) aims to support the immigrant and refugee-serving settlement sector to more effectively serve LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or questioning) newcomers. PSI encourages training, education, leadership and resource sharing to support LGBTQ newcomers, staff, volunteers and community members.
The year (2012) has been a busy one for the project. PSI has been traveling throughout Ontario, delivering free workshops to staff members - irrespective of their roles in the workplace - on how to create welcoming spaces in their organizations that are inclusive and free from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Since the beginning of the fiscal year, over 70 agencies across Ontario have participated in the PSI workshops. That is well over 500 service providers: volunteers, management, staff, community members and other stakeholders that engaged in dialogues and discussions on how to create welcoming, inclusive, safe and positive spaces in our workplaces and communities!
The training resulted in some great collaborations as well as meaningful partnerships with services providers. An example of this is the collaboration with key LGBTQ organizations in Toronto to host forums addressing LGBTQ newcomer issues. The forum Identity, Migration & Policies: Journeys of LGBTQ+ Newcomers held June 2012 saw a panel composed of LGBTQ newcomers sharing their stories about navigating services in Canada complicated by issues of self-identity and migration and existing policies affecting LGBTQ newcomers' settlement experience. Recently in January 2013, a number of service providers gathered in the forum titled “Creating Awareness & Building Capacity: Working with LGBTQ+ Newcomers”. The forum encouraged a dialogue and a discussion on how to better serve LGBTQ+ newcomers. Participants in the forum listened to a panel of service providers working with LGBTQ newcomers share best practices. One of the main issues raised at the forum was the need for further awareness of LGBTQ newcomer issues within settlement services. While gains have been made regarding LGBTQ inclusion within settlement services, discrimination, stigma and silence surrounding the issues still exist.
To address the issue of the need for networking, building partnership, and fostering a culture of collaboration, PSI has been communicating with agencies and organizations in many different regions in Ontario to build sustainability to the project. In Ottawa, a PSI network meeting is being held at the end of the fiscal year, at which service providers and community members will have an opportunity to talk about how to promote PSI in Ottawa as well as how to ensure that LGBTQ newcomers become part of the mainstream discussion within settlement and LGBTQ sectors. In Toronto, the Toronto LGBTQ Settlement Network meets to continue the conversation about how service providers can better support each other in addressing the community.
Given that this work is taking place across the province, it is important that immigrant and refugee serving and mainstream LGBTQ communities have access to an online community of practice for the purposes of supporting one another in addressing issues of LGBTQ newcomers and refugees, and increasing their capacity to better serve LGBTQ newcomers and refugees. To facilitate ongoing discussions on LGBTQ newcomer issues, OCASI launched the Online Community of Practice in January 2013. Visit the forum to continue the conversation.
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The Positive Spaces Initiative is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).