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INNOVATIVE MEANS FOR EXPLORING SOGIE REFUGEES’ LIFE TRAJECTORIES IN THE CANADIAN CONTEXT

Researcher bios and how their research backgrounds relate to this study

I research social exclusion as a social determinant of health and well-being for gender and sexual minorities in the Canadian context. I am the co-director of the Social Inclusion and Health Equity Research Group, at Laurier’s Centre for Community Research, Learning and Action. Current research foci include LGBTQ newcomers to Canada, LGBTQ youth, and trans and non-binary individuals. I work collaboratively with a number of talented researchers and community partners at the local, provincial, and national levels. I have received research funding from various institutions supporting the LGBTQ community including, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Ontario HIV Treatment Network.

Purpose of this research project

Refugees with minority sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) face unique challenges that can affect resettlement in Canada. These barriers include the confounding effects of ill-treatment in their home countries due to their SOGIE, the resulting trauma, and the need to integrate into a new society. While some research has documented challenges with institutional processes experienced by SOGIE refugees in Canada, less empirical attention (limited qualitative and no quantitative research) elucidates their fuller life trajectories, experiences, and threats to ongoing health and wellbeing. Moreover, those with intersecting identities (e.g., race, disability status), face additional forms of marginalization that may affect resettlement. Thus, by Integrating intersectional, social ecological, minority stress, and life-course frameworks, this study will holistically document and analyze significant life events in refugees’ country of origin and in their transition to Canada that may influence their well-being. Accordingly, the research objectives are to: (1) examine the diverse, intersectional life-course trajectories of SOGIE refugees to Canada, (2) identify barriers, challenges, and opportunities at individual, community, institutional (e.g., policy, social service, healthcare access), and structural (e.g., refugee review processes) levels for SOGIE refugees to Canada. Context: Refugees in Canada with minority sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression (SOGIE) face unique challenges affecting their health and well-being (Lee & Brotman, 2011; Murray, 2016; Logie, Lacombe Duncan, Lee-Foon, Ryan, & Ramsay, 2016; Seitz, 2017). In particular, these challenges may include commingling effects of ill-treatment in their home countries due to their SOGIE status, pre-existing or resulting traumas, integration into a new society, and barriers surrounding institutional processes (Rinaldi & Fernando, 2019). Currently, there are no known quantitative projects, and few qualitative studies which explore lifecourse events and trajectories, impacts of discrimination across the lifetime, threats to health and wellbeing, and resources that promote resilience among SOGIE refugees. Moreover, those with intersecting identities (e.g., race, disability) face additional forms of oppression which may further exacerbate existing interpersonal, societal, and structural barriers to well-being (Karimi, 2019). Importantly, a recommendation of a report released in 2012 highlights there is a need for greater in-depth research surrounding LGBT refugees and intersections of identities (Mulé & Gates-Gasse, 2012), however, these recommendations have yet to be thoroughly realized in research and academia. Therefore, our research questions are: (1) What kinds of intracategorical, intersectionally-diverse experiences occur for SOGIE refugees across their lifecourse? (2) How do these experiences relate to transitioning to life in Canada? (3) At the individual, community, institutional (e.g., policy, social service, healthcare access), and structural (e.g., refugee review processes) levels, what contributes to the well-being and health outcomes of SOGIE refugees in Canada? The refugees in Ontario; (2) document and analyze challenges and facilitators to their health and wellbeing; (3) develop evidence-based guidelines to improve health and well-being of this unique yet diverse population.

How this research will help LGBT2SQ people and communities

The study will use in-depth interviews with service providers and SOGIE refugees in Ontario, and pilot test scales related to intersectional stigmas, minority stress, other life-course events, wellbeing, and inclusion. The qualitative data, along with the scales, will inform the development of a survey instrument for use with SOGIE refugees across Ontario in a future large-scale quantitative study. This research project will inform communities, service providers, and decision-makers of strengths and opportunities to improve SOGIE refugee settlement processes. It will inform the development of future survey-based research in the Canadian context. Our knowledge mobilization plan will engage various audiences to improve the lives of SOGIE refugees. A policy brief will outline the key results and recommendations for improvement. A community report targeting service providers who support SOGIE refugees and three peer-reviewed academic journal articles for interdisciplinary academic audiences will also be produced. The ultimate intention of this study is to leverage the findings to apply to either the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council or the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for a larger mixed-methods study of sexual orientation and gender identity minority refugees and asylum-seekers. Participants have the chance to reflect on their experiences and share these, and service providers can reflect on what they are doing to improve the well-being of SOGIE refugees. The goal of the study is to inform policies and services to help mitigate discrimination and its harmful effects for SOGIE refugees, so participants are assisting with this goal through their involvement in the study. More research from the perspective of SOGIE refugees will lead to more awareness of their needs and struggles.

Participants

The 15 recruited refugees are those who match the following criteria: (1) have obtained refugee status in Canada over the past 10 years; (2) be over 16 years old; and (3) self-identify under the SOGIE umbrella.

The 5 service providers and policymakers who match the following criteria: a) 18 years of age or older; b) currently working with SOGIE refugees in areas of settlement, healthcare, social work, mental health; c) Over 12 months of experience in working with SOGIE refugees. Results from the study will be used to provide recommendations for programs and services to better support SOGIE refugees in their transition to Canada.

Compensation

Each participant will receive an honorarium of a $50.00 online gift card for participating in the one-on-one interview (16). This amount is a set amount and will not change with the length of the interview.

Mitigation measures

While some participants may fear the risk of a lack of confidentiality or being outed (e.g., to peers, family and community) through the research process, they won’t because we have taken steps to mitigate any such concerns of this minimal social risk. The mitigation of risks taken in this study will ensure this in all phases of the study, from initial contact to presentation of data. These include: 1) information on how to delete any electronic communication throughout their participation in the study, if needed; 2) information on how to delete browser histories; 3) the suggestion that participants take part in the interview in a location that is private, where they can not be overheard; 4) the requirement that interviewers conduct the interviews in a private location, also; 5) the confidentiality agreements signed by the transcription company; 6) the removal of any identifying information from transcripts (e.g. names, home countries, specific locations); and 7) ensuring that quotes are never presented with specific identifying information (e.g. that scenarios or experiences can not extrapolate to a specific country, or location). The only information presented to describe participants will be age (presented in a range of ages), whether the participant identifies as a sexual orientation or gender identity/expression minority (or both); and possibly, the type of legal ramifications in their country for being sogie (e.g. participant is from a country where homosexuality is punishable by death). Although significant social risks such as the threat of death or imprisonment was faced by some sogie refugees in their home countries, this is not a concern in canada (participants are currently in canada), where sexual orientation and gender identity are protected grounds from discrimination under both provincial and federal human rights legislation. A list of mental health resources available in the community (including at Wilfrid Laurier University, and in the broader Region of Waterloo) will be provided to participants on the letter of information and informed consent letter, which they can take home with them. A list of resources available in the province will also be provided to participants who are not near the region of waterloo (10). Interviewers will be trained in trauma-informed interviewing. Participants also have the option to refuse to answer any questions. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this statement. The answer to whether participants will experience significant social risks if they participate in this study is no, they will not. The mitigation of risks taken in this study will ensure this in all phases of the study, from initial contact to presentation of data. These include: 1) information on how to delete any electronic communication throughout their participation in the study, if needed; 2) information on how to delete browser histories; 3) the suggestion that participants take part in the interview in a location that is private, where they can not be overheard; 4) the requirement that interviewers conduct the interviews in a private location, also; 5) the confidentiality agreements signed by the transcription company; 6) the removal of any identifying information from transcripts (e.g. names, home countries, specific locations); and 7) ensuring that quotes are never presented with specific identifying information (e.g. that scenarios or experiences can not extrapolate to a specific country, or location). The only information presented to describe participants will be age (presented in a range of ages), whether the participant identifies as a sexual orientation or gender identity/expression minority (or both); and possibly, the type of legal ramifications in their country for being sogie (e.g. participant is from a country where homosexuality is punishable by death). In Canada, sogie individuals are protected under the Canadian human rights act.

Promoting the Study

We are reaching out to networks that are aimed to support LGBTQ2 individuals. Participants are being recruited through professional networks as well as other organizations designed to protect and assist in the transition of SOGIE refugees into Canada. We are promoting the study through online advertisements and social media. Social media methods of promotion include a Facebook page designed for this research project.

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