Feeling a sense of belonging doesn’t always come easy for newcomers to Canada.
For sexual and gender minorities, it can be tougher.
It’s a matter that Nova Chamberlin is familiar with because of her work with a charitable organization that assists immigrants and refugees with settling in this country.
“It is very difficult often coming to a new country, and that’s in the best circumstances,” Chamberlin told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Chamberlin is the manager of innovative and health promotion projects with MOSAIC. One of the programs she supervises is I Belong, which is tailored for settlers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, or two-spirit (LGBTQIA2).
Like most new arrivals, sexual and gender minorities have to deal with things like finding a home and employment.
“But then at the same time, they may also be experiencing issues such as isolation from their own ethnocultural community, and then they may also experience things like racism or xenophobia within the LGBTQIA2 community,” Chamberlin said. “They often find themselves in a unique position where they can become quite isolated and not know where to turn for support.”
I Belong started as a pilot project in October 2014, and is now going on its fifth year.
The program offers one-on-one support service, as well as monthly peer and counselling group sessions.
In peer-group meetings, Chamberlin said, participants can share experiences and information in a casual format. For counselling, professionals are on hand to help attendees deal with issues they are facing.
“If folks are maybe coming here from a culture that is maybe a little bit less accepting of their status as an LGBT person, that can be really difficult because they may feel alienated,” Chamberlin said.
Add to that the feeling of not being fully accepted in the larger LGBT community because of their ethnic origins, and one can imagine how rough it can be for sexual and gender minorities.
True to its origins as the Multi-lingual Orientation Service Association for Immigrant Communities, MOSAIC has the ability to deliver I Belong services in different languages.
According to Chamberlin, the group has seen the greatest need for Spanish- and Arabic-language interpretation over the past little while.
Chamberlin also said that MOSAIC last year launched an online resource hub for transgender people.
“Folks who may not be in Canada but are planning to come here are able to access some information and support prior to their arrival, and then, as well, access that support once they arrive here,” Chamberlin said.