Nova Scotia Advocate Seeks Refugee Status

Tanya Bloomfield came to Canada on Oct 2006. Putting down roots in Nova Scotia, she started doing volunteer work for a number of causes.  She oversaw LGBT support and youth groups, and became Sponsorships Director at Halifax Pride in 2008.  She started a business in Chester, NS which found its niche and has been doing well.

Quite famously in her community, she ran the 10k Blue Nose Marathon barefoot, to raise thousands of dollars for the Safe Harbour Metropolitan Community Church in Halifax.

At the start of 2009, a relationship broke down, invalidating her spousal sponsorship application.  She then applied for a Temporary Resident Permit.  Despite a number of follow-up attempts, it “fell through the cracks,” and a second application was made — Citizenship and Immigration Canada refused to review it.  On Thursday, she applied for refugee status.

Local folks are largely wanting Bloomfield to stay.  Ben Wiper, Chair of the Chester Chamber of Commerce spoke to Global TV:

“I don’t really think we really should be closing doors on people who have talent, who are willing to bring their own money into the country, they’re willing to start up their own business, take some risks, willing to employ people…. I mean, those are all important things that everybody says they want, and yet this is an example where you’re getting all that and you’re closing the door on it.”

Some in the LGBT community have scoffed at the likelihood that Bloomfield would face difficulty being trans in her native Northern Ireland, with one UK commenter claiming that her application “makes a mockery of people who are genuinely at risk of persecution in their native countries for being LGBT”.  And it’s true that there are trans-aware people there, and uneasy (sporadic?) peace and the Gender Recognition Act of  have come to Northern Ireland.  However, attitudes and phobias persist.  Hate crimes are on the rise, by 23 percent for lesbian and gay people, and anti-trans statistics always trend higher than the LGBT average.  The seperate but not Equality Act of this year establishes trans women not as women, but as a separate gender, protected in appearance, but excluded in a number of ways.  And the strong influence of often homophobic elements in both the Protestant and Catholic churches remains — the latter experiencing a resurgence in the form of edicts from the current Pope specifically railing against transsexuals.  It’s important to remember that trans issues are often more complex than LGBT general issues and need a bit more than protection on paper to address.

It should also be noted as an example of regional attitudes, the neighboring Republic of Ireland felt so strongly opposed to trans people that it waged a 13-year battle to prevent Lydia Foy from being able to change her identification to reflect her gender.  This fight ended only recently, when the government realized it could not win a Supreme Court challenge.  Even now, that government is only hesitantly looking at passing legislation that would affirm all transsexuals.  Gender incongruent identification affects a transsexual’s ability to live, work, travel and obtain services, as well as opening many other opportunities for intolerance and even violence.

Bloomfield has previously experienced violence in her home country, though not trans-related, and was mindful enough of anti-trans prejudices that it wasn’t until she came to Canada that she felt safe enough to begin her transition.

Canadian government agencies have been coming under increasing criticism for policies that specifically target LGBT persons and agencies.  In 2009, a Conservative MP exacerbated this impression when he ran to a far-right news agency to brag that Diane Ablonczy had been reprimanded and “demoted” for issuing a sponsorship grant to Toronto Pride, which it had validly qualified for.  In March, UBC Press published a book entitled The Canadian War on Queers, which documents government agencies’ history of investigating LGBT and social justice groups, sometimes construing rights workers as threats to security.  Many Canadian agencies still have screening polices and procedures that equate social involvement with political activism.

Closed-mindedness to this plight now can only increase this perception, and has made some wonder just how much Bloomfield’s status as an LGBT-identified person played in the decision to not consider her application for a work visa.

For now, though, a Keep Tanya in Canada Facebook page has been set up for people to show their support, and she will need to focus on rounding up the legal fees to be able to present her case.

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