Are you gay? Prove it.

Convincing an immigration officer of one’s sexuality may be a challenge for would-be refugee claimants.

by Emma Teitel

News broke yesterday about a Nigerian refugee claimant named Francis Ojo Ogunrinde, who happens to be gay. Or so he claims.

Last summer a senior Canadian immigration officer rejected the 40-year-old Nigerian’s refugee application, acknowledging that even though conditions for LGBT people are not “favourable” in Nigeria (where being gay is illegal and in 12 states punishable by death) she simply wasn’t “convinced” he was a homosexual. It turns out Ogunrinde’s letters from and photos of his alleged boyfriend weren’t steamy or provocative enough to activate the immigration officer’s gaydar.  And being from Nigeria and all, he probably didn’t know a single lyric from Rent. Case closed.

Or maybe not.

Last month, a federal judge named James Russell ordered that the officer reopen the case and give Ogunrinde’s allegedly dubious sexuality closer consideration. According to Postmedia News, the judge ruled that the officer “erred by failing to consider the ‘complete picture before her,’ and ordered that Ogunrinde’s claim get a second look in a case that raises questions about the extent to which immigration officers should be probing the bedroom activities of claimants.” Makes sense to me.

If only he had stopped there.

“At the same time,” Russell wrote, “the acts and behaviours which establish a claimant’s homosexuality are inherently private.” “When evaluating claims based on sexual orientation, officers must be mindful of the inherent difficulties in proving that a claimant has engaged in any particular sexual activities.”

The problem here isn’t a lack of mindfulness in proving someone’s sexuality: it’s in the belief that a person’s sexuality is something you need to prove in the first place. Yes, of course gay people have gay sex, but having gay sex—or any sex at all—is not a prerequisite to gayness (unless of course Judge Russell doesn’t believe in gay virgins, or virgins of any kind). And it isn’t necessarily proof either.

What is? Two words: “I’m gay.”

Not “I’m gay and last night I watched Glee and sodomized somebody. Here’s a photograph.” Just  “I’m gay.”

Straight people do not, and should not, have to prove they are straight. Neither should homosexuals.

But what if saying “I’m gay” isn’t good enough? What if our borders are suddenly flooded with self-proclaimed homosexual refugees from homophobic countries? Well then hopefully like Ogunrinde, those claimants will have photographs of and letters from their respective same sex partners or testimonies of friends and gay organizations confirming their sexuality. That, you’d think, would be enough.

Unfortunately–at least in Ogunrinde’s case–it wasn’t. Why? Because a sizable portion of our society still believes that a person’s sexuality can be “established” (to use Judge Russell’s words) not by his identity or his relationships, but by the “particular sexual activities” in which he engages.

In the end, I’m not suggesting our immigration officers blindly approve refugee applications, and throw all investigation to the wind. But it would be nice if their reservations about letting people cross our borders were just as strong when it came to peering into their  bedrooms.




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Are you gay? Prove it.

  1. Complete Red Herring.
    The actual test is whether he is being persecuted or likely to be persecuted. He doesn’t need to demonstrate he is gay, he needs to demonstrate that he has faced discrimination and persecution related to being gay or otherwise. He should be able to provide anecdotes about situations and events to cooroborate his refugee status, the same as he would if he arrived saying he feared being tortured in a country known to use torture.

    • Thank you Toby, you’ve nailed the issue.

    • Yah, but that would take a good story away from various media yappers looking to prove their progressive credentials by covering an “injustice”.

      • Is the idea people actually caring about other people so foreign to you that you have to make up bizarre ulterior motives?

        • I’ve seen the media blow enough things out of proportion (the gay divorce issue a few months ago for one) that I no longer pay attention. The idea of caring about others is not foreign to me. Caring about what the media decides to make a fuss over is.

    • Deleted.

    • What do we do about someone who is gay, and has carefully maintained a straight pubic image, to the point where they have never faced persecution or even discrimination? I can imagine such a person living in constant fear in many jurisdictions and I would certainly consider them eligible for refugee status. I assume Emma would as well.

      That said, if the only evidence the person is gay is inside their head, it is an awfully tough case to prove or disprove and as a result ripe for abuse.

    • Agree with Toby, and question whether the author read the decision or just an article about the decision.
      The test is whether the person can establish persecution under s. 96 of the IRPA or risk of harm under s. 97.

      Justice Russell acknowledges the inherent evidentiary challenges an assessment officer faces when claims are based on sexual orientation, but in the end directs the refugee protection division to look at the complete picture rather than viewing each piece of evidence in isolation. In the section quoted in the article, he’s actually noting that while it’s challenging for an assesment officer to determine if a claimant has actually had gay partners, the inability to do so shouldn’t be determinative in and of itself because it is both personal and difficult to prove. He also, at one point, notes that the assessment officer was ‘willfully blind’ in finding that an affidavit stating that the claimant was being pursued by nigerian police due to his alleged gayness wasn’t credible because it wasn’t supported by any kind of formal warrant.

      None of the evidence Justice Russell considers sufficient to show the ‘big picture’ requires in any way that the claimant prove he’s had gay sex – it’s all based on what others think (the nigerian police and his former roomate believe he’s gay and he’s been active in the Toronto gay community) and whether, as a whole, this establishes that he’s at risk in Nigeria.

      Full decision: http://www.canlii.org/eliisa/highlight.do?text=Ogunrinde&language=en&searchTitle=Search+all+CanLII+Databases&path=/en/ca/fct/doc/2012/2012fc760/2012fc760.html

      • Excellent post!

    • Isn’t “If they find out I’m gay they’ll execute me” persecution on it’s face, even if he’s carefully hidden his sexuality from authorities and therefore has never been explicitly on death row, or formally charge with that “crime”?

      It seems to me that the logical extension of your argument is “If your government persecutes homosexuals by executing them, and you’re still alive, then clearly you haven’t been persecuted yet. Come back and see us after your execution.”

      In the torture analogy, we take in people who are at RISK of being tortured, don’t we? Surely we don’t insist that you have to wait until after you’re tortured to claim refugee status.

      • The flip side, though, is that if he’s not really gay and is just making a claim to remain in Canada, he’s abusing the system. We kick people out for making false claims.

        This is by no means a cut-and-dried situation. If he’s gay he deserves to stay. If he’s lying because he otherwise doesn’t qualify for refugee status then he deserves to get booted. But how one determines which is the truth… well, that’s where the problem lies.

        I get what Teitel is saying, but taking “I’m gay” as prima facie proof means we have to take all kinds of bald statements as proof of status. We may as well do away with hearings altogether, if that’s the level of proof required.

        • Fair enough, but I’m still not sure that the bar for “proof” should be much higher than admitting that you’re gay despite the fact that if your claim is denied you could be executed for it back home, being active in the Toronto gay community, and presenting photos of you and your boyfriend together. It seems to me that it’s possible that the immigration official in question might not have been satisfied by anything less than seeing the man perform a sex act on another man right in front of her. And even if he had, does that even “prove” that he’s gay???

  2. …having gay sex—or any sex at all—is not a prerequisite to gayness…

    It’s not a prerequisite. It’s corroborating evidence

    • No, it’s just sex.

  3. This will become an even hairier issue with the situation in Nigeria and the warfare there. However, one does have to watch out for those using “gayness” as an excuse to plant a terror cell in Canada. This could easily become a claim of convenience, going forward.

    • Yes, there are three gay terrorists under your bed RIGHT NOW!!

      • Those are just party guests.

  4. I’ve been shoulder deep in more than a few carpets and I’m not queer…

    • You are just full of suprises arent you.

  5. Africa for the Africans, Asia for the Asians, White Countries for Everyone

    DIVERSITY is just a codeword for anti-white. More diverse = less
    white. How much more offensive can you get??? Diversity means Genocide.
    Anti-racist is just a codeword for anti-white.

    Every white country on earth is supposed to become multicultural and
    multiracial. EVERY white country is expected to end its own race and end
    its own culture. No one asks that of ANY non-white country.

    This is genocide.

    If mere discrimination is cause for affirmative action, genocide is far
    more so. Which means that the program of doing away with all white
    people to the point where Europe and North America are to be majority
    non-white in this century requires a lot more than merely changing this
    policy. It calls for affirmative action at a far higher level to make up
    for this criminal behavior.

    • You, sir, are insane.

      The drama-queen hysteria of your particular brand of North American/European is insufferable. Don’t you guys have *ANY* self-awareness or knowledge of history? If you did, you’d feel like an idiot for comparing the relative easy (on average) of the life of average white person here compared to pretty much ANY other living situation. But the slightest interruption of what you think you’re entitled to and it’s right to histrionics – GENOCIDE!!!! REVERSE RACISM!!! NAZIS!!!!!

      Get a life and some self-reflective capacity. I know the initial sting of realizing what a fool you’ve made of yourself will hurt a bit, but it’s better than continuing to do it for the rest of your life. Oh, and while you’re at it, you might want to stop blaming everyone else for your problems; it’s a real loser life-strategy.

    • Not sure this really warrants an answer, but here goes (and bear in mind this is a middle-aged white male responding):

      Yes, we white folks, primarily, founded the modern nation of Canada – after we took it from the aboriginals who were here before us.

      We built a strong nation. But we borrowed heavily to do so, and set up a financial house of cards that depends on an ever-growing economy – and an ever-increasing population – to pay for it.

      Then we discovered that the toys we loved cost a lot, so we had to choose between toys or big families. And our birth rate plummeted.

      So we have an economic model that depends on an expanding workforce to keep it from collapsing, on the one hand, and a waning birth rate on the other. Setting aside all concerns about race or religion, do you want to bring people to Canada to keep our current model of society, with all its wealth, afloat? Or do you want to keep Canada white and live with the economic consequences?

      Because, unless you can convince the white people already here to start breeding like rabbits, those are about your only two options. Bye-bye pensions, retirement and health care.

      I suggest you get to know and appreciate your non-white neighbours. There’s a lot more to them than the colour of their skin. Open your eyes; open yourself to the world around you.

  6. Emma Teitel: Another gay abusing its employment to dish out crap on us
    and our country. We have to weed out these organized Gay terrorists from
    with in our governments, judicial system, media from where they are
    literally working together as a hidden network to undermine our
    societies to fit their agenda.

    Here is one proof from a former City of Toronto Politician about this
    hidden dark agenda & the hidden terrorist network behind it:

    “In many ways Toronto is a diversity leader. We can all point to queer
    movers and shakers in many parts of the culture, including the media,
    the arts and the civic organizations that help make this a fantastic
    place to live. In government, we’re blessed with gay provincial cabinet
    ministers and city councillors as well as members of federal Parliament.

    Diversity, though, is still a work in progress. We have a long way to go
    before all queer people can feel perfectly safe and at home wherever
    their lives take them.”

    Since we started to here the words “diversity” & multiculturalism
    and policies & media propaganda to push those agendas on to our
    country dividing it, we always wondered what or who was behind it and
    why it was being done.

    AND IT WAS JUST GAYS TEAMING UP ON THE INNOCENT PUBLIC TO MANIPULATE & CONTROL THEM.

    This country is not only for Gays. And this country is not about Gays.
    And we all should speak out and expose them and their ridiculous &
    treacherous acts against the society and its members.

    • Wow, I didn’t expect this article to bring out the crazies like this. This is totally incoherent. Get a life and learn to proofread, at least a bit, to make sure that what you’ve written makes a shred of sense.

  7. i’m shocked with how many abuses to our immigration/refugee system are plauging Canada. I could care less who is or isnt gay. I think its a pathetic excuse to claim that you need to immigrate to Canada for it. Has this person been accused for this “crime” in his home country that he needs to flee? has he been singled out? are there no other countries in the world that take people in?

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