LGBTQ Asylum Seekers Make Policy Recommendations

photo of meeting of LGBTQ asylum seekers

A lot of people think policy is for bureaucrats and academics, or that it’s something that only governments do. But government get their policy ideas from constituents (or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be…).

As an artist and activist, I have lobbied government on many issues, from artists’ basic income to women’s right to choose. While we feminists might not have labeled our demand for free-standing abortion clinics a policy recommendation, that is, in fact what it was. And, in a limited way, (limited because I now think our demands were not inclusive or nuanced enough), we won. Abortion in Canada is legal , with no government restriction,  and is partly funded by the Canada Health Act. 

These days, I ask my graduate students to include policy recommendations in their theses. This does two things: it makes them think about the real world implications of their research, and secondly, their recommendations, built on 2-10 years of scholarly and experiential immersion on their topic, are actually quite good. Some of Meera Govindasamy’s recommendations for social justice podcasting at the conclusion of her 2019 Masters thesis, “Public Legal Education for Newcomers in Ontario”, include 1) Organize in person; 2) Share skills; 3) Pay attention to affect (embodied feeling): “Considering the affective expressions of participants is a means of assessing their comfort levels as the project transforms during the creative process”. (Govindasamy 67). That is useful information for thise doing creative work with vulnerable communities!

Policy recommendations don’t have to be directed only at government.

You might wish to suggest that your local library have a policy of being more welcoming to undocumented migrants. You might propose a book display on the topic, or some online info reminding people that a library card is for everyone, no questions asked (ok well maybe just your address). When undocumented friends of mine finally acquired library cards, it was a very proud day. But it took a year of lobbying.

Making art can loosen things up and get ideas flowing.Below are policy recommendations created by LGBTQ+ refugee claimants during a photography workshop. While these ideas have not yet made it to a government policy table, they were useful data for the folks that work with them at MCC Church, and they helped to formulate priorities for this project’s successive media workshops.

Restore legal aid for refugees.

“There is no more legal aid for people who are coming, so I’m wondering you just run away from your country, you didn’t come with any money, how are you going to pay?


Provide work placements for migrants as they await the results of their hearings.

“…. if they could have kind of a job placement ready, it will also help the economy because I am sure many people do not want to do the 14 dollar stuff.”


“…until you get your work permit its four months, six months and until you get your work permit what are you gonna do. Because for us, we are ready to work because we cannot support ourselves.”


Give preference to female refugees.

I think they should give preference to women, maybe they review the laws and give preference to pregnant women, and especially women with younger babies, and even those coming in as single .. 8:32 women are a bit more organized, they’re a bit more reasonable I think.


Improve & expand the shelter system.

I have to leave at 8am and come back at 8pm … I don’t have a job what will I do in this time … I’m not a child.


Outdoor parties & more dance parties for queer women!