Court overturns decision to deport gay Caribbean asylum seeker

Rolston Ryan’s case will return to Refugee Appeal Division

Rolston Ryan, a gay asylum seeker from St Kitts and Nevis, will get to stay in Toronto at least a little bit longer.

The Federal Court has overturned a decision from the Refugee Appeal Division that found Ryan was not refugee. Ryan’s case will go back to the RAD, the third time he will make his case to that tribunal.

Sex between men is illegal in St Kitts and Nevis and can result in up to 10 years in prison. The RAD had concluded that the law is “rarely enforced,” and therefore that there was no evidence that Ryan couldn’t go to the police for protection.

But Judge Anne Marie McDonald found that the RAD had no basis upon which to make the assumption that the law isn’t enforced.

“The RAD referenced the National Documentation Package for St Kitts,” she wrote. “There is however no statement in the National Documentation Package that such laws are rarely enforced.”

Instead, McDonald argued that the panel came to this conclusion based on evidence that laws criminalizing same-sex contact are rarely enforced in Antigua and Barbuda. While Antigua and Barbuda is only about 100 kilometres from St Kitts and Nevis, they are two entirely different countries with different legal systems and police forces.

“There was no evidentiary basis for finding that there was “relaxed enforcement” of St Kitts’ law against sex between men,” wrote McDonald.

Unlike many queer asylum seekers, Ryan’s sexual orientation has never been in question. Instead, immigration officials have contended that there is no evidence that St Kitts and Nevis is unable to protect its LGBT citizens. In refugee law, it’s up to the asylum seeker to prove that the state is unable or unwilling to provide them with protection.

Ryan says he was stabbed and beaten multiple times in St Kitts and Nevis for his sexual orientation. He went to the police, but Ryan says they did not follow through on any investigation.

Daily Xtra has spoken to three people who say they reported homophobic violence in St Kitts and Nevis. But the government denies any reports of anti-LGBT violence in the country.

Since coming to Toronto, Ryan has found employment and built a life that includes Joel Dick and Dara Douma, who consider him to be part of their family.


Keep Reading

Job discrimination against trans and non-binary people is alive and well

OPINION: A study reveals that we have a long way to go to reach workplace equality for trans and non-binary people

The new generation of gay Conservative sellouts

OPINION: Melissa Lantsman’s and Eric Duncan’s refusals to call out their party’s transphobia is a betrayal of the LGBTQ2S+ community

Over 300 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills have been introduced this year. This doesn’t mean we should panic

OPINION: While it’s important to watch out for threats, not all threats are created equally. Some of these bills will die a natural death

Xtra’s top LGBTQ2S+ stories of the year

The best and brightest—even most bewildering—stories from a back catalogue brimming with insight