10,000 Requests a Year: Supporting Safety for 2SLGBTQIA+ with Rainbow Railroad

On June 28th, 1969, New York City, police raided The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Employees and patrons were roughly dragged from the bar by police. The raid ignited a riot amongst the patrons and residents. This led to six days of protests and violent interactions with police and was the inciting event of the gay rights movement.

One year later, thousands of people gathered to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising. Citizens in New York, Chicago and LA marched for equal rights. These events are what inspired the Pride Parades that we have today. Pride in North America is a celebration of the progress we have made, and we should celebrate but we should also remember the history.

“Pride began as a protest and is still a protest for many people around the world today,” shares Brittany Skerritt, Senior Development Officer of Community Giving at Rainbow Railroad.

For Pride Season, Skate Canada has partnered with Rainbow Railroad in support of their global initiatives to protect and assist queer people who are facing state enabled violence and persecution.  While we are safe from that type of threat here in Canada, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals are still living in fear of the death penalty in 12 countries across the globe. Crackdowns and law changes specifically targeted at queer people continue in countries like Afghanistan and Uganda. This creates a bigger demand for safety and support, just the type of work that Rainbow Railroad is known for.

In 2006, the organization was founded by a group of volunteers who started privately sponsoring queer refugees to come into the country one individual at a time. They operated like this until 2013 when Rainbow Railroad became a registered charity in Canada and then a few years later in the United States. Their main mandate is emergency travel support. Since their inception, they have helped almost 10,000 2SLGBTQIA+ people find safety through relocation, crisis response and financial assistance. It’s a big job and it’s intricate, working with governments and on the ground organizations to assist as many people as possible, and more people need help than you might think.

On RainbowRailroad.org they have a live counter that indicates the number of people who have requested assistance to date this year. As of June 8, 2023, the organization has received 4,106 requests and are expecting to receive 10,000 or more by the end of 2023. Sometimes help requests are not always from where you think they might be either.

“In 2022 the United States was in the list of our top-ten countries,” noted Brittany.

Demonstrating that the western world still has work to do to safeguard the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

Rainbow Railroad works with different government agencies around, in Canada, the United States, Europe and a few more, to bring these individuals to safety. However, sometimes there is not a safe pathway out and, in that case, their organization will provide shelters in nearby countries, financial support or help relocate people to a safer region within their current country.

Brittany explains, “that it’s kind of similar to someone who is living in the countryside and then relocating to a larger metropolitan like Toronto where it might be a little safer.”

They need to have alternative methods.

“When it comes to the refugee process, most people have to be outside of their country first, before they can relocate to a new country,” Brittany explains. “And it can also be incredibly dangerous.”

In a lot of these countries being visibly queer can prevent you from taking public transit and airlines limit the number of individuals who can leave the country because they can be penalized if too many people board their flight who might be claiming refugee status.

The difference they are making is significant. In the next few months in cooperation with the Canadian Government they will be moving 600 Afghan refugees to safety. This is one of the biggest efforts the organization has accomplished to date.

It is eye opening to hear about the situation for 2SLGBTQIA+ people globally. It is easy to limit our view to the country we live in. In Canada we have the privilege of same-sex marriage and other equality laws that help protect queer people. Ten thousand requests a year is a lot and Rainbow Railroad is aiming to support 4,100 refugees this year a tall order for this once volunteer run initiative.

To support the pivotal work being done, Skate Canada has produced a line of all-gender Pride merchandise to show our support and donate funds to this important effort. The merchandise will be on sale on summer and all of Skate Canada’s proceeds will be donated directly. Pride apparel can purchased through the Skate Canada Shop. . Make sure to pick up your unique piece and show your love of skating loud and proud while also supporting queer individuals globally who are in desperate need of help.

In closing, Brittany reminded us kindly, “that support is needed all year long, not just during Pride Season.”

If you are looking for ways to help, please visit RainbowRailroad.org for information on donating, sponsoring refugees and other ways to lend your support.

This Pride Season let’s remember to celebrate what we are so grateful to have achieved here in Canada but let’s also take a moment to reflect the protests and oppression that continues abroad.


You can follow Rainbow Railroad and their efforts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
Or visit their website RainbowRailroad.org for more information and to stay up to date on recent events.

Purchase your official Skate Canada Pride merchandise here.


(2022, May 31). 1969 Stonewall Riots. History.com. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from https://www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/the-stonewall-riots

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