On August 22nd, Leonardo Zuniga held a press conference in the Council Chambers of City Hall, where representatives of community organizations including the Toronto Youth Cabinet, No One Is Illegal, and the Metropolitan Community Church urged Minister of Immigration Diane Finley to grant Leo refugee status in Canada, a decision that could potentially save his life.
Leo came to Canada in September of 2004 in search of a place to live where he would not be persecuted and threatened because of his sexual orientation. He has made his home here in Toronto, a far safer place for folks who identify as LGBTQ than Leo’s native Mexico, which sees approximately 35 reported murders of LGBTQ people a year. In 2006, the Immigration and Refugee Board claimed that Leo’s fears of being unable to live safely and freely as a gay man in Mexico were unfounded, and rejected his application for refugee status.
At the conference, supporters and colleagues spoke about Leo’s indispensable commitment to protecting the rights of refugees, LGBTQ people, and youth in Toronto, efforts demonstrated by his extensive volunteer work with local organizations such as the Among Friends Project, T.E.A.C.H, and the Youth Action Network. The point that should not have had to be emphasized as often as it was is that it’s unacceptable that we, a country committed to upholding human rights, intend to deport one of our human rights activists to a country where he will be constantly afraid for his life.
When asked about what Torontonians can do to help with his campaign, Leo suggested that supporters write a brief, respectful letter to Minister of Immigration Diane Finley asking that he be granted permanent residency on humanitarian and commpasionate grounds. Supporters can also sign his online petition and keep up to date with new developments on his website.
Photo by Torontoist’s Miles Storey.