After Ali Kaviri fled his home city of Kampala, Uganda two months ago, he entered a city that celebrated what, in Uganda, was considered a crime.
“If I go back home right now I can be imprisoned for the rest of my life just for who I am,” he told CTV National News as he walked through Toronto’s Village during Pride Month.
Laws in Uganda allow anyone who is an ally of the LGBTQ2S+ community to be prosecuted, with legislation defining some gay, lesbian or trans acts as crimes that warrant prison sentences usually reserved for murder. Kaviri, who recently applied for Canadian refugee status, has found relief in celebrating freedoms he was previously accustomed to hiding.
“People are happy and happiness here is validated. … I don’t have the words to express what it means to be in this space,” he said.
As Pride festivities kick off across the world, many refugees like Kaviri are celebrating the LGBTQ2S+ community for the first time.
Christopher Nkambwe, a transgender woman, fled Uganda in 2019. She says coming to Canada saved her life.
“Back home I didn’t identify as trans, but when I came here I landed in a safe haven for me to identify as who I am,” she told CTV National News.
Nkambwe, who is now the director of an African refugee centre, was in attendance at the 2016 Uganda Pride Parade, which was broken-up by police. Her story from Ella echoes the experience of countless refugees coming from countries that deny the human rights of LGBTQ2S+ community members.
For Kaviri, his first Pride marks a journey of finding acceptance and experiencing for the first time that love is love.
“For me it’s actually given me a second chance at life trying to be who I am — being free — and being able to express myself, to find a new journey in my life.”