All Countries Trinidad and Tobago

2021 RLLR 14

Citation: 2021 RLLR 14
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: May 13, 2021
Panel: Kari Schroeder
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Nicolas Thiffault-Chouinard
Country: Trinidad and Tobago
RPD Number: VC1-02510
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2022-00665
ATIP Pages: 000051-000055



Reasons for Decision

[1]     This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claim of XXXX XXXX XXXX, as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, who is claiming refugee protection pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[2]     In rendering a decision today, I have applied the Chairperson’s Guideline on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

[3]     The following is a brief synopsis of the claimant’s allegations.

[4]     The claimant is a XXXX year old transgender male. He received numerous threats and encountered several incidences of discrimination, due to his sexuality, while living in Trinidad and Tobago. The claimant was afraid of going out in public in order to avoid any confrontations or threats. In addition, the claimant could not access hormone therapy treatment and has been unable to change his gender marker, which makes circumstances where identification is necessary, problematic. The claimant also spoke out publicly about trans rights at a pride parade and was shamed and victimized in a subsequent news article. The claimant changed his name in 2017. The claimant left Trinidad and Tobago on XXXX XXXX XXXX 2019, entering Canada as a visitor. He fears returning to Trinidad and Tobago where he cannot live openly as a transgender man.


[5]     I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to section 96 of the Act, for the reasons that follow.

[6]     The claimant’s identity today has been established, on a balance of probabilities, from a certified copy of his passport on file and I find that he has established his identity as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago.

[7]     In terms of credibility, XXXX, you were an entirely credible witness today, despite your concerns about not being understood. I found your testimony to be forthcoming and direct and straightforward. You testified to far more details of your story than what was contained in your Basis of Claim form and you shared that you had filled the form out yourself and have only recently retained counsel.

[8]     So, I don’t draw a negative inference from anything that you left out of your Basis of Claim, as I do not find that these were omissions that in any way detracted from your credibility. Rather, you provided me with spontaneous details about your story without (inaudible) any prompting from me.

[9]     For example, you told me about the experience you had on your tenth (10) birthday where you looked in the mirror and realized that you just did not feel right.

[10]   You testified about coming out to your friends, some of whom were not surprised and your family, who you described as not the worst but at the same time, that they spent a great deal of time making you feel guilty for who you are and trying to convince you to change. You testified about attending the first public pride event in Trinidad and Tobago in 2018 and how you spontaneously decided to stand up and speak publicly about trans rights specifically. And then a newspaper reporter interviewed you and then published an article in which you were referred to incorrectly as a transwoman.

[11]   After this article was published and went live, you went online and realized that there were several hateful comments posted about you, many of which advocated for violence against you.

[12]   Your counsel initially asked for a postponement today to provide additional documents, which I decided ultimately was unnecessary, as I had sufficient evidence before me to accept your claim.

[13]   I have a copy of your birth certificate showing that you were born female with the name XXXX XXXX and I have a copy of your legal name changed documents, which were completed in 2017, when you turned XXXX. I also have a copy of a report from a XXXX in Canada, confirming that you suffer from various XXXX health issues, as well as XXXX XXXX and that letter indicated that you would be beginning hormone replacement therapy and that was in 2019. And so today, you testified that you’ve now been on testosterone for two (2) years and will be undergoing a XXXX soon.

[14]   And so, based on the documents that I have and your credible testimony today, I accept your allegations. I believe that you are a transgender male and that you’re telling the truth about everything that has happened to you.

[15]   And so, I must assess whether your allegations forma well-founded fear of persecution and in this case, I find that there is a Nexus to the Convention ground of membership in a particular social group, namely a sexual orientation.

[16]   I accept that you have established a subjective fear of returning to Trinidad and Tobago, where you feel that you would not be able to live openly and safely as a gay trans man.

[17]   You testified that you fear for your mental health, if you had to return and essentially, 1ive in hiding out of fear. You testified to feeling suicidal on many occasions and that conversely in Canada, you feel more accepted and that it feels like home.

[18]   I have reviewed the objective evidence and I find that it does support your allegations and I’ll just go through a few of those documents.

[19]   And so, according to document 2.5 of the National Documentation Package, this is a document called Human Rights in the Americas, it states that a landmark judgement from a high court in 2018, decriminalized sexual activity between consenting adults of the same-sex. However, the government appealed the judgement, saying that it intends to have its voice heard by the country’s highest appellate court, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the UK. To date, there remains no legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In the NGO coalition advocating for inclusion of sexual orientation, Trinidad and Tobago received reports of incidents of discrimination and violence directed towards LGBTI people and this is also confirmed in the U.S. Department of State report, document 2.1, which confirms that as of November, the government’s appeal of the court ruling was still pending.

[20]   I’ve also reviewed the most recent Freedom House report at document 2.3, which states that discrimination against LGBTI people is widespread, affecting their ability to fully engage in political and electoral processes. Human rights groups have criticized the government’s unwillingness to address discrimination and violence against the LGBTI community.

[21] I’ve also reviewed a Response to Information report that was prepared by the Board. It states that gay pride has technically been celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago for almost 20 years. However, these celebrations were neither outdoors nor public until very recently. According to the same source, there are numerous gay events within Carnival masquerade, but they are not publicly advertised. The report further states that sexual minorities faced discrimination in employment, education and housing. The report outlines cases of homophobic discrimination of youths within the education system, including youths being subjected to name calling and verbal abuse by schoolmates, teacher-led bullying, physical assaults and in some cases, suggested reparative therapy by school officials and basically a daily pattern of harassment. Sources indicate that the country’s Constitution Reform Commission acknowledged that there is a high level of violence and abuse against LGBTI people and that they have faced bullying, physical assaults, verbal assaults and abuse in their homes and schools and by the general public.

[22]   And so, after reviewing the evidence, I find that while the court’s ruling was clearly a step forward for the LGBTI community in Trinidad and Tobago, the pending appeal by the government, not only indicates that the ruling may not have any impact in practice, it also raises doubts as to the durability and overall effectiveness of this change in law.

[23]   In this case, the claimant cannot live openly as a transgender male without risk of discrimination with threats of violence.

[24]   Hormone replacement therapy is not available, and you cannot change your gender marker on your passport or other identification, which essentially forces you to identify as a female incorrectly.

[25]   And so, I find that the accumulative incidents of discrimination, coupled with the threats to your life and the inability to live openly, do amount to persecution.

[26]   Based on the totality of the evidence, I find that you would face a serious possibility of persecution in Trinidad and Tobago, due to your sexual orientation.

[27]   I have reviewed whether there would be any state protection available to you and I find that it would not be forthcoming.

[28]   For example, Amnesty International reports on the failure of the government to confront the issues of violence against LGBTI people. It refers to the failure to produce anywhere recommendations on achieving equality or preventing discrimination, despite acknowledging the high level of violence and abuse against LGBTI people in the country.

[29]   The Equal Opportunity Act protects against discrimination in areas of education and employment, but this does not extend protection to sexual minorities.

[30]   Many sources report that sexual minorities who have been victims of violence are hesitant to report incidents to police, out of fear of negative response by police and court officials.

[31]   I also note Chairperson’s Guideline 9, which indicates that the decriminalization of same-sex relations or sexual or gender non-conforming behaviours or the introduction to a new law, programmer (ph) of the government, which is designed to improve a situation, individuals with diverse sexual orientation need to be carefully assessed in order to determine whether state protection is adequate at the operational level, as a result of these new laws.

[32]   And so, as a decision maker, I need to examine the degree of the actual implementation of this law, its effectiveness and its credibility, in light of how state actors and general society continues to treat LGBTI individuals.

[33]   I find in this case there is insufficient evidence that the recent material change in the law translates into adequate state protection of LGBTI individuals, given the substantial evidence of police corruption and the unwillingness of authorities to address the protection needs of this community and this is particularly the case, given the government’s own appeal of the court ruling.

[34]   And so, I find that in this case, the claimant has rebutted the presumption of state protection.

[35]   Finally, I find there is no internal flight alternative available, given the serious possibility of persecution throughout Trinidad and Tobago for LGBTI persons.

[36]   And so, in conclusion, I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to section 96 of the Act, and the Immigration and Refugee Board therefore accepts his claim.