LGBTQIA+1 international students also require a nuanced approach to support their transition to and success in Canada. Some international students may be navigating a space where they can fully explore their sexuality or gender identity for the first time. Students who may have initially expected to return to their home countries may find that decision complicated by local politics and social realities as they explore their sexual identity in Canada. These complexities can have a marked impact on a student’s overall mental health and wellbeing.

One of the ways that staff and faculty can support these international students is to implement a culture of student-directed care. This approach allows the student to articulate their needs and work collaboratively with staff to form a support plan that is reflective of those needs. LGBTQIA+ identities can be very complex for international students who may have to balance validating their identity within the complexity of their cultural contexts. It is imperative that post-secondary institutions develop external partnerships with LGBTQIA+ organizations in their communities that can provide the cultural safety and understanding necessary. By developing meaningful partnerships, and referral pathways with these external organizations, post-secondary institutions will be equipped to provide warm referrals to students in need, while also ensuring that any gaps in service can be addressed through these culturally responsive community resources. It is also imperative that staff and faculty are reflective of the diversity in their student populations. By doing so, post-secondary institutions can ensure that their staff have a wider perspective and will be able to support students in a variety of situations. These students may be navigating complex issues, including applying for Permanent Residency status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, managing relationships back home as well as finding community in Canada for themselves. Having staff who have similar experience, or some knowledge of these processes can help to build trust and increase student confidence.

For more information on supporting LGBTQIA+ students, please see our Invisible Intersections toolkit here.

  • Western University has initiated Learning Communities within their student residences. Students have the option of living with others who share similar values, lifestyles and/or faculty. As part of this initiative, students can select to reside on the “LGBTQ + Ally floor.” By providing this space, Western University supports advocates for LGBTTQQ rights, students questioning their identities, and those striving for an environment where all residents feel celebrated and empowered (UWO, 2022).
  • Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention’s (ASAAP) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Module is an online, asynchronous training that provides an overview of gender, sexuality, affirming care and allyship from a South Asian cultural perspective. This training aims to provide a holistic view of how to support LGBTQ+ South Asian students.
  1. Implement student-directed care – Adopt an approach where LGBTQIA+ international students are actively involved in articulating their needs and collaborating with staff to create personalized support plans.
  2. Establish partnerships with LGBTQIA+ organizations – Post-secondary institutions should develop meaningful partnerships and referral pathways with external LGBTQIA+ organizations in their communities. These partnerships can ensure cultural safety and understanding for LGBTQIA+ international students, providing them with additional resources and support beyond what the institution alone can offer.
  3. Promote diversity among staff and faculty – It is important for post-secondary institutions to have staff and faculty members who reflect the diversity of their student populations. This diversity can bring a wider perspective and understanding of the unique challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ international students.
  4. Address mental health and well-being – Recognize the impact of the complexities faced by LGBTQIA+ international students on their mental health and well-being.
    • Example: Offer comprehensive mental health services that are inclusive and responsive to the specific needs of these students. Provide resources for counselling, support groups, and other relevant services to ensure their holistic well-being.
  5. Foster inclusive and welcoming communities – Create an inclusive and welcoming environment within the campus and local communities.
    • Example: Encourage cultural integration, organize awareness events, and promote cross-cultural understanding to help LGBTQIA+ international students find a sense of belonging and create supportive social networks.
  6. Be aware of legal challenges and resources – Recognize that for some students, returning home may pose legal and safety challenges due to their sexuality. It is important for staff to be aware of what those challenges might be, and to be able to refer those students to the appropriate resources.
Guide: PDF Version