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This article was published 21/8/2017 (1010 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For two weeks during Folklorama, they collected more than 5,200 signatures from Canadians supporting the LGBTQ* asylum-seekers' petition.
The eight men outside the pavilions who donned pink T-shirts that said "Ghana Pavilion" on the front and "LGBTQ rights now!" on the back were embraced by thousands of fans of multiculturalism but, closer to home, they raised some hackles.
Some members of the Ghanaian community involved in Folklorama's African pavilion told the refugee claimants from Ghana that using the annual Winnipeg event to circulate their petition was "unfortunate".
"Since most of you came to Winnipeg, we as a community have done the best we can to support you," a member of the executive of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba said in a message to "Ghana Pavilion" organizer Sulemana Abdulai, who passed it along to the Free Press.
"It is unfortunate that some of you decided to embark on this campaign without telling us and making us aware of your plans. I did not expect that you would undertake a campaign that will affect an event that we are organizing," the message said. "There is nothing wrong with the campaign... The Africa pavilion and for that matter Folklorama in general is not a political event. It is an event for us to showcase our culture, food, and drinks. There has been so many events happening in the city this summer and I'm not sure why you picked Folklorama."
No one from the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba was available to comment Monday.
"They don't feel what I am feeling," said Abdulai.
Expressing disappointment in the LGBTQ* petition is part of the "'there is nothing wrong in Ghana' mentality from back home," he said. "(It) is the reason our rights are held back and our voices silenced in Ghana and by certain members of the Ghanaian-Canadian community here in Manitoba."
The media attention the group received in Canada has amplified their voices back in Ghana -- the country they say they fled because of persecution for their sexual orientation.
News of their petition urging Ghana to decriminalize homosexuality spread to online news sites in Ghana such as Yen.com.gh, where it has been viewed nearly 29,000 times. Virtually all of the 579 comments posted as of Monday afternoon were negative. Commenters said the gay and bisexual Ghanaian men in Canada are "animals" who should be ashamed, shut up, burn in hell or die. Some posted outright death threats.
"I don't care," said Saalu Osman, who wants the world to know the discrimination he faced in Ghana. He is one of eight LGBTQ* refugee claimants in Winnipeg who walked across the border into Canada from the United States earlier this year.
Osman said he fled Ghana after he was stabbed leaving a nightclub with his boyfriend.
"I have relatives who've called telling what they're seeing on the internet and looking at it is so scary," Osman said. "Now my face is known all over. But I do this intentionally for me and others like me who are facing torture and everything back home."
Abdulai said they're preparing to send copies of the petition next week to the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, Winnipeg MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette and Ghana's high commissioner to Canada, Sulley Gariba, in Ottawa. The petition asks Canada to use its diplomatic clout in urging Ghana to respect the rights of its LGBTQ* people.
The men in pink took a calculated risk in going public, knowing they could be identified back in Ghana, Abdulai said.
If one of their refugee claims in Canada is rejected and they're removed to Ghana, they're doomed, he said. "You are dead."
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
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