Rainbow Railroad

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Rainbow Railroad
Rainbow Railroad logo.jpeg
Canada 827142530RR0001
United States 47-4896980
Legal statusCharitable organization
  • Toronto, Ontario
Executive Director
Kimahli Powell

Rainbow Railroad is a Canadian charitable organization that helps lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals escape violence and persecution in their home countries. In the past, they have helped individuals from the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East relocate to safer countries in Europe and North America.[1] The organization was formed in 2006, with its name and concept inspired by the Underground Railroad that was used by African-American slaves to escape into free states.[2] Since 2006, the Rainbow Railroad has helped over 300 LGBTQ+ people all around the world. It received charitable status from the Canada Revenue Agency in 2013,[3] and also maintains a 501(c)(3) charity organization based in New York City to issue tax receipts to American donors.[4]

After the revelations about the anti-gay purges and concentration camps in Chechnya, Rainbow Railroad began to mobilize emergency efforts to help LGBT people get out of the region in collaboration with the Russian LGBT Network.[5][6][7] Rainbow Railroad’s main goal is to help those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. Their mission is to save those who can’t be themselves openly in their country and bring them to a new country where they can be who they truly are. Rainbow Railroad believes that governments around the globe should enact and enforce laws and policies that protect LGBTQ+ individuals and enable them to live in freedom and safety in their own country. However, until that day arrives, the organization is focused on providing solutions for LGBTQ+ people who need immediate assistance because they are facing a serious threat to their lives and safety.[8]


Rainbow Railroad received the 2018 Bonham Centre Award from the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto for its work helping LGBT refugees.[9]

In 2020, Time magazine published a feature on Rainbow Railroad's work in Chechnya.[10] In the same year, their work was highlighted in an episode of Canada's Drag Race, in an episode where five gay men who had moved to Canada through the organization were given drag makeovers as the main challenge for the week.[11]


  1. ^ "Project Page". Rainbow Railroad. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  2. ^ Manglone, Kendra (18 June 2015). "'Rainbow Railroad': Toronto charity helping LGBT people escape violence". Toronto: CTV. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  3. ^ Taylor, Jillian (2 December 2016). "Syrian man arrives in Canada thanks to the Rainbow Railroad". CBC. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  4. ^ "American Friends of Rainbow Railroad Inc". Exempt Organizations Select Check. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  5. ^ Lamont, Will (18 April 2017). "Rainbow Railroad Announces Emergency Response Plan for LGBTQ People at Risk in Chechnya - urgently requests Canadian Government assistance". CNW Group Ltd. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  6. ^ Avery, Dan (20 April 2017). "An LGBT "Underground Railroad" Is Working To Evacuate Gay Men From Chechnya". NewNowNext. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  7. ^ "Canada Secretly Sneaks LGBT Russians Out Of Chechnya". All Things Considered. NPR. 8 September 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Rainbow Railroad - Home". www.rainbowrailroad.org. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  9. ^ "Bonham Centre Awards Gala 2018". Archived from the original on 1 April 2018.
  10. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (26 July 2019). "Victim of Chechnya's Anti-Gay Purge Speaks Out: 'The Truth Exists'". Time. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  11. ^ Daniel Reynolds, "Canada's Drag Race Makes Over LGBTQ+ Refugees in Unforgettable Episode". The Advocate, August 21, 2020.

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