When Nicole LaViolette passed away in 2015, she was widely acknowledged by many human rights advocates, scholars, and professionals in the field of refugee research as both a leader and a significant pioneer in the field of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) human rights. Both her scholarly work and the key role she played influenced decision-making bodies as they developed guidelines for LGBTQ refugees. As a young scholar, she remembers thinking it unbelievable that gay, lesbian, and trans individuals were not, at that time, considered to be refugees. During her career and lifetime, and along with other scholars and activists, she was able to contribute to guidelines on how to recognize sexual orientation and gender identity expression in refugee claims both internationally and in her home country of Canada.
Neil Grungras is the founder and executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration (ORAM), an international organization focusing on refugees fleeing persecution due to sexual orientation and gender identity. He states: ''To my knowledge, there is not a single legal theorist or practitioner in our field who does not revere Nicole's works.''1 Grungras first met LaViolette after she had just published her ''Critical Commentary on the UNHCR's Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: A Critical Commentary.''2 Her article set out the only learned criticism of a United Nations (UN) policy paper that was to guide the way refugee professionals worldwide were to understand and render protection to LGBTQ people. She brazenly called out the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on several ways the organization had misunderstood and mischaracterized the protection needs of LGBTQ refugees. Based largely on her analysis and call for action, the UNHCR reformulated and revised its approach in follow-up guidelines. Heeding LaViolette's advice, the UNHCR established a review committee for the new guidelines. The resulting guidelines are now the single most commonly read reference piece worldwide on handling LGBTQ refugee cases. They are applied at over sixty UNHCR field operations and are influential at government asylum offices around the world.
LaViolette's many other influential works include her 2007 piece ''Gender-Related Refugee Claims: Expanding the Scope of the Canadian Guidelines,'' where [End Page i] she defined a new way to formulate gender-related persecution claims in Canada;3 her article ''Independent Human Rights Documentation and Sexual Minorities,'' where she defined key evidentiary gaps affecting LGBTQ asylum applicants;4 and ''No Safe Haven: Sexuality as a Universal Human Right and Lesbian and Gay Activism in International Politics,'' where she charted a path to render abuses against LGBTQ persons visible in traditional human rights instruments.5
According to Grungras, LaViolette was essential to ORAM in the development and delivery of training for the UNHCR and other refugee professionals around the world, including the first-ever LGBTQ refugee trainings in the Arab world in Rabat, Morocco, and Amman, Jordan. ORAM subsequently dedicated two educational films on LGBTQ refugees, ''No Place for Me'' and ''As I Am,'' to Nicole LaViolette in memory of her enormous contributions and will also dedicate an upcoming work aimed at training officials on handling LGBTQ refugee cases to her.
Over the course of her long career as a law professor at the University of Ottawa, LaViolette also took on the critical task of training adjudicators involved in refugee determination. Ross Pattee, the executive director of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), whose association with LaViolette also goes back many years, recently remarked: ''[I]t is no exaggeration to say that Nicole played a pivotal role in making the IRB the innovative world class administrative tribunal it is today. Few can claim to have put their stamp on the organization to the degree she did.''6 Pattee recalls that a Refugee Protection Division decision maker once characterized Nicole LaViolette's impact as global, encompassing every facet of the IRB's engagement in the area of sexual minorities, from consulting on earlier guidelines and policy instruments, to advocacy, to, of course, training. Pattee felt that LaViolette was motivated to do everything she could to support...