Rainbow Railroad
  • 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 Western Asia 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 800 LGBTQ+ people from 38 different countries around the world.[3] It received charitable status from the Canada Revenue Agency in 2013,[4] and also maintains a 501(c)(3) charity organization based in New York City to issue tax receipts to American donors.[5]

After the revelations about the anti-gay purges and concentration camps in Chechnya (and on a smaller scale in neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan), Rainbow Railroad began to mobilize emergency efforts to help LGBT people get out of the region in collaboration with the Russian LGBT Network.[6][7][8] Rainbow Railroad's main goal is to help those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. Their mission is to save those who cannot 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.[9]


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.[10]

In 2019, Time magazine published a feature on Rainbow Railroad's work supporting those impacted by the anti-gay purge in Chechnya. Approximately 70 Chechen men were resettled by Rainbow Railroad during this time period. [11]

In 2020, their work was highlighted in an episode of Canada's Drag Race. During the eighth episode of the season which aired on August 20, five gay men who had moved to Canada through the organization were given drag makeovers as the main challenge for the week.[12] The winner of this challenge, Priyanka, won a $10,000 donation to Rainbow Railroad in her name.[12]

In 2021, Rainbow Railroad were recognised with the GAY TIMES Honour for International Community Trailblazer at the fifth annual GAY TIMES Honours celebration in London. Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell accepted the award, which was presented by LGBTQ+ and human rights activist Blair Imani.[13]


  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. ^ "Who We Help". www.rainbowrailroad.org. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  4. ^ Taylor, Jillian (2 December 2016). "Syrian man arrives in Canada thanks to the Rainbow Railroad". CBC. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  5. ^ "American Friends of Rainbow Railroad Inc". Exempt Organizations Select Check. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Avery, Dan (20 April 2017). "An LGBT "Underground Railroad" Is Working To Evacuate Gay Men From Chechnya". NewNowNext. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Canada Secretly Sneaks LGBT Russians Out Of Chechnya". All Things Considered. NPR. 8 September 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Rainbow Railroad - Home". www.rainbowrailroad.org. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Bonham Centre Awards Gala 2018". Archived from the original on 1 April 2018.
  11. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (26 July 2019). "Victim of Chechnya's Anti-Gay Purge Speaks Out: 'The Truth Exists'". Time. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  12. ^ a b Daniel Reynolds, "Canada's Drag Race Makes Over LGBTQ+ Refugees in Unforgettable Episode". The Advocate, August 21, 2020.
  13. ^ "Rainbow Railroad wins International Community Trailblazer at GAY TIMES Honours 2021". GAY TIMES. Retrieved 26 November 2021.