Film to raise funds to bring queer refugees to Ottawa 

Northern Lights Refuge members greeting Dino at the airport, in September 2019. 

Dino Blasioli, Dori and Dino’s husband Chad 

Actors Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp and Hugo Weaving in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert 


Film to raise funds to bring queer refugees to Ottawa 

By Lauren Roulston  


The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is hitting the screen at the Mayfair on June 20 to raise money to help queer people find refuge from counties where being gay could mean prison.  

The Australian film is a cult classic, telling the story of three drag queens facing a comedic string of errors and vibrant characters. The queens are adorned in colourful feathers, towering wigs and sparkling ball gowns. They travel through the Australian desert in a bus named Priscilla. The film became a surprise worldwide hit in 1994.  

As an adventure flick that celebrates queer culture, this screening will be fundraising for a similar cause.  

Northern Lights Refuge (NLR) is hosting the screening at the iconic Mayfair theatre. This group brings queer individuals to Ottawa from countries that criminalize gay relationships.  

“This kind of work is a passion to me,” says Dino Blasioli, founder of NLR. “Everyone deserves a safe home, free to be themselves.” 

As of 2024, 64 countries criminalize homosexuality, according to Twelve countries impose the death penalty for private, consensual, same-sex sexual activities.  

“Parents put bounties on their children’s head. I just feel so fortunate to live in Canada where I can be free to express myself,” says Blasioli. 

He founded the group in 2017 to help his friend Dori, a gay dentist from Syria. The two had become friends online, chatting for years, and finally met when Dori attended a dental conference in New York City. 

According to Blasioli, Dori had three things he wanted to do when he got to The Big Apple where he could express himself freely: see a drag show, catch a movie,and go dancing. “Things he couldn’t do in the Middle East,” Blasioli adds. The duo caught Kinky Boots on Broadway. 

When he got back to Syria, Dori told Blasioli that he was considering sneaking into Canada. “I said no, no, no, there’s gotta be another way,” Blasioli says. 

So, he founded Northern Lights Refuge in April 2017 under the mentorship of Capital Rainbow Refuge, another organization supporting and sponsoring LGBTQI+ refugees.  

Dori arrived in Canada two and a half years later in September 2019. He’s been working towards his re-accreditation as a dentist and officially became a Canadian citizen last year.  

He was the first refugee sponsored by NLR. Now, the group is working to bring over their fifth.  

“I didn’t realize how great the need was, but it just snowballed,” says Blasioli. “We can’t help everybody, but one person at a time can make the world a better place.” 

For Blasioli, the work is very rewarding. “The best thing is when we greet them at the airport, seeing the smile when they come down that escalator,” he says. 

The group makes signs to welcome the newcomers. Blasioli remembers one man arriving from Kenya. “When he got off the escalator, he kissed the ground at the airport,” he says. “I can’t imagine what they go through and then to come here where their whole life is changed.”  

While greeting newcomers is his favourite, Blasioli says a close second is introducing them to Beavertails.  

As for his friend Dori, the two still catch movies and see drag shows like they did in New York. Dori even won a Mr. Ottawa Bear contest just before the pandemic lockdowns took effect. Since the lockdowns, the contest for husky or larger men with a significant amount of body hair hasn’t been running. “So the big joke is that he’s the longest reigning Mr. Ottawa Bear in its history,” says Blasioli.  

This month’s fundraiser at the Mayfair represents a vibrant and uplifting celebration of queer culture and expression. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is one of Blasioli’s favourites. He’s seen it twice in Ottawa and once on Broadway in New York with his husband.  

“I actually have a costume from the movie I bought after one of the local productions in Ottawa, and I plan on wearing it that night,” says Blasioli.  

Tickets for the June 20, 6:30 p.m., screening are $15. The money goes directly to NLR. 


Lauren Roulston is a graduate of Carleton’s journalism program currently working in community radio. 

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