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Trans woman forces change

A transgender woman whose case against Canada's oldest rape crisis centre was dismissed by the courts says she hopes the City of Vancouver's decision to refuse the shelter funding will help change policies.

Kimberly Nixon, 61, filed a human rights complaint against Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter in 1995 after she was refused training to work as a volunteer peer counsellor on the basis she did not share the life experience of someone born female.

"The organization is not bad," said Nixon. "It just means that attitudes have to change."

Nixon's complaint was upheld by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal with a $7,500 reward from Rape Relief, but the B.C. Supreme Court found discrimination had not occurred.

The B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed Nixon's appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed her request to appeal that decision in 2007.

The City of Vancouver announced last week that, starting next year, it will no longer provide Rape Relief with a nearly $34,000 annual grant, saying the charitable group does not meet its trans equality and inclusion criteria, adopted in 2016.

"While (Vancouver Rape Relief Society) services have been and are very important, staff identified concerns about the organization's position on trans women in relation to the full intent of grant criteria," the city said in a statement.

Hilla Kerner, spokeswoman for Rape Relief, said women who are born female and socialized to submit to male domination do not feel comfortable around women who may appear and sound like men and don't share the same life experience.

"More often than not, being born female still means we are born as an oppressed class. We haven't achieved liberation for women yet," she said.

Rape Relief does not turn transgender women away and often connects them to other services, Kerner said.

She said the group is no different from other organizations that serve people with specific needs, including those who are Indigenous, disabled or migrants.



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