Kimberly Nixon poses in this undated handout photo. Kimberly Nixon is a transgender woman who was rejected by a rape crisis centre in the 1990s when she tried to volunteer as a peer counsellor. She’s now hoping the City of Vancouver’s decision to cut funding to the group will lead to policy changes. (Kimberly Nixon photo)

Trans woman hopes funding cut will send message to B.C. rape crisis group

Rape Relief does not turn transgender women away and often connects them to other services, group says

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.

READ MORE: Funding for B.C. rape crisis centre cut over transgender policy

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.

Morgane Oger, who chairs the Trans Alliance Society, said she has been advocating since 2013 for Rape Relief’s municipal funding to be stopped.

“Vancouver Rape Relief and other organizations that are publicly funded are responsible for keeping up the highest standard of inclusion,” Oger said, adding the group helps only a subset of women.

Adrienne Smith, a human rights lawyer in Vancouver, said all of Smith’s clients are transgender and some of them have said they have been turned away from Rape Relief after a sexual assault.

“Rape Relief takes the position that transgender women are men in dresses and that there’s something inauthentic about them,” Smith said. “Their followers repeat this messaging and it’s fundamentally hurtful to my clients and to trans and non-binary people.”

Smith said Rape Relief has stuck to the same message even as society has changed.

Trans women are sexually assaulted at four times the rate of non-trans women, often by other women, Smith said.

“The Nixon case was wrongly decided and I think it would be decided very differently if it were argued today because decision makers have a much more clear understanding that transgender women are women,” Smith said.

British Columbia provides about $600,000 in annual funding to Rape Relief, which has a budget of about $1.1 million and opened its doors in 1973.

Nixon said provincial funding should also be reconsidered.

“If the province continues to fund them they are basically enabling their treatment of trans women, or trans people in general,” said Nixon, who recently spoke at an International Women’s Day event at Ryerson University in Toronto.

“I hope the society’s reached a point where they can recognize what is right and what is wrong. So this is just another opportunity for them to make the necessary change.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Young Professionals of the Alberni Valley seek members, new partnerships

Next Alberni Connect event is Thursday, April 18

Fisheries Department announces conservation measures to protect chinook in B.C.

Urgent protection measures include closure of a commercial fishery involving seven endangered stock

PAC RIM ACTIVE: Cathedral Grove re-opened, Little Qualicum still closed after windstorm

December windstorm caused a great deal of damage to two provincial parks

BIZ BEAT: New summer market opening in Uptown Port Alberni

Celebrate Pet Appreciation Month at Bosley’s

Port Alberni golfers partner with the pros

Alberni Men’s Club golfers enjoyed another great day on the links

VIDEO: Port Alberni hosts highland dancers

41st annual competition took place at the Alberni Athletic Hall

Prince George sweeps to first-ever BC Hockey League crown

Spruce Kings beat Vernon Vipers 3-1 in the Okanagan Wednesday for 13th straight playoff win

Hwang’s first MLS goal lifts Whitecaps to 1-0 win over LAFC

Vancouver picks up first victory of season

Child-proof your windows ahead of warm weather: B.C. expert

Fifteen children were taken to BC Children’s Hospital for falls in 2018

B.C. trucker pleads guilty to lesser charges in fatal Manitoba crash

Gurjant Singh was fined $3,000 and given a one-year driving prohibition.

Study links preschool screen time to behavioural and attention problems

The research looked at more than 2,400 families

Island man guilty of child porn charges, Crown alleges 250,000 images

Psychiatric assessment requested by Crown, sentencing to be set June 4 in Nanaimo court

More than $100,000 raised for family of professional skier who died near Pemberton

Dave Treadway leaves behind his pregnant wife and two young boys

BC SPCA asks public for donations after puppy caught in trap

The puppy’s medical bills are expected to amount to more than $4,600

Most Read