British Columbia

City of Vancouver to cut funding to women's group on basis of transgender discrimination

The Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter has a policy that some of its core services are only offered to women who are born female.

Annual grant approved for this year described as termination funding

The City of Vancouver has a policy of demonstrating accommodation, welcomeness, and openness to all people regardless of sexual orientation and identity. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The City of Vancouver has voted to gradually end a yearly grant to one of the country's oldest rape crisis centres on the basis it discriminates against transgender women. 

At a March 14 meeting, the city approved this year's funding — $34,312 — for the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter but described it as termination funding. The city says no further funding will be awarded to the organization until it makes accommodations for transgender individuals. 

Vancouver Rape Relief, which was started in 1973, has maintained there is an essential experience being born in the body of a woman and excludes transgender women from some of its core services. It says, however, it would see to the safety of anyone who calls its crisis line, including transgender people.

In the meeting, Coun. Christine Boyle says the centre's position doesn't follow the City of Vancouver's policy of demonstrating accommodation, welcomeness and openness to all people. 

"It is, in my opinion, unnecessary to exclude trans women from vital rape relief and anti-violence services ... trans women as women are incredibly vulnerable to violence and deserving of equal protection," Boyle said. 

Coun. Adrienne Carr, who supported the motion, said in council she would have liked to have seen the funding stopped immediately.

"Why do we have policies, if we don't ask those we are supporting to align with those policies?" Carr asked.

In an open letter addressing the cut, Vancouver Rape Relief called the decision "coercion" to make it change its long-standing position and said council was "undermin[ing] our autonomy as a women's group — to decide who we serve, who our membership is and who we organize with." 

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