British Columbia

Vancouver to vote on new transgender inclusion policy

Vancouver city council will vote on the adoption of a new action plan on Wednesday that aims to make city services more inclusive for people of transgender, gender-variant and two-spirit gender identities.

Policy aims to ensure equitable access to services for transgender, gender-variant and two-spirit people

Availability of inclusive washrooms is just one of the issues the city hopes to address with its new transgender inclusion action plan. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Vancouver city council will vote on the adoption of a new action plan on Wednesday that aims to make city services more inclusive for people of transgender, gender-variant and two-spirit gender identities.

The plan, developed for the city by consulting firms Equity Labs and TransFocus, includes recommendations addressing the availability of universal washrooms, non-binary gender options in data collection, and access to services such as shelters and social housing.

Drew Dennis, principal partner at TransFocus, said that while Vancouver is generally seen as progressive on LGBTQ issues, trans and gender-variant people are still a particularly vulnerable population.

"There perhaps has been great measures or great policies around LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans]," Dennis told On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"But when you start looking at the T, when you start looking at gender-variant and two-spirit identities, we start realizing and recognizing that we do have blind spots and opportunities to really be strengthening what inclusion looks like."

More than just washrooms

The report is the result of a motion last July by Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson calling for action to support transgender rights and safety. It involved consultation with more than 20 city departments, as well as with sex workers organizations such as the PACE Society.

Dennis said that, in B.C., there are legal precedents that allow people to use washroom and change room facilities that conform with their own self-defined gender identity.

The same also applies to facilities like shelters and social housing, but Dennis said that in practice, that doesn't always happen.

Dennis cited a recent study that found 29 per cent of trans people who sought services from Ontario shelters were turned away. Dennis said numbers for B.C. aren't available, but believes they would be similar.

"This is a real opportunity [for the city] to create some high impact, to start addressing these inequities," Dennis said.

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Coast.

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