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Hamilton settles human rights complaint with transgender woman

The City of Hamilton has reached an agreement to settle a human rights complaint involving a transgender woman who was denied access to the women's washroom at a city bus terminal. The woman was given access to the family washroom instead.

A transgender woman was denied access to the woman's washroom at a city bus terminal

Hamilton's MacNab bus terminal. (John Rieti/CBC)

The City of Hamilton has reached an agreement to settle a human rights complaint involving a transgender woman who was denied access to the women's washroom at a city bus terminal.

The woman was given access to the family washroom instead.

The initial incident took place in October, 2014 at the MacNab Bus Terminal. A claim was filed to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal a short time after the incident.

In a news release posted on the city's website on Monday, highlights from the settlement were outlined.

As part of the settlement, the city has agreed to incorporate principles set out in the Ontario's Human Rights Code into a written policy and then train employees on this policy. 

The city has also agreed to post signage confirming its commitment to providing safe and accessible washroom and change room spaces for all.

Specific language needed

Kwab Ako-Adjei, spokesperson for the City of Hamilton, said all city employees undergo training that deals with discrimination based on sexual identity. Now, as a result of the settlement, the city will be incorporating a more specific language around gender identity into its written policies.

This is one of those instances where we need to be a bit more explicit, especially around gender self-identification.- Kwab Ako-Adjei, City of Hamilton spokesperson

When the revamped policy is formalized by city council, the changes will help shape city employee training, Ako-Adjei said.

"It's not anything we haven't really been talking about anyway," he said. "We'll just sort of formalize it.

"This is one of those instances where we need to be a bit more explicit, especially around gender self-identification."

In the news release, the city affirmed the rights of transgender people, as set out in Ontario's Human Rights Code, "which includes the right to access facilities in accordance with their self-identified gender identity.

"The City is committed to communicating that a trans person will not be required to use a separate facility because of the preferences or negative attitudes of others," the document reads.

Settlement 'sends a strong message'

Clara Matheson, the lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre who represented the Hamilton woman at the tribunal, said her client was very happy with the settlement.

"What they've agreed to definitely sends a strong message," Matheson said, adding she sees these incidents of discrimination from time to time across the province.

"Even beyond the City of Hamilton, we hope that other municipalities will take note and will also prepare best practices and training."

She said her client has remained anonymous throughout the proceedings and still wishes to remain that way. 

"She's very happy with what the city agreed to do," Matheson said. "It takes a lot of courage to come forward like she did. It will be an inspiration to others who might be struggling with their gender identity."