Transgender Day of Remembrance a time to honour those lost, Winnipeg elder says

Charlotte Nolin felt her voice start to crack as she read out the names of the transgender women killed in the last year at a ceremony in Winnipeg on Friday evening.

'All we want is recognition as human beings,' says Métis elder Charlotte Nolin

Charlotte Nolin is a Métis transgender elder in Winnipeg. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Charlotte Nolin felt her voice start to crack during a ceremony in Winnipeg on Friday evening, as she read out the names of the transgender women killed in the last year.

Globally, it's a number already well into the hundreds, she said, and a marker of discrimination that doesn't show signs of slowing. 

"Last year was three [hundred and] something. And they keep going up every year," said Nolin, a Métis transgender elder.

"It's such senseless taking of lives, and I can't understand that about humanity — how they can value life so little that they would take it away from someone. It doesn't make sense."

Trans people in Canada are more likely to experience violence and face mental health challenges than other Canadians, according to a 2018 study by the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics.

Friday's ceremony will be followed Saturday by a two-spirit sweat lodge to mark this year's Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed every Nov. 20.

It's a day to commemorate and honour those lost, Nolin told host Stephanie Cram during a Saturday interview with CBC's Weekend Morning Show.

And this year, it will bring people in the community together in a way that hasn't happened since the pandemic began.

"This sweat is happening so that relatives can come together in ceremony and pray and remember our sisters," she said.

It's also a way to connect with younger generations of trans people and send them a message of support, the 71-year-old said.

"We're here to listen. We're here to support them. We're here to let them know they're loved, they belong and they have a place in society," said Nolin.

Transgender people face discrimination, and are at a highest risk of suffering from issues of mental health. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, Stephanie Cram reached advocate Charlotte Nolin about what the day means to her, and what her message is to trans youth. 10:39

Two-Spirit Powwow Winnipeg is also planning to host a two-spirit sun dance ceremony next summer, which Nolin said will be the first of its kind in Canada.

Nolin said she's been attending sun dance for 19 years, but hasn't always felt welcome at the ceremonies — something the upcoming two-spirit one is intended to address.

"All we want is recognition as human beings," she said.

"We want respect as human beings and [to] be allowed to live in society alongside of everybody else, in the same way that they're allowed to live."

Saturday's two-spirit sweat lodge is open to all two-spirit and Indigiqueer people. It's scheduled for 2 p.m. at 2094 Portage Ave.

With files from Stephanie Cram