Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre has been stripped of its funding after staff refused to accept transgender women into their shelter and programs.
City councillors voted March 14 to give grant money to the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter this year, but will terminate any future funding until its policy changes.
During that meeting, staff from the crisis centre told council, as well as transgender activists including Morgane Oger, that they are committed to ensuring the safety of anyone who calls their crisis line, including transgender people, but that the fight for women’s liberation can only be done “in a woman-only space, with other women, who have the shared experience of being born without a choice to the oppressed class of women.”
Some councillors, including Christine Boyle, argued that both trans women and sex workers deserve access to the centre’s services.
Trans women are women and sex work is work. Trans women & sex workers deserve care & protection. I can’t support orgs who exclude them, so I won’t be supporting city funding for #Vancouver Rape Relief. I hope we can redirect funds to an inclusive provider. https://t.co/2UlZyZmSN8
— Christine Boyle (@christineeboyle) March 13, 2019
In a news release following the vote, shelter staff called the decision discriminatory.
“Since 1973, our group has responded to close to 46,000 women seeking our support in their escape from male violence,” the release reads. “Since we opened our transition house in 1981, we have housed over 3,000 women and over 2,600 children.”
We have been receiving many messages of solidarity and donations from around the world. We are encouraged and grateful for this tremendous support. #vanpoli #sisterhood #solidarity #resistance pic.twitter.com/FdPhYXpMX4
— VancouverRapeRelief (@VanRapeRelief) March 16, 2019
This isn’t the first time the shelter has been confronted for its policy.
In 1995, Kimberley Nixon launched a human rights complaint after she was denied volunteer training because she was transgender. The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the shelter, following several years in court.
The shelter’s services are only available to “born females” who have experienced male violence. The funding from the city has been used over the past decade for education and outreach.