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Trans woman hopes funding cut will send message to Vancouver rape crisis group

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VANCOUVER — A transgender woman whose case against Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre was dismissed by the courts says she hopes the City of Vancouver’s decision to refuse the shelter funding will help change policies.

Kimberly Nixon, 61, filed a human rights complaint against Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter in 1995 after she was refused training to work as a volunteer peer counsellor on the basis she did not share the life experience of someone born female.

“The organization is not bad,” said Nixon. “It just means that attitudes have to change.”

Nixon’s complaint was upheld by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal with a $7,500 reward from Rape Relief, but the B.C. Supreme Court found discrimination had not occurred.

The B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed Nixon’s appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed her request to appeal that decision in 2007.

The City of Vancouver announced last week that, starting next year, it will no longer provide Rape Relief with a nearly $34,000 annual grant, saying the charitable group does not meet its trans equality and inclusion criteria, adopted in 2016.

“While (Vancouver Rape Relief Society) services have been and are very important, staff identified concerns about the organization’s position on trans women in relation to the full intent of grant criteria,” the city said in a statement.

Hilla Kerner, spokeswoman for Rape Relief, said women who are born female and socialized to submit to male domination want comfort and support from women who share the same life experience and understand rape, forced pregnancy and violence in that context.

“More often than not, being born female still means we are born as an oppressed class. We haven’t achieved liberation for women yet,” she said.

Rape Relief does not turn transgender women away and often connects them to other services, Kerner said.

She said the group is no different from other organizations that serve people with specific needs, including those who are Indigenous, disabled or migrants.

Morgane Oger, who chairs the Trans Alliance Society, said she has been advocating since 2013 for Rape Relief’s municipal funding to be stopped.

“Vancouver Rape Relief and other organizations that are publicly funded are responsible for keeping up the highest standard of inclusion,” Oger said, adding the group helps only a subset of women.

Adrienne Smith, a human rights lawyer in Vancouver, said all of Smith’s clients are transgender and some of them have said they have been turned away from Rape Relief after a sexual assault.

“Rape Relief takes the position that transgender women are men in dresses and that there’s something inauthentic about them,” Smith said. “Their followers repeat this messaging and it’s fundamentally hurtful to my clients and to trans and non-binary people.”

Smith said Rape Relief has stuck to the same message even as society has changed.

Trans women are sexually assaulted at four times the rate of non-trans women, often by other women, Smith said.

“The Nixon case was wrongly decided and I think it would be decided very differently if it were argued today because decision makers have a much more clear understanding that transgender women are women,” Smith said.

British Columbia provides about $600,000 in annual funding to Rape Relief, which has a budget of about $1.1 million and opened its doors in 1973.

Nixon said provincial funding should also be reconsidered.

“If the province continues to fund them they are basically enabling their treatment of trans women, or trans people in general,” said Nixon, who recently spoke at an International Women’s Day event at Ryerson University in Toronto.

“I hope the society’s reached a point where they can recognize what is right and what is wrong. So this is just another opportunity for them to make the necessary change.”

— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

 

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press



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Five Things to watch for as PM meets Trump, congressional leaders in Washington

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WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is spending the day in Washington for a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House and face time with congressional leaders from the Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Here are five things to watch for:

1. Working towards certainty on continental trade uncertainty

Trump foisted an acrimonious renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement on Canada and Mexico, and after more than year of hard-fought bargaining, everyone survived. The leaders of the three countries signed the deal late last year, but final legal ratification remains a significant hurdle — especially in the U.S. Trump has insulted House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who essentially holds the cards on ratification. But Trump’s trade czar Robert Lighthizer has been repeatedly complimentary of her efforts to find solutions. Trudeau will likely seek to persuade Pelosi that if the deal is good enough for Liberals in Canada, perhaps the Democrats in the U.S. can swallow it too. We likely won’t know for weeks how successful Trudeau will be. But one test will be whether the matter moves through Congress before the end of July, when it adjourns for the summer.

2. Helping two Canadians in big trouble in China

Two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been languishing behind bars in China for more than six months. Their arrest is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an American extradition warrant. Chinese leaders have snubbed Trudeau and his cabinet ministers, but Trump has been playing hardball with the People’s Republic in an escalating trade war that is rocking the global economy. During a visit to Ottawa last month, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said Trump will push Chinese President Xi Jinping for their release at the G20 leaders’ summit in Japan next week. Will Trump tip his hand about doing Trudeau a favour?

3. Winning in the eyes of Canadians

Managing relations with the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner, neighbour, close friend and ally is arguably one of the most important jobs of a prime minister. Trudeau has had a rough time with Trump, to put it mildly. Trump insulted him over Twitter after leaving the G7 in Quebec last year, and he imposed punishing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian imports as a bargaining chip in the NAFTA talks. All of that would seem to be history. The subtexts, the body language the words, each interaction between the two men will be under scrutiny when they shake hands and trade remarks in the Oval Office. What matters for Trudeau — and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer — is how Canadians interpret that when they go to the polls in October.

4. Huawei, or not Huawei

The Trump administration is clear: the Chinese telecom giant is a national security threat and won’t be supplying any of the equipment for America’s next generation 5G network. The Trump administration doesn’t want Canada or its allies using Huawei either. The Trudeau government is taking its time deciding. Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale have repeatedly said they will make an evidence-based decision on the advice of their national security experts. That likely won’t come before the October election, however. Trump will push the issue with Trudeau when they talk in private. In public, expect nothing to change.

5. That’s the way the basketball bounces

In addition to trying to work to salvage the North American economy, protect jobs and bring certainty back to big business planning, Trudeau will have the opportunity to gloat with Pelosi for winning his bet on the NBA Finals that saw the Toronto Raptors defeat her home-state Golden State Warriors. Will Trudeau pop the cork on the nice bottle of California wine he is likely to receive? More importantly, perhaps, will Trump give any hint that he plans to invite the champions to the White House, in keeping with what is now an often-controversial tradition?

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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Trade, China sure to surface as Trudeau meets Trump, congressional leaders

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WASHINGTON — Justin Trudeau is headed back to the White House today in what could prove to be a pivotal visit to the U.S. capital not only for North American trade and Canada’s strained relationship with China, but for the campaign-bound prime minister himself.

An earnest end to the tensions between Trudeau and President Donald Trump, which erupted into full view following last year’s G7 summit in Quebec, could prove useful to his governing Liberals when Canadians head to the polls this fall.

The Oval Office meeting, Trudeau’s third since Trump was elected in 2016, is aimed primarily at pushing the new North American trade deal over the finish line in both countries.

But Trudeau will also be looking to the U.S. president to speak out against the detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been languishing behind bars in China since shortly after Canada arrested high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou late last year at the behest of U.S. authorities. 

Canada has been caught in the crossfire after detaining Meng last December in Vancouver, where she awaits extradition south of the border to face allegations of fraud in violating Iran sanctions.

Trudeau is hoping Trump will go to bat for Kovrig and Spavor when he meets China’s President Xi Jinping at next week’s G20 leaders’ summit in Japan.

Vice-President Mike Pence has promised Trump would do just that, but Trudeau will find out today whether the mercurial president plans to follow through.

And then there’s the new NAFTA.

Trump needs to persuade his Democratic opponents in the House of Representatives — in particular Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with whom Trudeau is scheduled to meet later in the day — to allow the actual start of the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Lawmakers in Mexico voted Wednesday in a landslide to ratify the deal.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer called that “a crucial step forward” towards finalizing the deal.

“The USMCA is the strongest and most advanced trade agreement ever negotiated. It is good for the United States, Mexico, and Canada in a way that truly benefits our workers, farmers, and businesses,” he said in a statement.

Pelosi and her fellow Democrats want stronger enforcement mechanisms for the deal’s new labour and environmental provisions — and Trudeau’s visit might be just the thing needed to pry loose her support.

Canada, meanwhile, has been building strong support for the new NAFTA and open borders within the U.S. and it has many American business allies who remain active.

Lighthizer told the powerful House ways and means committee Wednesday that he’s willing to co-operate with Democrats to move forward on the new trade bill.

“Getting this done sooner rather than later is in everybody’s interest,” he said. “It saves jobs, it helps the economy, it gets certainty in place.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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