In 2019, the City renewed their funding with the warning that the organization’s practices did not comply with eligibility criteria for program funding by the City of Vancouver. The city informed Vancouver Rape Relief that unless the organization took measures to meet the city’s inclusion criteria for funding, 2020 funding would be denied.
Next week, Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR) is set to have its funding application denied by the City of Vancouver. This is despite a sophisticated pressure campaign on our city council urging them to ignore the staff recommendations that they deny funding for an education program VRR has leveraged for years to incite transphobia among women.
I encourage our city council to remain strong and follow through. Many approaches have been tried to get VRR organization to the table to talk, and even affecting their funding has had little impact.
It is deplorable to see a formerly-venerable institution exhaust itself fighting against inclusion and human dignity because of an almost cult-like obsession with purity tests for womanhood.
Since 2013, I have been among those encouraging VRR to engage in dialogue that would help find a way forward that is defensible in Canada in the 21st century. All that time, their answer on the record remains that “trans women are men” and that “women have the right to organize“.
As the images below detailing exchanges between CoV and VRR staff clearly show, the answer is unchanged and was repeated in their latest application.
In Canada, trans women are women. In B.C., we have been recognized as women since 1999. This is simply not negotiable.
Discrimination against women because they are transgender is now explicitly prohibited in Canada, like it is in a number of countries including all members of the European Court of Human Rights including the U.K.
Holding its breath in melancholy or organizing misleading propaganda campaigns simply will not turn the clock back to the 20th century.
in a February 2020 letter, it wrote its supporters that:
“Women’s groups have a right to determine for ourselves how we organize. We stand firm on our position to organize as we have for the last 47 years, as women only. Vancouver City Council’s decision was intended to coerce us to change our position. We are incredibly grateful to you for your support and we want to let you know that we are not going anywhere, and neither is our Public Education and Community Outreach Program.”Vancouver Rape Relief email to supporters urging they write their city council – February 2020
In Canada, everyone is allowed to organize however they wish. Vancouver Rape Relief, Soldiers of Odin, Culture Guard, Parents United Canada, the Salvation Army, and Peoples Party of Canada are all organized as they see fit – and rightly so.
As long as groups adhere to our laws and do not harm any communities or persons, even those holding fringe core beliefs are made room for. Groups that hold deeply hateful or discriminatory views are allowed to…but there are limits to this tolerance.
Canada and our provinces have laws in place prohibiting discrimination on prohibited grounds in the delivery of services, in employment, and in housing.
Our provinces have limits on discriminatory publications. Any group or individual choosing to engage in such an act risks consequences under our laws and rightfully so.
Public policy on prohibited discrimination limits funding to groups causing harm. Because VRR ignores the difference between the right to organize as it sees fit and its responsibility to deliver services that do not cause harm, it is standing its ground on quicksand it will inevitably succumb to in time. Just like VRR’s right to choose membership was upheld in court in the Nixon case, the right to live free of discrimination has been upheld numerous times, most recently in my 2017 complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal about Bill Whatcott.
The minor impediment to their budget is an opportunity for Vancouver Rape Relief to think about the situation and where this is going. If VRR’s refusal is allowed to stand, other groups will inevitably demand that THEIR deeply-held biases be acted upon.
Imagine Solders of Odin or Culture Guard recieving taxpayer or Vancouver Foundation funding to operate non-profit childcare limited to Christian European children, for example.
If Vancouver Rape Relief becomes interested in addressing the situation that brought us to this juncture before its ability to deliver services is eroded further, my longstanding offer to help them meet expectations stands and they know where to reach me.
I urge Vancouver Rape Relief to focus on this rather than on undermining the very laws canadians helped get enacted that help protect us all from the very harm they hoped to use city funding to prevent.
The City of Vancouver voted unanimously to follow staff advice and not award 2020 funding to Vancouver Rape Relief‘s outreach and education program. In a stern warning to other organizations, a councillor clarified that no city funding will go to organizations that refuse to meet its inclusion criteria on grant funding.
I write about inclusion and political issues while working to narrow the gap between the laws we took great pains to create and their real-world implementation.