I am mindful Vancouver City Council members must be facing quite a bit of push-back from Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR) and their supporters as a result of today’s finance committee vote on the staff recommendation to cancel funding of their outreach and education program.
On February 26, the City of Vancouver’s Standing Committee on City Finance and Services voted unanimously to accept the 2020 grants allocations that shunned Vancouver Rape Relief because its conduct and polices do not meet the City of Vancouver inclusion guidelines and the group refused to update its policies.
I have some insight into this situation.
1. VRR had been at the forefront of anti-transgender activism in Canada for a number of years. VRR’s director testified in 2017 at the Senate of Canada, at the side of Meghan Murphy, claiming transgender women inherently put (other) women at risk. This was done in an effort to stop women like me from being protected from discrimination on the basis of our transgender status.
2. In the Winter of 2019, VRR was given a year to adhere to the criteria for eligibility that all funding applicants for Community Service Grants must meet.
3. VRR has states that it has taken no steps to stop teaching people, using the grant it had applied for, that transgender women are men and as a result dangerous to (cisgender) women. It has stated that it upholds these values in evert part of its service delivery.
VRR advocates loudly and teaches its volunteers that “males” should not access “female” spaces and claims that transgender women are males. VRR claims to hold this policy despite, in fact, only holding this test against women it suspects of being Transgender or Transsexual.
I detail VRR’s position here.
VRR and its supporters often cite a Supreme Court ruling that it could expel Kimberly Nixon in 1995 in claims about VRR’s right to discriminate. These claims overlook that the ruling was about an organization’s right to reject a member and was based on VRR being a political organization when it upheld that it was therefore free to select its members as it sees fit.
Paradoxically, political organizations are prohibited in Canada from recieving charitable donations and from most taxpayer-funded programs including the one under consideration.
VRR and its supporters repeatedly claim it has the right to discriminate against women or whoever it wants under section 41 of the BC Human Rights Code.
Contrary to the assertions of VRR, no court has upheld that discriminating against the more-vulnerable to favour the less-vulnerable is an entitlement.
I doubt any court would rule in its favour today.
4. The position of VRR has been repeated to me directly by its current and past leaders including Hella Kerner who said this in Council Chambers in 2019 before the initial decision to sunset their eligibility was made by the CoV Finance committee.
5. 1/2% of Canadians are Transgender.
In Vancouver’s public schools there are at least between 100 and 300 transgender boys and girls, as well as nonbinary youth. There are 500 Trans minors on waiting lists in the interior waiting to be assessed.
In Vancouver there are at least 3000 Trans people. In BC, 15,000 Transgender people.
They are watching and people have written me applauding the Vancouver City Council decision to do the right thing regarding VRR’s funding request by denying it because it would go to fund exclusion.
6. Everyone deserve to be treated with dignity when in crisis after a sexual assault, and that includes knowing they will not face discrimination. It includes THAT MUCH MORE deserving not to know that their taxes fund hatred targeting them.
7. In Vancouver, DESWC, ATIRA, BWSS and WAVAW have been demonstrating for years that organizations can uphold and protect the security and dignity of women when providing councelling and housing services to cisgender and transgender women together. They long ago debunked the myth that including Transgender women in women’s spaces, and this is supported by academic research. UNIFOR, IATSE, the BCTF, and the BC Federation of Labour have passed resolutions to not fund organizations that discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression and have ended any funding of VRR in recent years.
8. VRR had started an aggressive public-relations campaign intended to sway hearts and mind and convince City Council to waiver.
I feel it is important to recognize that VRR teaches transphobia. It advocates for anti-Transgender discrimination by telling its supporters that some women should be excluded from services set aside for women.
This organization, mandated as a Chatity on the claim that it “helps all women fleeing male violence”, openly campaigns against helping some women and only goes as far as passing those women’s problems on to other organizations.
No discriminatory organization that maintains and advocates for the idea that some women are, in fact, men, should be funded by taxpayers.
VRR reports that City of Vancouver taxpayer funding was used to shape the views about sexual violence with several thousand people in 2018:
It reports 225 women trained, 76 volunteers recruited as front-line workers, 2000 individual advocacy interactions, four submissions to Parliament, 300 participants at public education events …all this anti-Trans sentiment, funded by City of Vancouver taxpayers.
“What we were able to achieve with the funding the City of Vancouver granted us for the year of 2018:
We were able run 12 5-week volunteer training workshops.
225 women participated in the 5-week training group and are able to confidently speak about violence against women and resources available.
Of the 225 women, 47% were women of colour.
76 women continued onto frontline anti-violence training and supported the functioning of our 24-hour crisis line.
We spoke to approximately 2000 people in Vancouver who now have a more informed understanding of violence against women.
We spoke to 28 women about the Divorce Act from a feminist lens and 55 women about the Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry at the BCSTH conference.
We made four submissions to parliament based on our frontline work. We hosted two public education events with over 150 attendees each.”– Vancouver Rape Relief February 2020 email
8. We must not waiver in the face of discrimination. We must stand together to help protect young Trans women who have spent their entire lives socialized as girls and then women, since elementary schools.
Please stand with us all. Help us all get free from a situation in which a city-funded public education program teaches people they are lesser, unwanted, or inauthentic and should be thrown off the lifeboats they help fund by paying taxes.
Today is Pink Shirt Day in British Columbia. This is a day when we stand together and say no to bullying and intimidation in BC. Experts tell us that bullying happens when people with a vulnerability are picked on by others who identify and exploit it.
On Pink Shirt Day, the City of Vancouver took an important step to put an end to the bullying of women who happen to be Transgender by an organization that has gotten away with it for far too long.
9. For more information, please refer to the email below sent in the name of VRR, forwarded to me by a sex-workers advocate. For a deeper dive into this difficult topic, I am at anyone’s disposal if they have any questions. Please use the contact form on this blog or the comments section.
———- Forwarded message ———
Date: Wed., Feb. 19, 2020, 12:17 p.m.
Subject: FW: Rape Relief trying to get their CoV funding back
To: Morgane Oger
Hi Morgane, just wanted to make sure you’re aware of this.
Hope you’re doing well,
From: susan davis <xxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 11:40 AM
Rape Relief, anti-trans, anti sex work group are trying to re=institute their City of Vancouver funding. They have a secret message going around in an attempt to make sure none of their opposition are aware. They are calling for their supporters to call or message city council in support of them and their “work”; as follows;
“We really appreciate if you can take the time to write into city council, particularly if you are a resident of Vancouver, and were so grateful for all the support we received last year. If you know other women who aren’t in these groups, feel free to share the details with them directly. Please don’t share on social media outside of private groups. Thank you! And message me if you have any questions at all.”
“Thank you for your support last year when the City of Vancouver issued us termination funding for a grant we’ve received for over a decade and we use towards our Public Education and Community Outreach Program. They made this decision because of our commitment to organizing as a women-only group and operating frontline anti-violence services for women who are born female. We’ve applied for the grant again this year to make it clear that all levels of government have an obligation, and should be proud, to fund the equality-seeking work of independent women’s groups. We are reaching out to urge you to contact the City of Vancouver this week to let them know the importance of reinstating funding for Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter. City council will be making their decision at a council meeting on February 25th or February 26th 2020. You can email them and please copy us (firstname.lastname@example.org): CLRbligh@vancouver.ca, CLRboyle@vancouver.ca, CLRcarr@vancouver.ca, CLRdegenova@vancouver.ca, CLRdominato@vancouver.ca, CLRfry@vancouver.ca, CLRhardwick@vancouver.ca, CLRkirbyyung@vancouver.ca, CLRswanson@vancouver.ca, CLRwiebe@vancouver.ca, Kennedy.Stewart@vancouver.ca
You can find our statement on the City of Vancouver’s decision from last year here.
The City of Vancouver has an obligation to fund women’s groups fighting to end male violence against women and women’s oppression. 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. Some facts about Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter: We are Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre and operate a 24-hour crisis line for women fleeing male violence including rape, wife assault, incest, sexual harassment and prostitution Since 1981 we have operated a transition house for women & children and fleeing violence, including women currently in prostitution or trying to exit prostitution We respond to an average of 1200 women a year and offer an immediate response including in person peer counselling, accompaniment for medical attention and advocacy with the police and court. Vancouver Rape Relief has always operated not as an agency dedicated to social service, but as a collective of women who together provide services directly to women escaping male violence, while always working toward social change that would end male violence altogether.
What we were able to achieve with the funding the City of Vancouver granted us for the year of 2018: We were able run 12 5-week volunteer training workshops. 225 women participated in the 5-week training group and are able to confidently speak about violence against women and resources available. Of the 225 women, 47% were women of colour. 76 women continued onto frontline anti-violence training and supported the functioning of our 24-hour crisis line. We spoke to approximately 2000 people in Vancouver who now have a more informed understanding of violence against women. We spoke to 28 women about the Divorce Act from a feminist lens and 55 women about the Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry at the BCSTH conference. We made four submissions to parliament based on our frontline work. We hosted two public education events with over 150 attendees each. We had media exposure on violence against women, including Jim Fisher, Michael Bannon. We formed a coalition with other women’s groups and acted as intervenor on the Cindy Gladue case, pushing the discussion of violence against women in the public and legal debate. Thank you for your continued support of Vancouver Rape Relief & women’s organising to end violence against women. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!”
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.