Lawyer for Male-to-Female Transsexual Complainant Asserts that Women Share Nothing in Common With Each Other

Friday, August 22, 2003

August 22, 2003 — For Immediate Release


(Vancouver) On Friday August 22, 2003 final arguments are expected to be presented to the BC Supreme Court of Appeal conducting a judicial review of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal decision in the case of Nixon v. Vancouver Rape Relief Society.

Vancouver Rape Relief Society decided to pursue the review after Tribunal member Heather McNaughton found the organization to be in breach of the Human Rights Code when it refused to allow Kimberly Nixon, a person without the life experience of being treated as a woman, to train as a volunteer peer counselor at the women-only rape crisis centre and shelter for battered women.

Barbara Findlay, lawyer for post operative male to female transsexual Kimberly Nixon, asserted in her presentation that Vancouver Rape Relief cannot require volunteers to have the life experience of being born girls and growing up into womanhood arguing that there is no common life experiences among women.

“It causes us to wonder what exactly did Ms Nixon believe she wanted to become if no such experiences exist?” Says Suzanne Jay of Vancouver Rape Relief. Ms Nixon has claimed that she had wished to be a girl from the age of eight. “If she believes that there is no such thing as shared life experiences among women, then its hard to understand why she is so adamant about being a peer counselor in a women’s group.”

Vancouver Rape Relief’s fear that the Tribunal’s decision might assist men to successfully demand entry into women’s organizations was reinforced by Ms Findlay’s argument on Thursday, August 21, 2003. Ms Findlay argued that there was a difference between Charter and human rights claims of discrimination. If a male applicant were refused employment in a government Women’s Equality Program, and made a complaint of discrimination under the Charter, he would likely lose, she said. The refusal would not have an impact on his dignity, as it would not reflect or magnify historic disadvantage. However, if he made a human rights complaint, he would likely win, unless the women’s program could prove a defence. However, any occupational requirement applied would have to be designed to treat men equally, she said.

Vancouver Rape Relief continues to argue that their organization is protected by the section of the Human Rights Code (Sec. 41) which protects charitable groups and their right to freedom of association.

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter is a nonprofit charitable organization devoted to fighting male violence against women. Vancouver Rape Relief provides rape crisis services to approximately 1400 women and shelter services to over 100 women and their children each year as they escape violent male partners. The structure and methods of Rape Relief’s work combine the promotion of women's equality in the daily practical work of ending rape and battering. Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter has operated for 30 years. The centre was created by volunteers and was the first rape crisis centre in Canada.

The matter is being heard by Justice Robert Edwards. Lawyers for Vancouver Rape Relief are Gwendoline C. Allison, Bull, Housser & Tupper and Christine Boyle, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia. 

For more information contact:

Suzanne Jay (604) 872-8212