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December 7, 2005 - 18:17
Former man denied right to counsel females will go to the highest court
VANCOUVER (CP) - A transgendered B.C. woman who wanted to counsel rape victims is taking her discrimination complaint to the Supreme Court of Canada after being turned down by the B.C. Appeal Court on Wednesday.
"This is the sort of thing that makes for good appeal material to the Supreme Court of Canada. And that is exactly where we will next be going," said barbara findlay, the lawyer for the complainant Kimberly Nixon.
In her ruling, Justice Mary Saunders said Vancouver Rape Relief did discriminate against Nixon, 48, but the action is allowed under the same law that allows religious or other non-profit groups to grant preference to a group or class of persons.
"The society was entitled to exercise an internal preference in the group served, to prefer to train women who had never been treated as anything but female," she ruled.
Nixon's fight started more than 10 years ago when she attended a training session for volunteer counsellors at Rape Relief. She was expelled when a staff member found out she had not always been female.
A B.C. human rights tribunal originally ruled the group discriminated against Nixon and awarded her $7,500 for humiliation.
A later B.C. Supreme Court decision overturned that ruling.
Suzanne Jay of Vancouver Rape Relief said the Appeal Court decision confirms the rights of all equality-seeking groups to define their own membership.
She said she had hoped the decision Wednesday would be the end of the long and expensive court process.
"We never wanted to go to court," she said. "Ten years ago when Kimberly Nixon came to the training group, we explained to her very respectfully she did not have the life experience required."
Jay said her organization tried to find every way possible to apologize about Nixon's hurt feelings, but all offers over the years have been turned down.
"We would really prefer to have this court judgment be the last one."
Findlay said they knew from the beginning that it would likely be the Supreme Court of Canada that settled the question of the rights of transsexual and transgendered people.
"It is the first case of kind in the country," she said. "And it's going to be the case that sort of sets the road for trans people in decades to come."
Findlay said they are comforted by the history of lesbian and gay struggles in the courts.
"As you know, ultimately justice prevailed, and lesbians and gay men are now equal to other Canadians."
Findlay, who's been working pro bono on the case for a decade, said Nixon is disappointed by the ruling but is ready to push forward to the higher court.
Jay said Vancouver Rape Relief has spent over $100,000 on the human rights and court processes.