Kimberly Nixon Rape Relief Case

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Kimberly Nixon is a transgender woman who filed a human rights complaint against Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter Society (VRRS) for discrimination. VRRS argued that Nixon, a transgender individual, did not have the proper life experiences as a woman from birth would, and could not volunteer as a peer rape counselor.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Nixon is a post-operative transgender woman. Although born male she realized from an early age that her physical sex did not align with her sense of self. She lived privately as a female and publicly as a male until 1990 when she underwent sex reassignment surgery alongside hormone replacement therapy at age 33.[2] Following her surgery, Nixon’s birth certificate was amended, identifying her as a female.[3]

As a survivor of male violence and sexual assault as a woman, Nixon had previously received aid and volunteered with Battered Women’s Support Service (BWSS) as well as another halfway house that helped women in crisis.[1] Inspired by her own past experience, Nixon applied to volunteer at Vancouver Rape Relief Society, a non-profit organization that provides services for women who have been victims of male violence.[1] Following Nixon’s successful prescreening, she was rejected by the society based upon her gender identity as a transgender woman.[4]

Human rights complaint[edit]

Nixon alleged that Vancouver Rape Relief discriminated against her violating the British Columbia Human Rights Code.[5] The society argued that they didn’t allow men into the group and to qualify as a volunteer she must have been a women who experienced oppression from birth.[6] They argued that Nixon was socialized as a man and thus, did not have the proper life experiences of a woman.[7] Other Rape Relief trainers supported this position identifying Nixon as a man, which justified her rejection from the volunteer position.[4]

In August 1995 Nixon filed a formal human rights complaint against VRRS. This resulted in Nixon receiving a formal letter apologizing for her exclusion, $500 in compensation, and an offer for an in-person apology.[2] Nixon rejected these offers and in 2000 the case went to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. Nixon won the Human Rights Tribunal on the grounds that the society discriminated against her and was awarded $7,500 for injury of self-respect and dignity.[7] Vancouver Rape Relief Society brought the Tribunal’s decision for judicial review, establishing that discrimination was not present.[2]

Vancouver Rape Relief Society v. Nixon[edit]

In August 2003 the decision was brought to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The court was to decide "whether transgendered [sic] women are protected from discrimination on the basis of sex". The court debated gender, biological indicators against social, psychological, psychiatric and legal treatment.[8] On December 19, 2003 the Supreme Court decided that there was an error in judgement in the previous tribunal. The Vancouver Rape Relief was not guilty of discrimination based on the group’s right of freedom of association. This meant that the group had the right to organize as women-only space, irrespective of gender identity.[1]

Following this decision Nixon appealed to the British Columbia Court of Appeal who unanimously maintained the previous decision by the Supreme Court of BC. They held that Vancouver Rape Relief Society was protected under the Human Rights Code, Section 41.[9] This allowed the society to abide by its women-only policy, based on its rational and interests in serving women.[7] On February 1, 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Nixon’s request to appeal the decision. Nixon was also charged with covering the awarded costs of Vancouver Rape Relief, which she has refused to pay.[2]


The case is identified of one that affects the rights of gender and identity of transgender people within Canada. This case examined issues of gender identity and sex within Canadian society, as well as the oppression of transgender people and their rights.[1] The court had to question the dynamics of oppression and extent of male violence against transgender women.[8] The law firm of barbara findlay[note 1] argues that Vancouver Rape Relief Society has discriminated against Nixon on the basis of sex. findlay argued that transphobia in Canadian culture is so prevalent that transgender complainants will continue to face detriment and make it harder for her to obtain employment following the case.[11] Following the trial, findlay asked, "where do we draw the line between accommodating differences and being free to discriminate?"[5] Ultimately, the case is argued to demonstrate the challenges transgender individuals face in terms of equality and participation within Canadian Society.


  1. ^ findlay spells her name without capitals.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e Chambers, Lori. "Unprincipled Exclusions: Feminist Theory, Transgender Jurisprudence, and Kimberly Nixon." Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 19.2 (2007): 305-34. Web.
  2. ^ a b c d "Chronology of Events in Kimberly Nixon vs Vancouver Rape Relief Society". Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter., 1 Jun. 2009. Web. 11 June. 2016.
  3. ^ Vancouver Rape Relief Society v. Nixon, 2005 BCCA 601 (CanLII),, 7 Dec. 2005. Web. 10 Jun. 2016
  4. ^ a b Kimberly Nixon (complainant) and Vancouver Rape Relief Society (respondent) and BC Human Rights Commission. 2 Jun. 2000. (Folder 1). Raw data. University of Victoria, Victoria. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Rupp, Shannon. "Transsexual Loses Fight with Women’s Shelter". The Tyee., 3 Feb. 2007. Web. 10 June. 2016.
  6. ^ Roberts, Carol. "Re: Complaint – What Went Down". 30 Jun. 2000. (Folder 1). Raw data. University of Victoria, Victoria. Retrieved June 8, 2016
  7. ^ a b c "Vancouver Rape Relief Society v. Nixon 2005 BCCA 601 Summary of Decision". Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s, 1 Jan. 2005. Web. 11 June. 2016.
  8. ^ a b Vancouver Rape Society v. Nixon. Supreme Court of British Columbia. 1999-2000. (Folder 1). Raw data. University of Victoria, Victoria. Retrieved June 8, 2016
  9. ^ "Human Rights Code". Retrieved 2016-06-18.
  10. ^ findlay, barbara. "About Me". barbara findlay Q.C. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  11. ^ Dahl findlay Connors. Law firm. barbara findlay addressed to Judy Parrack re: Nixon Rape Relief. 5 Jun. 2000. (Folder 1). Raw data. University of Victoria, Victoria