Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter

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Vancouver Rape Relief logo.jpeg
Motto"No woman is free until all women are free."
TypeRape crisis center
HeadquartersVancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Region served

Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter is Canada's oldest rape crisis center, located in Vancouver, British Columbia.[1] The shelter was established in 1973 and has operated a feminist transition house since 1983, offering women shelter from men who are abusing them, including fathers, husbands, sons, pimps, johns and landlords.[a] A member of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC),[3] it is an independent, non-governmental group with no connection to the criminal justice system.[4]


The group operates a 24-hour, confidential, free-of-charge crisis hotline for abused women. More broadly, it works to eradicate all violence against women, which it defines as including "sexual assault, wife assault, incest, prostitution, and sexual harassment".[5] According to its website, this mission is accomplished by not only providing housing, education, resources, and support for women, but also by participating in global political struggles around issues of race, class, colonialism, and imperialism.[6]

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter consists of 27 collective members who work at the shelter, ten of whom are staff. They are committed to having their membership represent Vancouver population and therefore have a third of women identifying as lesbian women, a third are working class women, and almost half of them identify as women of colour. Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter have stated publicly that their collective members are themselves survivors of male violence against women, ex-callers calling the line, ex-residents who lived at the shelter, and survivors of prostitution. [2]

Kimberly Nixon v. Vancouver Rape Relief Society[edit]

In August 1995 Kimberly Nixon, a trans woman, filed a complaint against the shelter with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal after being turned down for a place on the shelter's training programme for volunteer counselors. Nixon argued that this constituted illegal discrimination under Section 41 of the British Columbia Human Rights Code. Vancouver Rape Relief countered that individuals are shaped by the socialization and experiences of their formative years, and that, having been socialized as a male, Nixon would not be able to provide effective counseling.[7] The tribunal found in Nixon's favour and issued an award of $7,500.

Vancouver Rape Relief appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In 2005 the court repealed the tribunal's verdict, ruling that the shelter is a group protected by section 41 of the British Columbia Human Rights Code,[8] which offers an exemption to certain types of organization.[b] Nixon appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, which declined to hear the appeal in February 2007.[10] Vancouver Rape Relief's lawyer, Christine Boyle, applauded the decision, saying that the "right to organize has been confirmed and is under protection of the law". Nixon's attorney, barbara findlay[c], said she was disappointed with the ruling, but optimistic about the long-term: "Ultimately, what is accessible to all women will be accessible to trans women, too... I think this just shows that achieving equality will take a long time for the transgendered [sic]. But there will be other cases."[12]

Vancouver City Council pulled its funding from the organization in March 2019, because of its policy of serving only cisgender women.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Since 1973 the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter has been an organizing centre and a 24-hour phone line for women raped and battered. Since 1980, it has also been a feminist transition house. We house women running from abusive men – usually husbands and fathers, but sometimes pimps, johns, landlords, and sons."[2]
  2. ^ British Columbia Human Rights Code: "If a charitable, philanthropic, educational, fraternal, religious or social organization or corporation that is not operated for profit has as a primary purpose the promotion of the interests and welfare of an identifiable group or class of persons characterized by a physical or mental disability or by a common race, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, political belief, colour, ancestry or place of origin, that organization or corporation must not be considered to be contravening this Code because it is granting a preference to members of the identifiable group or class of persons."[9]
  3. ^ findlay spells her name without capitals.[11]


  1. ^ Steacy, Lisa (13 April 2016). "Opinion: Vancouver Rape Relief stands by women". Vancouver Sun.
  2. ^ a b Lakeman, Lee; Lee, Alice; Jay, Suzanne (2004). "Resisting the promotion of prostitution in Canada: A view from the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter". In Stark, Christine; Whisnant, Rebecca (eds.). Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography. North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex Press Pty Ltd. p. 210.
  3. ^ Lakeman, Lee & Jay 2004, pp. 210–211.
  4. ^ "About Us". Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Give/Get Help". Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  6. ^ "Global Resistance". Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  7. ^ Rupp, Shannon (8 December 2005). "Transsexual loses latest bid to counsel victims of rape". The Globe and Mail.
  8. ^ "Vancouver Rape Relief Society v. Nixon 2005 BCCA 601 Summary of Decision". 1 January 2005.
  9. ^ "Human Rights Code".
  10. ^ Kimberly Nixon v. Vancouver Rape Relief Society. Supreme Court of Canada.
  11. ^ findlay, barbara. "About Me". barbara findlay Q.C. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  12. ^ Rupp, Shannon (3 February 2007). "Transsexual Loses Fight with Women's Shelter". The Tyee.
  13. ^ [1]'Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre faces backlash over excluding trans women' in Global News

External links[edit]