Vancouver march to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance
Tami Starlight says transgender people are “slowly slogging” toward equality in Canada.
The Downtown Eastside activist is the founder and organizer of the annual Vancouver Transgender Day of Remembrance, which will be marked on Saturday (November 20).
Started in San Francisco in 1999, the Transgender Day of Remembrance is an international event that memorializes trans people killed due to hate or prejudice.
“The day is needed to bring attention to the lack of equality rights, health-care access, and just general societal equality for trans people in Canada and around the world,” Starlight told the Straight by phone from the Carnegie Community Centre. “With that said, there’s all kinds of violence towards trans people, and it’s kind of okay by the larger society.”
In B.C., Transgender Day of Remembrance events are also scheduled to take place on Saturday in Kamloops, Kelowna, Nelson, and Victoria.
In Vancouver, participants will gather at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Carnegie Community Centre. At 6 p.m., they’ll march to Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre campus. The march will be followed by speakers, a poetry slam, and the showing of a documentary in Room 1800.
Starlight expects between 50 and 100 people to attend.
“Lots of people who show up have a vested interest in supporting trans rights and understanding anti-trans violence, so when they show up they’re profoundly impacted,” she said. “So, a lot of people are moved to tears, they’re moved to action, and they want to mobilize and get involved. That’s why this is such an important event on so many levels.”
According to Starlight, the event will be kicked off at the Carnegie Community Centre because the city’s most marginalized transgender people are found in the Downtown Eastside doing survival sex work.
“They can’t get jobs and they have no real health-care access and no housing and on and on and on and on,” she said. “They can be evicted. They’re wrongfully evicted. They’re wrongfully fired. They’re wrongfully excluded from all levels of society. So, of course, they turn to sex work, because they have no other choice. Most of them.”
Starlight is calling on the public to support a private member’s bill that would protect transgender people in Canada from discrimination.
NDP MP Bill Siksay’s Bill C-389 would add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
In June, the bill passed second reading in the House of Commons. It’s expected to go to third reading in December, but has come under attack from the religious right.
On November 16, Vancouver city council voted unanimously to back Bill C-389 and call on members of Parliament to recognize the legislation as a “necessary measure”.
“Basically, that’s one of the key components to more equality for trans people across the country, because it’s a federal bill and it will cover all provinces and territories,” Starlight said. “It basically calls for not only equality and its protection within the Canadian Human Rights Act, but it also calls for hate-crimes provisions within the Criminal Code. So, it’s a nice, straightforward bill.”
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