Vancouver woman links eviction to being transsexual

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      A Vancouver transsexual has filed a human-rights complaint, alleging discrimination on the basis of sex, age, and disability after she was evicted from a downtown social-housing complex. In an interview with the Georgia Straight, Pamela Burge said she was thrown out of the Wellspring, which is at 415 Nelson Street, at the end of June. This came after the society that manages the complex claimed that she owed $1,355 in outstanding rent.

      Burge, once a well-known broadcasting executive who went by the name of Tim Burge, has alleged that the real reason she was evicted was that the building administrator, Joanne Graham, did not like her because she is transsexual. Burge, 65, claimed that she did not owe any back rent, and that the society refused to acknowledge receiving her documentation of her income from social assistance and the Canada Pension Plan.

      “I could never imagine this happening to me as a middle-class man or even as a regular woman,” she said.

      Burge has named Graham, the 127 Society for Housing, and the Diocese of New Westminster as respondents in her complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. The Anglican church has supported the society and its name is on a plaque outside the front door of the building, but Burge said that it has absolved itself of any responsibility for her eviction.

      Graham sent an e-mail to the Straight saying she reports to the directors of the society, and that she wanted to receive questions in writing. She was told about the nature of Burge’s complaint, and did not call back by deadline.

      Burge said that she lived in the building for 13 years and was so distraught by the eviction that she checked into St. Paul’s Hospital. She added that she is living in temporary accommodation in the Downtown Eastside. She listed her disabilities as fibromyalgia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and bouts of depression.

      “What rights do you have—never mind if you’re a tranny—if you go to a building managed by a nonprofit?” she asked. “B.C. Housing won’t help you.”

      The NDP MLA for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, Jenny Kwan, wrote a letter to Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman on September 1 asking him to ensure that B.C. Housing gives “urgent consideration” to Burge’s application for new housing.

      “Ms. Burge is in a tenuous situation, is housed only temporarily and is in imminent danger of being homeless,” Kwan wrote. “Ms. Burge is also a senior citizen, and a person with a disability.”

      Burge said that her human-rights complaint covers actions that occurred in 2009 and 2010. She claimed that the society told her that she must clean her deck, which was outside the building and resembled a balcony, three times a year by hand. One of her advocates, transsexual activist Stephanie Castle, told the Straight in an interview that the society’s demand for her to clean the concrete slabs constituted harassment.

      “They expected her, with her disabilities, to get down on her bended knees to scrub them by hand when they have a pressure cleaner in the building, which they used for other services,” Castle said.

      Burge appealed the eviction to the Residential Tenancy Branch, which administers the Residential Tenancy Act. She said that the arbitrator repeatedly referred to her as “Mr. Burge” in a telephone hearing, which offended her. Another of Burge’s supporters, mental-health advocate Maryann Boyle, told the Straight by phone that she heard the arbitrator make these remarks.

      Boyle added that the arbitrator, who upheld the eviction, called her “Mr. Burge” even after he was corrected. Boyle also claimed that his temper was “getting out of hand”.

      “Pam never got a chance to really put her point across,” Boyle said.



      Dana S.

      Sep 15, 2010 at 7:47pm

      How can Vancouverites claim that this city is liberal when shit like this happens?


      Sep 15, 2010 at 7:55pm

      It is disgusting that the employees of the Residential Tenancy Branch are homophobic and transphobic. I wish I could see this as an isolated incident, but it is not. It is well known that if you're a trans tenant, they will work against your interests and likely belittle and insult you as they do it.

      Blue Jay

      Sep 15, 2010 at 8:53pm

      Get all the facts first before making judgements in the heat of the moment.


      Sep 16, 2010 at 4:57am

      I've been following stories of trans discrimination for some time (I'm trans myself) and this sounds like something from another country. I am very surprised this kind of discrimination is still allowed to go on in Canada.


      Sep 16, 2010 at 11:35am

      she lived like a pig and the 127 society has lots of gay tenants and they have no problems i live in one of there building and i have never seen one bit of discrimination against anyone. Pam is just an angry person who didn't want to follow a few simple rules that all tenants have to comply with .her complaint is a bunch of showboating in my eyes do not believe this till you know both sides of the story

      Sandra S

      Sep 16, 2010 at 11:45am

      Sounds like she didn't have enough money.


      Sep 16, 2010 at 1:53pm

      Sounds like "mad" has alterior motives. I've known Pam for many years and visited her many times at her home which was always clean and beautifully decorated.
      Having been a tenant myself, demanding a disabled senior citizen to get down on their hands and knees to clean a HUGE concrete balcony is NOT just one of a few "simple rules."
      By the way "mad", there's a difference between being gay and transgender. Need I say more?


      Sep 16, 2010 at 2:58pm

      I agree "mad" has alterior motives. Why won't he/she give their name?
      I highly doubt a man of Mr. Smith's integrity, who is obviously trying to get "the other side of the story" would write this article without having done the necessary research.


      Sep 16, 2010 at 9:59pm

      I have known Pam for years and have been to her place and it was always neat and tidy,this harassment has been going on for years, this is just one incident of many she has been put through,it is about time that these low income housing were checked into as to how they treat their tennants

      Roslyn Cassells

      Sep 18, 2010 at 12:07am

      As low-income renters, we are all one step away from being homeless. Market housing slumlords, BC Housing, DERA, and other so-called housing outfits run their buildings like small fiefdoms...treating the tenants like so many bothersome children. It is time that this province creates a climate where decent, clean, affordable, safe housing is available to all. Good housing is the greatest predictor of overall health, which would explain why the DTES looks like a scene from Dantes Inferno. Hang in there Pam, if there is anything I can do please contact me at