Hear­ing ex­pected in B.C. hu­man rights case for trans­gen­der in­mate

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - VANCOUVER -

A lawyer for a trans­gen­der woman who was forced to stay in a men’s jail says his client hopes her hu­man rights case against the Bri­tish Columbia gov­ern­ment will change poli­cies for other in­mates.

Dan Soiseth said his client Jaris Lo­vado, who calls her­self Bianca, was in­car­cer­ated at the Sur­rey Pre­trial Cen­tre for five months last year be­fore be­ing moved to a women’s fa­cil­ity af­ter fil­ing mul­ti­ple com­plaints.

The Jus­tice Min­istry tried to have Lo­vado’s com­plaint to the BC Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal dis­missed, but the tri­bunal ruled the case is wor­thy of a fur­ther hear­ing. BC Cor­rec­tions has a pol­icy of hous­ing in­mates ac­cord­ing to their self-iden­ti­fied gen­der un­less health and safety con­cerns can’t be re­solved.

The min­istry told the tri­bunal that dur­ing a pre­vi­ous stay at the Alou­ette Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre for Women, Lo­vado en­gaged in in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­la­tion­ships with fe­male in­mates and posed a safety risk to women who may have ex­pe­ri­enced trauma.

It also said Lo­vado dis­played a “male per­sona.”

“We don’t know ex­actly what that means,” Soiseth said.

Soiseth, who rep­re­sents the Com­mu­nity Le­gal As­sis­tance So­ci­ety, said there was no ev­i­dence pro­vided of any safety con­cerns and it’s not un­usual for in­mates to have re­la­tion­ships.

He said the main is­sue is that Lo­vado, who was serv­ing time for fraud-re­lated charges and breach­ing con­di­tions of re­lease, faced dis­crim­i­na­tion as a trans­gen­der per­son.

Lo­vado was moved to the women’s fa­cil­ity in Maple Ridge last Septem­ber af­ter she agreed to meet be­havioural ex­pec­ta­tions. The tri­bunal’s writ­ten de­ci­sion stated Alou­ette Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre ini­tially de­clined to ac­cept Lo­vado as a trans­fer based on in­for­ma­tion from BC Cor­rec­tions that she’d been liv­ing in the com­mu­nity as a male.

The de­ci­sion said an April 26, 2016 email from Sur­rey Pre­trial said Lo­vado re­fused to be skin frisked by a male but that the deputy said Lo­vado should un­dergo that pro­ce­dure be­cause she had “the equip­ment of a male.”

Lo­vado did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment, and the Jus­tice Min­istry said it could not pro­vide in­for­ma­tion un­til the elec­tion writ is re­turned.

Dar­ryL DyCk/the Cana­Dian Press

lawyer Dan Soiseth speaks about his client Bianca Lo­vado, who failed to show up for a news con­fer­ence, in Van­cou­ver on Mon­day.

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