Transgender rights in British Columbia


by: Layne Clark, Law Library Work Study Student

Visitors to the Diana M. Priestly Law Library this summer will now be greeted by a new display featuring some of the special collections from UVic Libraries. The display focuses on transgender rights in British Columbia and Canada and features archival material from the UVic Transgender Archives, books from the shelves of the law library, and QR codes leading to some of the online resources that UVic Libraries has to offer.

The archival materials on display focus on Supreme Court case Vancouver Rape Relief Society vs. Nixon. The case centered on a human rights complaint filed by Kimberley Nixon in 2002 against Vancouver Rape Relief Society (VRRS). Nixon alleged that the VRRS discriminated against her when they disqualified her from the volunteer program on the basis of her identity as a transgender woman. Nixon was represented by barbara findlay, KC, a prominent Vancouver-based lesbian-feminist lawyer who has represented LGBTQ+ people in a number of landmark cases. The barbara findlay fonds, which are located in UVic’s Transgender Archives, feature prominently within the display.

Though Nixon ultimately lost her case on appeal, it remains a significant event in the development of transgender rights in British Columbia and Canada. It assisted in establishing that sex as defined within the Human Rights Code protects transgender people in British Columbia. It also encouraged women’s groups across Canada to adopt trans-inclusive policies. As Nixon’s lawyer, barbara findlay stated in 2007: “by the time her case was concluded almost every woman’s group in Canada, including the national women’s organizations and women’s sexual assault crisis centres, had adopted trans-inclusive policies. Though Kimberly Nixon lost the battle, she won the war for trans acceptance among women’s groups.” After the court case, Nixon continued her public advocacy, including through promoting trans-inclusive policies at support organizations.

In the display, materials related to the Nixon case are accompanied by materials that highlight dialogues held amongst transgender advocates and feminists throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. During this time, there were active conversations regarding the acceptance of transgender women within women’s spaces, including women’s organizations, shelters, and resource centres. The featured materials are sourced from the Caroline White fonds; Caroline White is a social justice trainer and educator who played a significant role in facilitating dialogue between transgender women and cisgender feminists.


Accompanying the items featured in the glass display cases are a number of materials on display on the wall shelving. These include copies of Vancouver Rape Relief Society vs. Nixon from all levels of the courts, as well as copies of the factums featured in the glass display case. The wall also features content related to the subject of transgender rights in Canada, the United States, and beyond, including books from the law library and QR codes leading to online materials.