Canada: British trans woman files human rights complaint over detention in men’s prison
A British trans woman has filed a human rights complaint, after she was detained in a men’s prison in Canada.
In February, comedian Avery Edison was detained in a men’s jail when trying to enter Canada to visit her girlfriend, as she had overstayed a previous visa.
She reported that customs officials were using male pronouns, despite her having a valid female passport, and flip-flopped several times on which gender detention facility to send her to, before eventually sending her to Maplehurst Men’s Prison.
Her complaint, filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Canadian human rights commission this week, states: “At Maplehurst, in spite of Ms. Edison’s legal and self-identification as a woman, Ms. Edison was continually referred to as ‘he’ or ‘him’ or ‘sir’.”
Edison told CTV that she filed the complaint in order to help others who might find themselves in the same situation.
She said: “Once the incident was over with, and I was back in London I just wanted to put it all behind me. I was contacted by some lawyers who suggested that if we took this to a human rights tribunal, we could maybe effect some positive change in policy, so this didn’t happen to anyone again.
“The real core of the complaint is less about the discrimination suffered at the prison, which was pretty rough and absolutely not something I want to overlook, but the real issue was being sent to the men’s prison in the first place.
“I feel there should be better guidelines for dealing with it – “There was a real feeling in the immigration centre that customs officials had no idea what to do with me, there was no precedent for handling a transgender person, and there was an arbitrary decision made.”
“We’re hoping there can be some policy made that would defer to an individual’s gender identity.”
Lawyer Jonathan Schachter said: “Everyone understands that there is something wrong when a woman is placed in a men’s prison. Unfortunately, experiences like hers are all too common.
“Our country defines itself by its diversity. Our public institutions cannot ignore the challenges that this [gender] diversity may present.”