Trans rights activist Julie Berman killed in Canada

Published by Brent Patterson on

On December 27, Pink News reported, “A trans woman and activist who tirelessly worked to battle transphobia was allegedly murdered last weekend in Canada and a suspect has been arrested. Julie Berman, 51, based in Toronto, had for years exerted energy in raising awareness of the rocketing rates of anti-trans violence across the city.”

“According to authorities, she was killed in a downtown boarding home near the corner of Brunswick Avenue and Harbord Street, a residential neighbourhood with fish and chips eateries and university accommodation.”

“Pride Toronto confirmed her passing on December 24, describing Berman as a ‘staunch supporter […] and a good person.’”

The Globe and Mail adds, “When Julie Berman came up to the open mic at the trans day of remembrance event on Nov. 20, 2017, she delivered a speech about transphobia in Toronto. She talked about a trans friend of hers that was murdered.”

“’It’s really heartbreaking … the same thing that she was trying to be vocal about happened to her’, said Davina Hader, a friend of the victim and a member of The 519, an organization that advocates for the inclusion of LGBTQ communities’ members and provides services for them.”

“Ms. Berman used to be a hairdresser and was involved for almost three decades with community events at The 519. ‘She was struggling to survive as we all do’, Ms. Hader said. ‘It’s very unfortunate, very sad.’”

That article notes a 2015 study published by Trans PULSE says that 20 per cent of trans people in Ontario had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans and another 34 per cent had been verbally threatened or harassed but not assaulted. The same study said 24 per cent reported having been harassed by police.

Olivia Nuamah, the executive director of Pride Toronto, says, “For many in the trans community, sadly, violence is a part of life.”

Peace Brigades International-Canada extends our condolences to Julie’s friends and loved ones. We mourn the loss of an advocate for trans human rights.

PBI accompanies human rights defenders around the world, including those engaged in struggles related to the right to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Yogyakarta Principles were unanimously adopted in 2006 by a group of human rights experts and then updated in 2017. Those principles affirm that “sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse.”

Principle 27 calls on all states to, “Ensure the protection of human rights defenders, working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, against any violence, threat, retaliation, de facto or de jure discrimination, pressure, or any other arbitrary action perpetrated by the State, or by non-State actors, in response to their human rights activities.”

For more on our work in defence of trans rights in Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala, please see PBI-Canada observes the 20th anniversary Transgender Day of Remembrance.


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