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 and her needs were not met until she complained.
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 the deputy warden to the assistant warden at 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 “all the equipment of a male.”
Lovado requested a “female Alouette Centre diet” while at Surrey Pretrial but was told that wasn’t possible, the ruling said. The tribunal noted BC Corrections branch did provide her with female underwear including bras and make-up from Alouette.
Corrections said in its application for dismissal that staff at the Surrey Pretrial Centre ensured Lovado was placed in areas where she could have adequate privacy.
“It says it also ensured Ms. Lovado’s physical and mental health-care needs were addressed in a timely manner,” the ruling said.
Lovado did not respond to requests for comment, and the Justice Ministry said it could not provide information until the election writ is returned.
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