Human Rights Advisory Services

Human Rights Advisory Services
Human Rights Advisory Services

Dawson v. Vancouver Police Board (No. 2) 2015 BCHRT 54 (CanLII)


Angela Dawson is a transgender women. Ms. Dawson’s legal name is Jeffrey Allan Dawson. In this case Ms. Dawson alleges that the treatment she received from the Vancouver Police Board (VPB) amounted to discrimination based on sex. In this case Ms. Dawson allegations are based on six separate incidents with the VPB. In this case the adjudicator ruled on each incident separately. All allegations except for those arising on March 29-30 and June 18th are dismissed. On March 29-30 and June 18th the adjudicator in this trial ruled that Ms. Dawson was discriminated against based on sex because she was not provided necessary medical treatment related to her gender-reassignment surgery. In particular, Ms. Dawson sates that although she informed officers and nurses within the jail that she needed to preform particular medical procedures (dilation) frequently (four times per day) she was denied the ability to perform this procedure while in custody. The VPB did not consider how they could accommodate Ms. Dawson and whether or not accommodating Ms. Dawson would amount to undue hardship. On June 18th Ms. Dawson was arrested for breach of the peace. On this particular incident VPB referred to Ms. Dawson using male pronouns and her given name “Jeffrey”. In addition, Ms. Dawson was again restricted from preforming a dilation procedure related to her gender-reassignment surgery. On this incident and the one on March 29-30 it was decided that Ms. Dawson had been discriminated against on the basis of her sex by the VPB. 

Question(s) to be Determined:

  1. Did the VPB discriminate against Ms. Dawson on the basis of her sex?


  1. Did the VPB discriminate against Ms. Dawson on the basis of her sex?


*In this case Ms. Dawson made allegations regarding six separate incidents.  In this case all allegations except the following were dismissed except for:

  • The Complaint concerning the medical treatment she received while incarcerated March 29-30 and June 18 is upheld.
  • When the VPB referred to Ms. Dawson as male, it discriminated against her, particularly with respect to the incident on June 18, 2010. 


In this case it was stated that: “I find that the way that Ms. Dawson received medical treatment in the jail amounted to discrimination. Her claim that she needed to undergo post-surgical treatment was not taken seriously. No real effort was made to accommodate her needs and no evaluation was done by anyone at the jail as to whether such accommodation would amount to undue hardship” (para 157).

In relation to the use of male pronouns when referring to Ms. Dawson it was stated that the VPB lacked a clear and consistent approach when working with transgender perpetrators, witnesses or victims. “Overall, the interactions between Ms. Dawson and members of the VPB show that there is significant inconsistency in approach of how officers deal with and identify Ms. Dawson. In many cases, members of the VPB have referred to Ms. Dawson with both male and female pronouns; often in the same document. They will call her Angela or Jeffrey” (para 243).

“I conclude that VPB has no policy with respect to the way to identify trans people, with whom it deals, either as victim, witness, or perpetrator. There has been no description of the circumstances under which officers should use the name and gender preferred by the trans person. There was no evidence of the VPB weighing the circumstances and identifying to its officers when using other than the legal name would be a reasonable accommodation, short of undue hardship” (para 244).



In this case it was ordered that:

  • The VPB cease the contraventions and refrain from committing the same or a similar contravention.
  • The VPB pay Ms. Dawson the sum of $15,000 as damages for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.
  • The VPB has engaged in systemic discrimination of trans people concerning their identification. Within one year, policies are to be adopted by VPB that allow identification of trans people without discrimination. Officers are to be trained in implementation of these policies.