The Howe Sound Women’s Centre in the Whistler, BC area is rebranding to “PearlSpace,” removing “women” from its name as women-only spaces continue to be eroded in Canada.
“The decision to rebrand was made after several years of reflection and introspection,” the organization wrote on Facebook.
“The new brand provides an opportunity to expand the service delivery for the organization beyond cis and trans women, which will be inclusive of all Two-Spirit, trans, non-binary, and gender diverse individuals impacted by gender-based violence as well as better represent the geographic region that we serve.”
The new name mirrors the shelter that the organization operates, called Pearl’s Place, which the society notes is “named after the late Pearl Souster who passed away in 1992 and is recognized within the community for her service and support to survivors.”
“In 1995 this shelter moved into a three-bedroom rental home which was named Pearl’s Place Transition House and this name remains today.”
While the previous Howe Sound Women’s Centre website states it provides housing options for women and children fleeing abusive relationships, the new PearlSpace Constitution commits to providing “transitional housing for women, children, gender-diverse, non-binary, Two Spirit and trans people in need.”
The change is “disappointing,” one women’s rights advocate said.
“There is definitely a danger to women, especially in situations where women are particularly traumatized and vulnerable, like a domestic abuse shelter or rape shelter or prison,” Shelley Crowley, co-founder of Women’s Rights Matter, told True North.
“This is why women fought so hard to get separate spaces in the first place.”
In 2019, Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, was stripped of its municipal funding ($34,000) for refusing to open its mandate to serve biological males presenting as trans women.
“There is no women’s organization in Canada that can receive federal funding now unless they include trans women,” Crowley said.
“Most functioning democracies can manage competing rights… Vancouver, for instance, after pulling Vancouver Rape Relief’s funding decided to invest $3.8 million dollars into a brand-new community centre and shelter exclusively for people who are trans. But people who are trans are not interested in that.
“They want to be in women’s spaces. One must ask oneself why that might be.”
The Howe Sound Women’s Centre/PearlSpace did not return True North’s request for comment by the time of publication.