Protestors gathered at six women’s prisons in Canada and the US on March 6 to demand changes to legislation and policies that enable males who identify as females to serve time in women’s prisons. They also aimed to raise awareness about violent males already housed in female prisons, such as Tara DeSousa, a convicted killer, pedophile, and rapist who served time in a Canadian prison with a mother and baby program.
The protests were sponsored by Canadian Women’s Sex-Based Rights (caWsbar—full disclosure: I am a founding member) and organized in large part by Heather Mason, a women’s prison abolitionist who was formerly incarcerated. She attended the Kitchener, Ontario protest. “We fought for years to be recognized as total persons with different needs than imprisoned males. We fought against the male model of corrections that they applied to us. We developed women’s corrections with a vision based on choice. We are at risk of having that male model forced on us again, and women are given no choice and no voice once again,” Mason said.
In British Columbia, approximately 20 women gathered at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women. They held signs with slogans such as “dicks don’t belong here” and “Trudeau put rapists in women’s prisons.” The public response was largely positive, though at one point a car full of women pulled up to the protest and asked what the protest was about. A protestor said, “it’s about rapists inside women’s prisons.” The woman in the car then shouted: “You mean transwomen? Fuck you!”
A small group of women protested in Calgary, Alberta, handing out more than 100 flyers about males in women’s prisons to a largely uninformed public. Eva Kurilova was one of the protestors. “Most people have no idea what is going on in Canada’s federal women’s prisons. Some don’t care even when told, some simply don’t want to think about it, and some yelled at us and called us hateful. But the best part was that many people said that they knew about the issue and agreed with us, while others were horrified that they had never heard about it… These harmful policies have enjoyed anonymity until now, and the best way to push back on them is to simply bring them into the light,” Kurilova said.
Women’s advocate Raine McLeod was also handing out flyers in Calgary. “The men who are requesting transfer [into female prisons] are overwhelmingly convicted of sexual offenses… [They] include murderers, rapists, and pedophiles. We are confident that if more Canadians were aware of this policy there would be outrage, so we went out to tell them,” she said.
Other locations included Ottawa, Ontario; Bellvue, Washington; and Edmonton, Alberta. These latest demonstrations were part of an ongoing series of prison protests organized by Mason. To learn more, visit the caWsbar website.