A transgender woman from London, England, who was held in a men’s jail after being detained over an apparent immigration issue in Canada has filed two human rights complaints.
Avery Edison, 26, said she has filed complaints with both the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
The complaints stem from Edison’s experiences in February when she had travelled to Toronto for a visit.
Edison said she was detained at Pearson airport by the Canada Border Services Agency because on her previous trip to Canada, she stayed past the expiry date of her student visa.
Edison was brought to a male detention facility, Maplehurst Correctional Centre in Milton, Ontario, before eventually being transferred to a female facility.
Looking back on her ordeal, Edison said it was “incredibly stressful” and “upsetting,” adding she burst into tears when she found out she was being taken to a male facility.
“I couldn’t be an active participant in the conversation because I was so upset,” she said, adding that she kept going to the washroom to cry, unsure how to process the “uncertainty and fear.”
Edison had been travelling on a United Kingdom passport that identified her as female.
She said Toronto law firm Dewart Gleason is handling her case pro bono.
Her lawyer, Jonathan Schachter, said the first complaint filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is against the Ministry of Community Safety and Correction Services. The second, he said, is a federal complaint filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against Canada Border Services Agency.
Both complaints were filed Wednesday.
Edison said she is “grateful” that the process is underway even though she is now back in England.
“I just don’t really want the situation to happen to anyone again,” she said, adding that she felt discriminated against both at the detention facility and by some of the public response to her story at the time.
“If there is a time for this type of policy to be addressed, then that time is now,” she said. “I think I owe it to myself and other transgender individuals to turn it into something good.”