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Transgender student disagrees with verdict of human rights complaint

“I don’t want to be humiliated and pushed through a system that is not going to hear my rights,” says Dal student

Jessica Dempsey holds a letter from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission telling her her human rights complaint has been denied. (Photo by Natasha MacDonald-Dupuis)
Jessica Dempsey holds a letter from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission telling her her human rights complaint has been denied. (Photo by Natasha MacDonald-Dupuis)

Transgender student Jessica Dempsey says she believes she has been let down by the very institution that was supposed to protect her.

Yesterday, she learned her human rights case against food service provider Aramark had been dismissed by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC).

The complaint alleged she was refused service and humiliated by two employees on the basis of her gender identity.

“It boils down to being oppressed. I don’t have the resources that other people have. I don’t have the privilege other people have,” says Dempsey.

On Oct. 1, she received a letter stating the complaint had been dismissed due to “insufficient evidence to support the allegation.”

Last July, Jack Pham, the investigator assigned to the case also recommended the complaint be dismissed after a resolution conference was held between Dempsey, seven Aramark employees and himself.

His report, obtained by the Gazette, found there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that Dempsey was “refused service” or was “treated unfairly.”

In the report, one of the Aramark employees said he did not remember offering her food or refusing to serve her.

The other employee, who allegedly asked Dempsey if “her boobs were real”, said her conversation with Dempsey had seemed “amicable”, and that Dempsey didn’t say her comment was inappropriate.

Dempsey says she disagrees with the verdict. She says the NSHRC failed to provide a safe and fair environment during the resolution conference.

“I had to figure the whole process on my own. If I was a billion dollar company, I think I would have a little more weight,” she says.

She claims her key witness was not heard that day because they had to work.

The NSHRC allegedly informed her she was personally responsible for bringing in witnesses. Dempsey says she did not have the money to compensate for her friend’s lost income.

Dempsey says the “daunting” experienced has left her disillusioned and discouraged.

Shortly after receiving the verdict, she decided to drop her other human rights complaint filed against Dalhousie University. The complaint alleged she had been discriminated against by her professors.

“I’m not going through this process again. I don’t want to be humiliated and pushed through a system that is not going to hear my rights,” she says.

She believes the decision will discourage other transgender people from filing future complaints with the NSHRC.

“I have no idea why they added gender identity and gender expression to the Human Rights Act,” says Dempsey. “It doesn’t make any sense if they don’t follow through with it.”

Dempsey says she has accepted the decision and is ready to move on with her life.

The NSHRC say they cannot comment on Dempsey’s case because it has not been sent to a Board of Inquiry.

Aramark could not be reached for comment.

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