US & Canada

Canada army recruiters at transgender job fair 'racism'

Biko Beauttah (right) with Justin Trudeau during Toronto's Pride parade Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Biko Beauttah (right) with Justin Trudeau during Toronto's Pride parade

A Canadian transgender job fair organised by a former Kenyan refugee has been criticised for inviting military recruiters.

Biko Beauttah said she asked the army to the event to honour her grandfather, who was a Kenyan major general.

But other transgender-rights activists say having the military there is an "affront" to their community.

Despite the criticism, Ms Beauttah said the fair will go ahead in Toronto on Trans Remembrance Day on Monday.

Ms Beauttah moved to Canada in 2006 from Kenya, where she said transgender people face discrimination and violence.

She said she spent her first three days in Canada in immigration detention, followed by six months in a refugee shelter.

But finding work in Canada has proved difficult because of transphobia, she says.

Currently, she is an activist and board member at Pride Toronto.

"I decided to throw myself a job fair and my community will benefit well," she told the BBC.

"All you need is an idea and you can literally change the world."

Image copyright Biko Beauttah
Image caption Biko Beauttah's grandfather, Major General Simon Mbilu

The fair will feature 15 employers, including bookstore chain Indigo and Toronto-Dominion Bank.

The Canadian Armed Forces is sending two personnel to find possible transgender recruits.

The presence of the military has irked some members of the transgender community.

Transroots Toronto, a group for transgender people of colour, says the job fair is a "racist act".

"Given the ongoing history of military and police violence against trans people, and of police indifference to anti-trans violence generally, having military or police present at an event specifically for TPOC (Trans People of Color) is an inherently violent act," Transroots Toronto wrote on Facebook.

The group also criticised Ms Beauttah for hosting the event on Trans Remembrance Day, which it said was a "day of mourning".

It is organising a protest outside the job fair.

But Ms Beauttah remains undeterred.

"All those systemic things they complain about, they affect me too," she said.

Toronto is no stranger to debates over police and military involvement at LGBT events.

Earlier this year, Pride Toronto voted in favour of banning uniformed police officers from the annual parade after Black Lives Matter activists said the police presence made LGBT people of colour feel unsafe.

Related Topics

More on this story