Prominent Canadian trans activist who spoke out about violence against community killed

'The same thing that she was trying to be vocal about happened to her,' says Julie Berman's friend

Julie Berman, 51, died after she was subjected to an alleged assault in central Toronto
Julie Berman, 51, died after she was subjected to an alleged assault in central Toronto

A vocal campaigner for transgender rights who spoke out against the starkly disproportionate levels of violence the community faces has been killed in Canada.

Julie Berman, 51, died last Sunday after she was subjected to an alleged assault in central Toronto.

Detective Rob Choe, who works for the Toronto police homicide squad, said Ms Berman died of “blunt-impact trauma” to her head which investigators deem to have been caused by a weapon.

Officers answered a call for an assault and straight away arrested a man at the scene, Detective Choe said.

Colin Harnack, 29, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Toronto Pride paid tribute to Ms Berman, hailing her as a “tireless" activist.

“In loving memory of Julie Berman, a proud trans woman and tireless advocate who fought to raise awareness of the increasing rates of anti-trans violence across our city,” the organisation said. “With heavy hearts, we will remember Julie. #RestInPeace.”

Ms Herman, who also worked as a hairdresser, strived to shine a light on the injustices the trans community battles against.

“It’s really heartbreaking ... The same thing that she was trying to be vocal about happened to her,” Davina Hader, her friend, told the Globe and Mail.

Trans and gender non-conforming people are forced to endure unprecedented levels of violence around the world.

According to the Human Rights Commission, there were 24 deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people due to violence in 2019 in America.

Susan Gapka said she became friends with Ms Berman through community events such as the Trans Day of Remembrance which is marked on 20 November each year in memory of those whose lives have been claimed by transphobic brutality.

The day celebrates and honours “the lives of trans-identified people who have passed away due to transphobia, hate crimes, illness, substance use, suicide, or murder.”

“We’ve been on the same platform speaking out against the violence, which in turn became her last struggling moments,” Ms Gapka told national news agency the Canadian Press.

“When it’s someone you know as a community member, someone who is as cheerful and lovely as Julie, it really strikes hard on the heart.”

She added: “We do need to talk about this violence and how to respond to this violence. It’s very important and it’s also something Julie would do in the same situation.”

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