Trans people and their allies will rally in New Westminster on Jan 5 to demand justice for January Marie Lapuz, who was fatally stabbed in her New Westminster home on Sept 29.
“January was an amazing woman, and the fact that she’s gone highlights the sorry state this country is in,” says Leada Stray, an organizer with the Transtastic Coalition for Equality, which is coordinating the rally.
“The biggest push will be for transgender rights equality,” they continue (Stray prefers the non-gender-specific pronoun “they”). “It’s simple. We need 10 words added to human rights codes and the Charter and it’s taken how many attempts? We’re not safe in a country that’s supposed to be an LGBT leader.”
The Justice for January rally comes two days before the bail hearing of Charles Jameson “Jamie” Mungo Neel, who was arrested and charged in connection with Lapuz’s murder on Dec 5. Stray says that many in the trans community are concerned about the possibility of his release.
“We do completely understand and encourage the process of justice,” Stray says. “He stands accused, and we are not in any way asking people to pass judgment until he is afforded the fair trial he deserves under the law. The reason we are opposing bail is that we would categorically oppose bail for anyone accused of murdering a transgender individual.”
The rally will begin at New Westminster City Hall and will be followed by a march to the nearby New Westminster Law Courts.
“There will be a number of speakers at city hall and [the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence] will lead us in a traditional march à la San Francisco,” Stray says. “We will go to the courthouse and have another couple of speakers, as well as a candlelight vigil, depending on the weather.”
New Westminster Councillor Jaimie McEvoy says he will attend the rally to show the city’s support for the protection of all citizens, including trans people.
“What I think the murder highlights, while I don’t know the circumstances, is the vulnerability of the trans community. And that vulnerability, at its core root, is an issue of people’s participation and access in society, free of barriers, which include social prejudice and personal struggle,” says McEvoy, who chairs New Westminster’s community and social issues committee.
“I think it’s important when you have a group of people in society — who as a group are among the most disadvantaged in Greater Vancouver — I think it’s important for anybody to show their support,” McEvoy says.
Stray says that a group of trans and trans-friendly people also plan to attend Neel’s bail hearing, scheduled for Monday, Jan 7 at 9:30am at the New Westminster courthouse.
“We’ll hold a silent vigil outside the courthouse,” they say. “We’re making it clear that there will be people there, but nothing is formally organized for that day.”