For the first time in more than a decade, Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter will not receive city funding, as the organization refuses to change a policy that excludes transgender women from its services.

Hilla Kerner with the women’s shelter explained that if a transgender woman calls their crisis line, staff will always make sure that person is safe.

At the same time, Kerner added, "Our core work, our core services and the way we organize, is based on that particular oppression of being born as female.”

“That's why our services are for only for women who are born as female."

On Wednesday, Kerner took questions from Vancouver city councillors for nearly an hour, but was unable to stop a vote to cut public funding to the Vancouver Rape Relief after this year.

"We believe this decision was made under populist pressure and did not take into account the important work we do and have been doing for more than 45 years with women in Vancouver," she said.  

Vancouver city councillor Christine Boyle explained the city has policies around grants that require organizations be inclusive and welcoming regardless of racial background and gender identity.

"To receive city funding, they need to be serving all women, and that includes trans women," Boyle said.

Since the vote, Boyle said she has received a lot of angry and transphobic pushback.

“It has made me especially conscious of how vulnerable transgender women and transgender are in this city.”

Morgane Oger, a transgender activist, applauded the city's decision but was frustrated to see the rape crisis centre continues to discriminate against transgender women.

"I'm disappointed that they're not willing to change their policy and their approach at this time and that they have a fundamental belief that their way is the only way to move forward," she said.

"Vancouver Rape Relief refuses to house women who are transgender. Would we accept that Vancouver Rape Relief refuses to house women who are Muslim? Or white? Or black?"

The city has now given Vancouver Rape Relief an ultimatum: it will receive funding again once it changes its policy.

Kerner made it clear, it would be a profound change that will completely undermine the work they do.

"It is like asking an immigration worker why a resident of Canada is not involved in their work,” Kerner said.

Vancouver Rape Relief uses its grants from the city for education and outreach.