Non-binary firefighter assaulted and choked by colleagues due to hate for their gender

A firefighter sits on concrete steps

A non-binary firefighter in Ottawa, Canada, claims they were subjected to a hate-fuelled assault by their own colleagues.

On Monday (7 November), Ottawa police said that two employees of Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) had been charged in relation to the assault of the non-binary firefighter.

According to CBC, the first was charged with hate-motivated assault, aggravated assault, forcible confinement and harassment of the alleged victim, and the second was charged with criminal negligence.

The incident was reported to police on 20 September 2022, and the employees were charged on 5 November.

CBC reported that the alleged victim is a non-binary rookie firefighter, who told police that they had been pelted with transphobic slurs by one of their colleagues, before they were attacked and choked. They were later taken to hospital.

While the president of the local union – Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association – said that the alleged attack was an “isolated incident”, and the fire chief warned employees to avoid spreading “inaccurate information that could be false or making assumptions”, LGBTQ+ rights activists say there could be bigger issues at play.

Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, told “It’s extremely disheartening. I think there needs to be a recognition that male-dominated workplaces — and ones that are mostly white and heterosexual — also have misogyny, homophobia and transphobia issues.”

Owusu-Akyeeah added: “The department’s leadership needs to ensure that its most vulnerable people are protected… A lot of trans people get pushed out of the traditional job market because of the level of transphobia they have to deal with, and it’s really scary that people working in publicly funded, frontline services like the fire department face this, too.”

Former Ottawa fire chief Kim Ayotte, now general manager of emergency and protective services with the City of Ottawa, told CBC in a statement: “The City of Ottawa does not tolerate any alleged criminal behaviour and takes matters of improper conduct of city staff extremely seriously.”

The two suspects are due to appear in court on 16 December.