Trans activist killed in Toronto, two years after speaking out against anti-trans violence
A Canadian transgender rights activist has been killed in Toronto, according to police officials.
Lead investigator Detective Robert Choe said after officers received a 911 call Sunday afternoon reporting an assault, they discovered Julie Berman, 51, suffering from “significant” injuries to her face and head. She was transported to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Colin Harnack, 29, of Toronto, was arrested at the crime scene and charged with second-degree murder, Officer David Hopkinson, a Toronto police spokesman, told CNN.
“It wasn’t a manhunt. We got to the scene and made the arrest,” Hopkinson said.
Berman and Harnack had been socializing at Harnack’s residence prior to the attack, Choe said.
Harnack has been in custody since Sunday and could not be immediately reached for comment. Choe said he was not aware of Harnack having a lawyer.
Harnack made his first appearance in court on Monday, but has not yet entered a plea. He is next scheduled to appear in court January 15. Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General could not share court documents until the court reopens on Monday.
Members of Toronto’s LGBTQ community remembered Berman as an activist and prominent community member.
“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,” Pride Toronto tweeted. “With heavy hearts, we will remember Julie. #RestInPeace”
Berman sometimes worked with The 519, a local LGBTQ center, according to staff.
Two years ago, Berman served on the center’s organizing committee for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international event that memorializes transgender people killed in transphobic attacks over the past year.
At the 2017 vigil, Berman spoke out on anti-transgender violence, and mourned people she knew who had been killed, according to Susan Gapka, an organizer and educator with The 519.
Now, the Toronto transgender community mourns Berman.
“We’re remembering her with respect and dignity, that she didn’t get when she was alive due to transphobia, and she didn’t get in her final moments under attack,” Gapka said.
Berman’s family held a private funeral, Gapka said, with a public memorial to follow in January.