LGBTory Canada Supports the Government of Canada’s Proposed Transgender Rights Legislation
Monday | May 16 | 2016
The Government of Canada plans to introduce a bill in Parliament to add gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code of Canada as a prohibited ground of discrimination. LGBTory Canada supports this bill and urges parliamentarians of all parties, including the Conservative Party of Canada, to pass it.
In 2015 Bill C-279, a private-member’s bill sponsored by NDP MP Randall Garrison was introduced in Parliament. The bill proposed to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination. It also would have amended the Criminal Code to include gender identity as a distinguishing characteristic protected under section 318 and as an aggravating circumstance to be taken into consideration under section 718.2 at the time of sentencing. The bill passed Third Reading in the House of Commons but was held up in the Senate by Conservative Senators over proposed amendments to the bill regarding access to public washrooms and change rooms. Progress of the bill was halted when Parliament was dissolved prior to the 2015 federal election.
The Government of Canada will introduce legislation once again to add gender identity and gender expression to these important laws. We urge Conservative Senators to stop blocking passage of this bill.
There is a need for protection of the civil and legal rights of trans people in Canada. Statistics collected in Ontario show that 39% of trans individuals have been turned down for a job, 26% have been assaulted, and 24% have been harassed by police. Employment discrimination places a disproportionate burden on trans people in Ontario, resulting in both high unemployment and underemployment (Egale Canada).
The proposed legislation being put forward by the Ministry of Justice offers the same protection against discrimination and crime on the basis of gender identity and gender expression as is currently afforded on the basis of sexual orientation. Gender identity is the gender that someone identifies as and gender expression is the gender that others see. Adding protections for gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code of Canada will codify in law that trans people have, like all Canadians, “the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination” as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Gender identity and gender expression are currently explicitly protected by the Human Rights Codes of Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island. Gender identity is explicitly protected by the Human Rights Codes of Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan. Transgender rights have been interpreted under other grounds in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nunavut, Quebec, and Yukon. LGBTory believes these systems have been successful and should serve as a model for passage and administration of similar federal legislation.
Concerns raised by opponents of the bill regarding access to bathrooms and change rooms are unfounded. Most of the provinces and territories have implemented similar legislation without any serious issues in this regard; we see no reason why the same protections recognized in federal law would have a different outcome. Proposed rules restricting access to these facilities on the basis of a person’s gender at birth are unenforceable and violate existing human rights codes. Most provinces already allow trans people to change their sex designation on birth certificates and other primary identity documents (Service Ontario). Objections based on these issues do not justify blocking the passage of this bill.
We hope legislators of all political parties will support this legislation and facilitate its passage through Parliament.
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