Canada is getting a trans rights bill

May 13, 2016 – Anna Mehler Paperny, Global News

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is tabling a bill enshrining trans and gender-identity rights in Canadian law next week.

The bill, which spokesperson Joanne Ghiz confirmed will be tabled Tuesday morning, will make it officially illegal — and a hate crime — to discriminate against someone based on their gender identity.

It’s in keeping with Wilson-Raybould’s mandate letter, which directed her to introduce “government legislation to add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to the list of distinguishing characteristics of ‘identifiable group’ protected by the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.”

“She’ll be introducing legislation for that next Tuesday,” Ghiz said.

Tuesday is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

READ MORE: Trans people still aren’t counted in Canada’s hate crimes data

This law will be similar to a bill introduced in the last parliament by NDP MP Randall Garrison.

That bill passed in the House but was effectively killed in the Senate by amendments that left it ineffectual.

Not having trans rights enshrined in law matters, advocates say. It means discrimination and criminal targeting of trans or gender non-conforming people aren’t classified or tracked as hate crimes.

But it also means there isn’t a legal onus on public institutions and law enforcement to train people in how to spot and quash transphobia.

“It’s hugely significant,” Ryan Dyck, director of research policy and development with rights advocacy group Egale, told Global News earlier this spring.

“We know trans people are one of the most targeted groups. And they experience violence at a much higher rate than other people,” he said.

“But because we don’t collect data, we don’t collect information on these circumstances, it makes it difficult to put in place any programming or training for police or communities that address these crimes.”

IN DEPTH: The fight for trans rights

Canadians got a reminder of the forms that kind of hatred can take whensomeone tried to set fire to the only clinic in the country that provides gender reassignment surgery.

Dyck welcomed the announcement Friday.

“We’ve had very productive conversations recently with the Minister, her senior staff, and other community members,” he wrote in an email.

“We are very much looking for to next week’s anticipated announcement, and are optimistic that this is the beginning of a meaningful program of action on behalf of the government to ensure that trans and gender diverse people are protected and included throughout our communities.”

Continuing debate over the rights of trans people has come to the fore over the past few months as multiple U.S. states enact laws prohibiting people from using washrooms whose gender designations don’t match the individuals’ genitalia.

Earlier this month the U.S. federal government said it’s suing North Carolina over its law discriminating against transgender people.

On Friday, President Barack Obama’s administration issued a directive to all schools telling them to let students use washrooms and change rooms consistent with their gender identity.

The fight for trans rights has come up in multiple provinces: Spencer Chandra Hebert, a New Democrat in the B.C. legislature, introduced a private member’s bill to protect gender identity in the province’s human rights code last month. B.C.’s Attorney-General has said the government won’t support the bill.

Alberta gave its school boards an ultimatum, requiring them to come up with inclusive policies on gay-straight alliances, bathroom use and other LGBTQ issues by earlier this year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s