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Wednesday 09 November 2016

Canadian Transgender Rights Bill Advances

Posted in: Comment, Features
By Craig Young - 20th October 2016

After a long and torturous process and many frustrations, it looks as if Canada is finally going to pass long-awaited amendments to the Canada Human Rights Act to protect transgender Canadians from discrimination on the basis of employment, accomodation and service provision after a bill was introduced in the House of Commons.

On Tuesday October 18, Bill C-16 cleared its second reading in the House of Commons and is now off to the House's Justice select committee for submissions, analysis and suggested amendments. At 248-40, there was an overwhelming margin in favour of reform, consisting mostly of the Liberal and New Democrat Party MPs and opposed mostly by members of the Conservative Opposition. In government during the past decade, the Conservatives repeatedly stonewalled, sabotaged or attacked the legitimacy of transgender needs and rights within the context of federal antidiscrimination laws. Happily, though, at the provincial level, there was not as much constraint, and as a result, all of Canada's provinces and territories already include gender identity within their provincial antidiscrimination laws- British Columbia was the last holdout, but changed its mind earlier this year. Sasketchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, the Northwestern Territories, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Alberta had all done so beforehand. In 2012, the Liberals and New Democrats both introduced federal trans-inclusive anti-discrimination bills- C-276 and C-279 -while in opposition, but both were sabotaged when they reached the federal Canadian Senate. The legislation also amends Canadian legislation against hate speech to include transgender Canadians.

In Canada's LGBT Xtra newspaper, more detail was available. Dylan Robertson (19.10.2016) notes that one of the anti-trans Conservative MPs objecting to Bill C-16 was Brad Trost, a Sasketchewan MP and candidate for the role of Conserative Opposition Leader and a social conservative, who sought to use the case of transwoman Kimberly Nixon and the Vancouver Rape Relief Centre as a reason why it should still be legitimate to discriminate against transpeople. The Vancouver Rape Relief Centre is dominated by trans-exclusive radical feminists and its controversial refusal to include transwomen on its collective or counsel and support transgender rape survivors has LGBT and trans-inclusive feminist critics in British Columbia. Apparently, the Centre finds nothing wrong in co-belligerency with Trost, an avowed anti-abortionist who refers to transwomen who use gender appropriate toilet and changing room facilities as "men,' mimicking anti-transgender US Christian Right propaganda. It should be noted that interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose has stated that this will be a conscience vote for her caucus and that some Conservative MPs voted for Bill C-16. Moreover, according to National Post coverage, all six of the other Conservative leadership contenders support Bill C-16.

Some Conservatives, such as Peter Kent, tried to sound conciliatory, noting that earlier human rights tribunal decisions included gender identity as a subcategory of 'sex' or 'gender'. Conservative MP Harold Albrecht worried about the effect of imposing 'ideological conformity' on religious social conservative faiths or first-generation migrant communities (as opposed to the current situation, which imposes social conservative ideological conformity on transgender people). Another Conservative MP, Cathay Waganstall, raised the issue of service provider discrimination and anti-transgender attacks on access to gender-appropriate toilets and changing room facilities. Fortunately, as a government bill, it is likely to pass with support from the dominant Liberal incumbents and their New Democrat and Bloc Quebecois allies. For a welcome change, there seems to be little to no opposition from the Canadian Christian Right, apart from the Alliance for Reformed Political Action, a network strongly linked to the Christian Heritage Party of Canada and the Reformed Church of Canada.

With the progress of Bill C-16, New Zealand's continued refusal to directly include gender identity within its own Human Rights Act is starting to look extremely embarrassing. The United Kingdom, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India all include gender identity within their respective anti-discrimination laws, but New Zealand's Key administration continues to insist that the Solicitor General's Crown Law Office opinion from a decade ago has legal effect. Thanks to the courage, inner strength and self-sacrifice of Auckland trans hairdresser Dakota Hemingson, we now know that it does insofar as constructive/unfair dismissal in the context of employment rights is concerned, although accomodation and service provision rights are still to be tested before administrative or regulatory tribunals or courts within New Zealand. Worse still, some politically unconscious gay men uphold the exclusion of gender identity from anti-discrimination laws. This is a continuing source of shame and disgrace for this country. The transgender community should not have had to wait more than twenty three years for equality within our anti-discrimination laws.


"Transgender Rights bill passes key Commons vote, heads off to Justice committee"Globe and Mail:19.10.2016:http://www. politics/transgender-rights- bill-passes-key-commons-vote- heads-to-committee/ article32429543/

Dylan Robertson: "Trans rights bill sparks heated debate"Daily Xtra: 19.10.2016:http://www. ideas/news/trans-rights-bill- sparks-heated-debate-208490

Kady O'Malley: "Transgender rights bill sets stage for major battle for social conservatives among Tory leadership hopefuls"National Post:13.10.2016:http://news. canadian-politics/canada- needs-a-pro-life-leader- transgender-rights-bill-sets- stage-for-battle-among- conservative-hopefuls

Alliance for Reformed Political Action:

Craig Young - 20th October 2016

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