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Ps Transgender Rights Bill: Progress at last? : PandR: Canada's Transgender Rights Bill: Progress at last?

Thu 15 Oct 2015 In: Politics and Religion View at Wayback View at NDHA

For several years, I've covered Canada's ongoing trials and tribulations over Bill C-279, that nation's latest attempt to add gender identity to its national anti-discrimination legislation. And with Canada's next federal election imminent, it looks as if Canada's transgender communities will finally get the right to freedom from employment, educational and service provider discrimination that they have so long sought. Bill C-279 was the latest attempt by Vancouver's out gay New Democrat MP Randall Garrison to amend the Canada Human Rights Act to directly include gender identity, and was first debated in the House of Commons back in 2012. Thanks to support from liberal Conservatives, it passed in Canada's lower federal parliamentary house but then fell afoul of the malicious Harper administration in the upper house. It was then repeatedly rescheduled and subjected to ludicrous wrecking amendments, despite widespread and broad-based support from mainstream Canadian community welfare service organisations, at the whim of unrepresentative Canadian Christian Right extremist organisations such as (anti-abortion and anti-gay) Campaign Life Canada, (anti-feminist) REAL Women of Canada and (televangelist-dominated) Canada Family Action Coalition. By contrast, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Bar Association, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, University of British Columbia, Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, British Columbia Government and Service Employee Workers Union, Canadian Association of Social Workers, Canadian Association of University Teachers, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Womens Association, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Communities Addressing Suicide Together, Council of Canadians With Disabilities, Greenpeace Canada, Independent Jewish Voices Ontario, Kids Help Phone, the National Union of Public and General Employees, Northern Territories Federation of Labour, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, Canadian Humanist Society, Oxfam Canada, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Sasketchewan Public Health Association United Church of Canada, University of Guelph and YMCA all joined numerous HIV/AIDS, LGBT and transgender organisations in support of C-279. One would submit that this cross-section of Canadian civil society organisations is far more representative than fringe religious social conservative pressure groups.  And equally predictably, all of the above were slavishly dependent on US Christian Right pressure groups for their propaganda, tactics and strategy.  As for the Harper administration, the Conservative Party is the result of fusion between two prior centre-right parties- the more sensible and mainstream Progressive Conservatives and the right-wing Reform Party of Alberta, which consists predominantly of social conservatives and panders to the Canadian Christian Right. Harper himself is pragmatic enough to make sure anti-abortion and anti-gay militancy doesn't arise and alienate mainstream Canadian urban voters from voting Tory, but the same cannot be said for anti-transgender and anti-sexworker politics. Respected Canadian current affairs journal Macleans has analysed the sorry history of C-279 and what caused its eventual shipwreck. Journalist Rachel Browne didn't mince her words- it was "how discrimination got in the way of the federal transgender rights bill." The instigator of the wrecking clause was one Senator Don Plett (Manitoba), who proposed a motion that transgender people be barred from entering crisis counselling facilities, abuse shelters, prisons, military changing rooms and toilets so that they not "re-traumatise" ciswomen, on the spurious and mendacious "basis" that transwomen are "biological men" who may be "sexual predators." Liberal Senator Jane Cordy had earlier called Plett's bluff on this issue and had studied jurisdictions that included gender identity within their antidiscrimination statutes. She stated: "In none of these jurisdictions has there been an increase in unlawful or inappropriate activity since this legislation was passed. The perception that there's a lineup of people, transgender people, waiting until this law is passed and then suddenly, they're going to be breaking the law. I think it's unrealistic to have that expectation. There are no more criminally minded people within that community than in any other community, is that correct?"  (Senator Cordy's statement can be read within the Daily Kos reference below, 04.07.2013).  Fortunately, however, several Canadian provinces already protect  gender identity directly within their anti-discrimination laws- Ontario, Sasketchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, as well as the Northwest Territories, but British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta currently do not.  There are some encouraging developments to report, however. Both Canadian New Democrat leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau have promised to reintroduce and pass Bill C-279 if either become Prime Minister after Canada's October federal election. At present, the likeliest outcome seems either an Liberal majority or minority government, or an NDP-Liberal coalition will replace the Harper Tories after the latter's three term tenure of office. Current opinion polls suggest that Justin Trudeau's Liberals may win the election to be held on October 19, which still suggests that Canada's transgender community will have enough supportive parliamentary representation to pass Bill C-279 or another transgender rights bill.  It still looks as if the Canadian Christian Right are about to have the door of unwarranted access for their fringe, extremist opinions and derivative US Christian Right propaganda slammed shut on their collective unrepresentative toehold.  But is this the only issue at stake for Canadian LGBT voters? Xtra Canada columnist Rob Salerno acknowledges their importance, particularly to Canada's transgender communities and LGBT youth organisations in the context of comprehensive antibullying legislation coverage, but he comments that narrow niche voting risks ignoring or sidelining other important election issues such as reticence to declare outright whether they will definitively repeal anti-sexworker Bill C-36 and draconian Canadian surveillance Bill C-51, implement  a national Canadian drug purchase strategy (akin to Pharmac for New Zealanders), and the local Toronto issue of 'carding', which appears to be a form of racist police 'profiling' of 'suspicious' ethnic minority group members.  These are particularly important questions. While C-279 is probably the major LGBTI grievance during the Canadian federal election, it is not the only subject worthy of critical scrutiny among Canadian LGBTI voters. Recommended:  Rachel Browne: "How discrimination got in the way of the federal transgender rights bill" Macleans: 15.02.2015: transgender- bill Equal Rights for All: Civil Society Statement in Support of Bill C-279 (the Transgender Rights Bill): EGALE Canada: rights-for-all-civil- society-statement-in-support- of-bill-c-279-the-gender- identity-bill/  New Democrat Party: "Thomas Mulcair Celebrates Pride, Pledges to Recognize Transgender Rights and Build a More Inclusive Canada" NDP Media Release: 28.06.2015: news/mulcair-celebrates-pride- pledge-to-recognize- transgender-rights- and-build-more-inclusive- canada Liberal Party of Canada: "Liberals stand up for transgender rights": Liberal Party of Canada: 17.04.2015: http://www. for -transgender-rights/ Rob Salerno: "How the NDP and Liberals are failing queer voters" Xtra Canada: 14.09.2015: http://www. opinion /the-ndp-and-liberals-failing- queer-voters-138605 Opinion polling in the Canadian federal election 2015/Wikipedia: http:// polling_in_the_Canadian_ federal_election,_2015 Craig Young - 15th October 2015    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 15th October 2015 - 10:06pm

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