Improving Human Rights in Canada

11 Apr

What’s it like to not have human rights protection in Canada?
Yes, you read correctly.

You may be thinking if someone is old enough, and depending on their identities, that they may remember.

Think again.

If you are transgender* in Canada, you are not protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Criminal Code. Nor do you have protection under provincial or territorial Human Rights Codes or Acts – unless you live in the North West Territories.


Bill C-279 – the Federal Gender Identity Bill – hopes to change this.

Bill C-279, introduced by Mr. Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP)  had its first reading in the House of Commons last Thursday April 5th. The debate was…interesting, and if nothing else showed the ignorance and misunderstanding that undermines human rights for transgender individuals in Canada and around the world.
(To read the transcript of the debate, check out Hansard. All comments are listed separately starting on the page linked to and continuing on the following page.)

One of the arguments in the second reading debate was that the higher courts have successfully taken on cases for transgender plaintiffs using sex as a prohibited ground, so why do we need another category?

Food for thought:  By listing some identities and not others, we send a problematic message that some groups’ rights are more important than others and that only these groups are therefore worthy to be listed. Transgender individuals have unique experiences of discrimination that differ from those we would typically see under the prohibited grounds of sex – by virtue of the fact that they challenge our idea that gender and sex match in all individuals, and also challenge gender norms in the attempts of transgender individuals to live as the gender they feel they are.

It is the challenging of “what we know about gender” and the challenging of deeply ingrained gender norms that causes discrimination and transphobia – and which also underlies the debate in the House about whether all Canadians should be afforded human rights in this country. It’s tragic.

What you can do.  The second half of the second reading will take place (hopefully) in May or June.
1. Spread the word.
2. Get in touch with your MP and urge them to vote for it Bill C-279 – for including Gender Identity and Gender Expression in the Canadian Human Rights Act as well as the Criminal Code.  To find your MP.

See more.

copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

*transgender individuals’ gender (social constructs of what it means to be male or female) and sex (biology) do not match. The new term cisgender is used for individuals whose gender and sex match.

Recent article on Bill C-279


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