Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)
moved that Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am very proud that on May 17 we introduced Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. The bill addresses a fundamental issue of equality and human rights, the discrimination and hate crimes experienced by trans and gender diverse Canadians.
At this time I would like to table, in both official languages, a potential charter impact statement for Bill C-16.
I would first like to acknowledge the efforts of colleagues in bringing this matter before previous Parliaments by the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, the member for Vancouver Centre, and the former member for Burnaby—Douglas, Mr. Bill Siksay. Their hard work on this issue helped start an important national conversation on gender identity and expression. I thank them all for their leadership.
Canadians know that trans people make the same important contributions to Canadian society as everyone else, yet their life journeys are often more challenging, as they have to overcome misunderstandings, prejudice, and hostility because of their gender identity or expression. With the bill, we unequivocally say that Canada can do better. As the Prime Minister has said, Canada is stronger because of its diversity, not in spite of it.
Bill C-16 reflects our commitment to this diversity and provides for equality and freedom from discrimination and violence for all Canadians, regardless of their gender identity. With the bill, we say loudly and clearly that it is time to move beyond mere tolerance of trans people. It is time for their full acceptance and inclusion in Canadian society.
Bill C-16 would bring us closer to this goal by amending two statutes: the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. These two statutes play an essential role in affirming the basic equality rights of all Canadians and reducing their vulnerability to harm. It would improve legal protections for trans and gender diverse people by updating the laws against discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crimes. It would promote inclusion and respect for trans people who have so often been relegated to the margins, struggling for full recognition and participation in our society.
Some of the words and concepts used in the discussion on Bill C-16 may not be familiar to all Canadians. For this reason, I would like to elaborate on some of the terminology being used. The term “gender identity” is a person's internal or individual experience of their gender. It is a deeply felt experience of being a man, a woman, or being somewhere along the gender spectrum. Gender identity is a profound matter of self-identity. It shapes one's self-understanding.
Conversely, “gender expression” is how a person publicly presents their gender. It is an external, or outward presentation of gender through aspects such as dress, hair, makeup, body language, or voice. Trans and gender diverse persons are among the most vulnerable members in society. As parliamentarians we have the opportunity to make their lives safer and freer. Bill C-16 presents an opportunity to ensure that our laws provide clear and explicit protection to those who need it the most.
I will begin by discussing the proposed amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act. Parliament enacted this act in 1977 to promote equal opportunity in federal workplaces and in access to goods and services. The act says:
||all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices
Canada has a long history of laws that recognize and seek to address harmful discrimination. Over the course of this history a theme has emerged, one of greater awareness of the barriers to opportunity that exist in our society.
When legislatures across this country came to understand the pervasive harm done by discrimination against women, they prohibited discrimination based on sex. Later, legislators expanded the laws again to legally protect persons with disabilities. Other prohibited grounds of discrimination are now common in human rights laws throughout the country, such as family status and sexual orientation.
Today, we are at a point in our history where we must act again. We must renew our commitment to equal opportunity and further extend legal protection to vulnerable Canadians who experience discrimination. In recent years, many legislatures in Canada have acted to protect the rights of trans and gender diverse persons. We can now see these legal protections are not just symbolically important; they are absolutely necessary. Significant Canadian surveys paint an alarming picture.
In 2009 and 2010, the Trans Pulse project studied the experiences of approximately 500 trans persons in Ontario. They reported significant employment barriers, including 13% having been fired and 18% having been refused employment because they were trans. Given these barriers, it is not surprising that trans persons are significantly underemployed, with a median income of $15,000 per year, despite generally high levels of education. In fact, 44% of trans persons in Ontario have a post-secondary degree.
Tragically, more than half of trans people in Ontario have symptoms consistent with clinical depression. A shocking 43% of trans adults in Ontario had a history of attempting suicide, including 10% having made an attempt within the past year. The difficulties faced by trans persons are significant and deserve our attention. The experiences of trans and gender diverse youth are especially troubling.
In 2011, Egale Canada conducted the first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools, collecting information from over 3,700 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans high school students. Results showed that 23% of trans students reported hearing teachers use negative gender-related or transphobic comments weekly and even daily. The study also indicated very high levels of verbal, physical, and sexual harassment. Specifically among trans students, 74% reported verbal harassment, 49% reported sexual harassment, and 37% reported physical harassment linked to being trans.
Not surprisingly, 52% of trans youth reported feeling unsafe in both change rooms and washrooms. This is completely unacceptable. Too many trans and gender diverse persons are being deprived the opportunity to contribute and flourish in our society. These figures reinforce the need for Bill C-16, through which we, as parliamentarians, can do our part to address this shocking reality.
It should go without saying that discrimination is a matter of public concern. When a person loses the opportunity to work or faces persistent discrimination, we all lose potential contributions to our society, to our workplaces, and the Canadian economy. Depriving individuals of freedom to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have undermines their ability to participate in society.
By adding gender identity as a prohibited ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act, Bill C-16 aims to ensure that people of all gender identities are protected from discrimination. We have heard from trans and gender diverse persons that their gender expression is often the basis of the discrimination they face. Gender norms are reinforced by our society, yet they do not fit all of us. There is great diversity in how Canadians dress and speak, in their appearance, and their behaviour. No one should be disadvantaged solely because they do not conform to someone else's gender-based expectations.
It is also important to understand what these amendments would mean to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The act defines a number of discriminatory practices, such as refusing to hire or promote an employee, or refusing to serve a customer based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination. By adding “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds, it will be clear that practices that discriminate on these grounds will not be permitted.
People suffering discrimination can make a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The commission then investigates complaints and attempts to mediate between the parties to resolve the dispute. If the commission believes that a dispute should be given a hearing and an authoritative decision, it may refer the complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. If the tribunal determines that discrimination has occurred, it may order a range of remedies, such as reinstatement in a job, an order that the discrimination cease, or monetary remedies.
The purpose of the act is to end and correct discriminatory practice. The Canadian Human Rights Act already provides some protections for trans persons. Tribunals and courts in several jurisdictions in Canada have found that discrimination against trans persons is a kind of discrimination based on sex, which is already a prohibited ground of discrimination. However, it is not enough to leave the law as it is. Canadians should have a clear and explicit statement of their rights and obligations. Equal rights for trans persons should not be hidden but be plain for all to see.
The legal clarity would provide two tangible benefits. First, people who are subject to discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression would be able to make their case in precisely those terms. Making a formal claim of discrimination can be an intimidating process. Explicitly including gender expression or identity in the Canadian Human Rights Act would make it easier to interpret for those who have suffered this kind of discrimination, instead of forcing them to explain how the law on sex discrimination covers their situation. Second, these amendments would raise awareness of the protections and obligations under the act.
Bill C-16 does not define gender identity or expression. This is consistent with the majority of prohibited grounds under the act. There are good reasons to continue with this approach.
Many of the grounds, such as race and religion, cannot be captured in a single definition. There are more subtle and complex concepts that evolve over time and reflect the particular cases the act deals with. That does not mean that they are vague or obscure.
Gender identity and gender expression are increasingly common terms with enough subtle meaning to allow the commission and the tribunal to interpret them. Gender identity is now found in eight provincial and territorial human rights codes, and gender expression is found in five. In none of these are the terms defined by statute.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is also able to provide detailed guidance on how to comply with the law. The commission has an important policy and education mandate, which includes interpreting the act and promoting compliance with it. The commission will continue to perform its role of assisting employers and service providers in understanding and complying with the law.
Next, I will turn to the amendments to the Criminal Code proposed in Bill C-16.
Trans people in Canada face a significant risk of violent crime. While official data from police services is scarce, 20% of respondents in the Trans Pulse survey had been physically or sexually assaulted, although many did not report these assaults to police.
A recent report by the National Aboriginal Health Organization indicated that aboriginal LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to face attacks as heterosexual youth.
The Criminal Code has specifically prohibited hate propaganda since 1970. There are criminal offences for advocating or promoting genocide against an identifiable group, for inciting hatred by communicating statements against an identifiable group in a public place that is likely to lead to a breach of the peace, or for willfully promoting hatred other than in private conversations against an identifiable group. They are found in section 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code. All three offences protect identifiable groups.
Until recently, this was defined by the Criminal Code as “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation”. The list has been expanded over time to include national origin, age, sex, and mental and physical disability.
Bill C-16 proposes to amend the Criminal Code to add “gender identity or expression” to this list. As a result, the bill, if enacted, will extend protections to groups identifiable on the basis of gender identity or expression, which to date have been left out of the protections provided by hate propaganda offences. It will provide long overdue equal protection under the law.
Finally, the bill proposes to amend paragraph 718.2(a)(i) of the Criminal Code, which directs judges to consider as an aggravating factor in sentencing any evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, religion, colour, sex, language, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.
While the term “any other similar factor” is open-ended, the purpose of this protection is to denounce crimes motivated by hatred. By adding gender identity and expression to the list, we will send a clear message that there is no place in Canadian society for crimes committed out of bias, prejudice, or hate based on gender identity or expression.
In Canada we celebrate inclusion and diversity. All Canadians should feel safe to be themselves. When I introduced the bill back in May, Charlie Lowthian-Rickert, an amazing young activist who I am pleased to say is in the chamber today, was here and very publicly stood beside me, proud of its introduction. She stated in the press conference that she now feels safer because of the legislation that had been introduced. Charlie is not alone in feeling this way.
Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, is an important step. It reflects Canada's commitment to equality and freedom from discrimination and violence. It affirms the basic equality of all Canadians and provides explicit legal protection to one of the most vulnerable communities in our society.
It is time for Parliament to ensure that our laws provide clear and explicit protection for trans and gender diverse Canadians. I very much look forward to the dialogue, and I very much look forward to all members in the House supporting Bill C-16.
Mr. Michael Cooper:
Madam Speaker, I rise this morning to speak to Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code by expressly including gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Over the last number of years there has been increased awareness about issues concerning transgendered Canadians. As result there is greater understanding of and sensitivity to transgendered persons.
There is no doubt that it was not long ago in Canada that it was difficult to be transgendered, and I would submit that there are many challenges that transgendered Canadians face today. Quite frankly, I think the vast majority of Canadians stand in opposition to discrimination against transgendered persons. I certainly oppose discrimination against transgendered persons. In the context and the spirit of opposition toward discrimination against transgendered Canadians, I support the underlying intention of Bill C-16.
That said, while I support the underlying intention of Bill C-16 and will be supporting the bill so it can at least get to committee, I acknowledge there are legitimate questions about whether the bill is necessary from a legal standpoint. I want to emphasize that I say this from a legal standpoint, because I am not suggesting and am not talking about discrimination against transgendered persons, because we are opposed to that. Rather, I am talking more broadly about whether Bill C-16 would add anything substantively at law to protect transgendered Canadians. I would suggest that the answer to that is likely not.
Sex and sexual orientation are prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and under various provincial human rights codes. Sex and sexual orientation have been broadly interpreted by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, by provincial human rights commissions, and by the courts. As a result of that broad interpretation, today in Canada discriminating against transgendered Canadians constitutes a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. In that regard, Bill C-16 would not add or take anything away. Really, at law, it would maintain the status quo.
The fact that transgendered Canadians are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act is demonstrated by a number of decisions by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Here I am talking about Kavanagh and the Correctional Service of Canada case; Montreuil and the Canadian National Bank case; Montreuil and the Canadian Forces case; and the Nixon case out of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which upheld a ruling of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission in 2005. All three Canadian Human Rights Tribunal cases dealt with alleged discrimination on the basis of gender identity. All of the cases were in the context of federally regulated workplaces and therefore engaged the Canadian Human Rights Act.
In all three cases, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal determined that sex, which constitutes a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, included transgender Canadians. Bill C-16 does not really add anything substantively at law. Therefore, it begs this question. What does Bill C-16 actually do? I would suggest that Bill C-16 is symbolic. I recognize that this is important to a number of people. I certainly know that some in the transgender community would say that words have meaning and that they take comfort by the express inclusion of gender identity and expression in the Canadian Human Rights Act. I acknowledge that. However, while I acknowledge and am sympathetic to it, I would also state that legislating on the basis of symbolism is not a good way of going about crafting legislation.
What is more, I would submit that Bill C-16 is inconsistent with the way human rights legislation has been drafted across Canada. Human rights legislation, in terms of the broad prohibited grounds of discrimination, is crafted broadly. They are broad torts. We are talking about prohibited grounds, such as sex and sexual orientation, which I have already discussed, and age, disability, race, and ethnicity. There are many groups and subgroups that could fit into any one of those expansive terms. However, we do not list every single group or subgroup because it would be impractical to do so. It would be legally unnecessary to do so because those groups and subgroups are already protected by those broad categories, and in some cases it might even be legally problematic, as there might potentially be unintended consequences from creating a laundry list of various groups. Therefore, Bill C-16 is not consistent with how human rights legislation has been drafted.
That said, I reiterate my earlier point that there are many in the transgender community who say that this would be meaningful to them. From the standpoint that I oppose discrimination against transgender Canadians and to the degree that the inclusion of gender identity and expression would remove any ambiguity that potentially exists, which I do not believe there is, but to the degree that there might be, I am prepared to support Bill C-16 because I support it in principle so we can get it to committee. As a member of the justice and human rights committee, I look forward to the opportunity to look more closely at the bill when it gets to committee.
Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC):
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the government's Bill C-16.
In its current form, I cannot support this bill for a number of reasons. Let me assure all of my colleagues in this House and, indeed, all Canadians that I do not oppose this bill because of any hatred for, any fear of, nor any malice toward anyone who is dealing with questions of gender identity.
Before I outline my concerns about the potential negative outcomes of Bill C-16, allow me to say clearly that I am supportive of any initiatives that will protect persons from hate speech. I am supportive of the need to guarantee equal rights. I also agree that there can be no tolerance for bullying or violence of any kind, or for any reason.
Parliamentarians and all Canadians have a duty to prevent bullying, hate speech, violence, or any such behaviour, but I am wary of the demands of any government-imposed value systems that would change fundamental definitions and principles of society. The imposition of fundamental value system changes of this magnitude must be viewed with some degree of skepticism. Too much is at stake for us to proceed without caution, if we proceed at all.
I am supportive of equal rights for all, but in my opinion this bill goes far beyond equal rights into the territory of granting extra rights or special rights for some; and in the process of granting those extra rights for some, we automatically diminish and deny the legitimate time-honoured rights of many others.
Relating to Bill C-16, I have a number of concerns. Some of the concerns address immediate potential negative repercussions, while others relate to the potential for long-term effects and outcomes of the enactment of this bill.
My concerns lie in four areas. I am concerned that this bill would cause fear for many Canadians, fear that they would not be able to even discuss public policy issues, such as this one, on which they may disagree with the government-imposed agenda. I am concerned about the potential harm to innocent children and youth as a result of the possible invasion of their privacy. I am concerned that the terms gender identity and gender expression are very subjective terms, far too subjective to be used in the context of legal documents, particularly in the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Criminal Code of Canada.
Finally, I am concerned that, when government adopts dramatic changes to public policy as it relates to gender identity and sexuality, with minimal research or support, the results could be harmful for all members of society, but especially for those we are actually trying to help; that is, transgendered children or youth.
Let me address these points in reverse order. Would this bill inadvertently harm those whom we are trying to help? There have been many eminent scholars, medical practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, and professional organizations that have raised legitimate concerns about the current treatment of the transgendered person and are especially concerned about long-term negative effects of hormone treatment and reassignment surgery.
The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. They point out the biological medical dangers associated with the use of puberty-blocking hormones and the follow-up use of cross-sex hormonal medication—testosterone and estrogen—which are needed in late adolescence. These are known to be associated with dangerous health risks including, but not limited to, high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, and cancer.
There is another sobering statistic, and that is the increased suicide rate. During my 10 years here in Parliament, possibly the one issue that has received most of my attention has been suicide prevention. Motion M-388, dealing with Internet predators, and Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention were private members' business initiatives that I tabled and worked on diligently for many years.
The research is clear that the suicide rate for adults is 20 times higher for those who have used cross-sex hormones and undergone sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden, which is among the most LGBTQ-affirming countries.
The American College of Pediatricians states that:
|| Conditioning children into believing that a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation...is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to “gender clinics” where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will “choose” a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.
Research reported by the American Psychiatric Association in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, clearly shows that the large majority of boys and girls who experience gender dysphoria will not experience the persistence of these feelings following adolescence.
I also urge my colleagues to listen to Dr. Ken Zucker, professor in the department of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Toronto, and to Dr. Susan Bradley, psychiatrist in chief at the Hospital for Sick Children and head of the division of child psychiatry and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. They state:
|| It has been our experience that a sizable number of children and their families can achieve a great deal of change. In these cases, the gender identity disorder resolves fully, and nothing in the children's behavior or fantasy suggest that gender identity issues remain problematic.
In light of the input from these groups and experts in psychiatry and psychology, at the very least it is important that government does not legislate ideological conformity on this issue. We need to take a stand for good public policy as it relates to gender and sexuality, and to base our decisions on scientific research that will help protect against devastating lifelong negative consequences.
Another major concern for me in Bill C-16 is the issue that the terms gender identity and gender expression are very subjective terms, far too subjective to be used in the context of legal documents. Would policies protecting people on the grounds of gender identity and expression merely provide safety and protection—that is, provide a shield against abuse—or would they be used to drive a broader agenda? As legislators, are we simply trying to protect the sexual minority from verbal and physical abuse, or are we also intending to impose a cultural shift in our very understanding of human sexuality and gender expression? What would the impact be on immigrant groups and faith groups, the majority of which are at odds with gender fluidity concepts? Would they have the freedom to teach their children and practise their beliefs without being accused of hate speech or a human rights violation?
For me and the millions of other Canadians who acknowledge the supremacy of God, as the first words of our charter affirm, there is the reality that our faith journey is the foundation of our world view. If freedom of religion is to be embraced, then it is of paramount importance that Bill C-16 not infringe upon that fundamental freedom. It is important that government clarify the nature of the protection being afforded and how it expects terms such as gender identity and gender expression to be interpreted. The implications are too unpredictable. Far too much is left to interpretation that would result in unnecessary accusation of human rights violations as well as litigation and endless court cases to further tie up our court system.
Another concern is the potential harm to innocent children. As I stated earlier, I am in total support of equal rights. Therefore the question needs to be asked: Where are the equal rights? Is it equal rights of the boys or girls and of the young men or women who expect to find only those of their same gender in their change rooms? Is it fair to have their rights trampled upon by this imposition of extra rights for some? Common sense dictates that the potential for abuse of this new freedom to self-identify with a change room of one's own choice could very well lead to bullying, harassment, and even sexualized violence in these public spaces. One of the pitfalls of Bill C-16 is its failure to recognize the potential that heterosexual predators who, while not transgendered themselves, would take advantage of the protection of this bill to hide behind their predatory pursuits.
Yes, I am concerned for the safety and well-being of young children and youth, who deserve their right to privacy.
Finally, I am concerned about the fear this bill may cause for many Canadians. I fear they will not be able to even discuss public policy issues such as this one, on which they may disagree with the government agenda. Any law that limits legitimate discussion and debate of closely held beliefs presents a danger to freedom of expression, a fundamental value held dear by people across the political spectrum. The right to disagree must be viewed as sacred in our society. It is the lifeblood of both new ideas and age-old protections.
I am simply asking that those who support this bill respect my right and the rights of millions of Canadians not to be charged with human rights violations because we make our views known or because we disagree with others' views. We can and must respect each other even in spite of holding opposing views. It is my hope that we can openly disagree without labelling each other.
Mr. Randall Garrison:
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-16, and I am pleased this time to be supporting a government bill to guarantee the same rights and protection to transgender Canadians that the rest of us already enjoy.
I thank the Minister of Justice for adopting my original private member's bill as a government bill, and for inviting me along to her press conference. I also want to thank her for reaching out to the trans community before the bill's introduction and consulting with those who are at the heart of this debate.
Yet, I cannot help but be disappointed to be still standing here today more than five years after I introduced my private member's bill, Bill C-279. I know many of us continue to feel frustrated at the delays in seeing this bill become law. It is an important bill in that it would fill the largest remaining gap in Canadian human rights legislation.
Over the past five years, I have had the privilege of having my name associated with the legislation, but I want to make it clear that the progress that has been made is a result not of my efforts but of those from the trans community who have stepped forward to demand that they be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other Canadians.
Over the past five years, I have learned much, and it does bear restating that gay men have not always been the best friends of our trans brothers and sisters. I learned a great deal from a first nation sister, a trans woman who travelled a very rocky road but is now a successful small business owner in Vancouver. I learned much from a trans man who became a distinguished therapist now working with others facing transition issues. I learned from a trans woman who had to rebuild her career as a concert pianist after transitioning. I learned from a friend who now holds the first chair in transgender studies at UVic, home of the world's only transgender archives and the first transgender studies program. I learned a great deal from my friend and political ally who is a tireless community activist in Toronto. I learned from many others, including students, consultants, office workers, factory workers, sex workers, and street kids.
While this proposed legislation has been languishing before the federal Parliament, some progress has still been made. While I would like to think the debate here provokes that progress elsewhere, it is clear that we have lost the chance in this Parliament to be a leader on the question of equal rights. In the meantime, seven provinces have adopted corresponding provincial human rights legislation: Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia in 2012; Newfoundland and P.E.I. in 2013; Saskatchewan in 2014; and B.C. and Quebec, this year, 2016.
The issue of trans rights is not a partisan issue, thank goodness. Amendments to protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity were proposed by NDP governments in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, a Liberal government in P.E.I., and Conservative governments in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland. Those amendments passed with all-party support in Ontario and British Columbia.
Nor are trans rights an issue restricted to the Canadian context. Now, more than 18 countries have explicit protections of the kind proposed in Bill C-16, and the list may surprise members. Argentina has been a world leader in the protection of the rights of transgender citizens, but the list also includes Uruguay, Bolivia, Spain, France, Ireland, Estonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Israel, Cypress, Nepal, Australia, and New Zealand, among others.
In the United States, 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, provide explicit protections for transgender residents, but unfortunately some states also specifically allow discrimination against the trans community, most recently with new legislation in North Carolina.
In Canada, some public institutions and private companies have chosen to act without waiting for legislation. The Canadian Labour Congress has produced guides for transition in the workplace for use by all of its affiliates to ease transitions in unionized workplaces. Others have also moved forward, including the big banks, like the Toronto-Dominion Bank and the Royal Bank.
I will now return to Parliament. The bill was first introduced by former NDP MP Bill Siksay in 2005, again in 2007, and again in 2009. In the spring of 2010, on his third attempt, Bill actually saw his bill pass by the House, only to see it die in the Senate when an election was called.
My bill, Bill C-279, was passed by the House in March 2013, and before the 2015 election, it had passed through all stages in the Senate, bar one.
Therefore, I urge the House today to deal with the legislation as quickly as possible. I am confident the bill will pass second reading for the third time today, and I am hopeful it will return to the House quickly for final approval.
This will be possible if the justice committee agrees that it is unlikely to learn new things about the bill in yet another set of hearings. Between 2013 and 2015, three separate sets of parliamentary hearings were held, with 17 witnesses appearing before the House justice committee, and 18 witnesses before two different Senate committees.
In fact, if we judge by previous experience, new hearings in the House and the other place would only risk providing a platform for trans phobia. This is especially true when it comes to the most significant red herring concerning transgender rights: the question of bathrooms and change rooms, which we heard raised here earlier today.
I am hesitant to even mention this issue, but it continues to surface, even after it has been shown to have no basis in fact. I frankly believe its persistence is a sign of the very trans phobia we are trying to address in this bill. We all know that in the real world, the only ones at risk in bathrooms are trans people, who are almost always perceived to be in the wrong place.
We need to pass Bill C-16 as expeditiously as possible if we are to avoid allowing opponents of the bill to use media sensationalism to promote hatred against the trans community for their own political purposes. We have only to look south of the border to states like North Carolina to be reminded that this risk is very real.
The time to add gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code is long past due.
While some have argued on technical grounds that the bill is unnecessary, we have heard clearly from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that it is needed, both to fill technical gaps and also for the purpose of denunciation. Passing Bill C-16 will say clearly that discrimination and violence against the trans community is not a part of our Canadian values.
In reality, of course, the proof that the legislation is needed is the ongoing discrimination suffered by transgender and gender-variant Canadians. We do not have comprehensive statistics on the trans community in Canada, partially precisely because of their exclusion from human rights legislation. However, the one study done some time ago in Ontario, which the minister referenced in her speech earlier this morning, demonstrates what we can all see if we choose to look.
Unemployment rates for trans Canadians are more than double the average and the poverty rate for trans Canadians is among the highest of any group, with just over half of the transgender community earning less than $15,000 per year, despite high levels of education. When it comes to marginalization and homelessness, again good statistics are missing, but we know that among homeless youth, up to 40% identify as LGBTQ and many of those as gender variant.
When it comes to violence, we know the stories, even if, again, official statistics are not often collected. Police on the street will tell us who are the most vulnerable to violence, and that is the trans community, and within the trans community, those who are also visible minorities or aboriginal.
In the United States, we know that so far this year 20 trans women have been murdered, 80% of them black. The Trans Day of Remembrance reports that worldwide 269 trans people have been murdered over the past year, including one death in Canada, that of a young Somali trans woman in Toronto.
The need to act is urgent. While most provinces have done so, there are significant areas of federal responsibility, whether that is in providing better protection against hate crimes; or addressing the dangerous federal corrections policy that places inmates in the wrong institutions and, thus, at great risk of violence; or ending discriminatory and humiliating Transport Canada screening processes; or making appropriate identity documents like passports easier to obtain. In fact, in most of these areas, there is no need for the federal government to wait for a bill to do the right thing. Nothing prevents government agencies from doing the right thing when it comes to trans rights, but we have seen these initiatives stall at the federal level. Passing this bill will ensure that stalling ends.
Over the past year, there could have been much more done to address the ongoing epidemic of hate crimes against trans Canadians and, in particular, against those most marginalized in our society, like aboriginal people and sex workers. Over the past year, there should have been more progress in changing discriminatory government policies.
Right now, some of the most innovative work is being done by school boards and at the community level. I want to recognize the work done by organizations like Gender Creative Kids in Montreal and the Montreal Children's Hospital's child development program, a gender-variance program, and the work of organizations like PFLAG.
Finally, I want to recognize the many courageous parents who are standing by their trans kids and fighting for the supports they need to succeed in this country.
Bill C-16 calls for us to act to provide the same rights and protections to transgender and gender-variant Canadians that the rest of us already enjoy, no more, no less. I am asking that we join together to do so expeditiously. P.E.I. passed its legislation in three weeks and British Columbia in a single day. There could never be a better time for the passage of inclusive legislation of which all Canadians can be proud, no better time than now.
As I asked in closing the debate in the House of Commons on Bill C-279, some three years ago, if not now, then when?
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga, NDP):
Madam Speaker, here is a boy, and here is a girl. Easy, right? Not so fast. Let us just say that it is a bit more complicated than that. Sex assignment is not always clear-cut. Genetically, a person with two X chromosomes is a woman, and a person with an X chromosome and a Y chromosome is a man. However, some people have just a single X chromosome, and others have three. Others have two or three X chromosomes and one Y chromosome, while still others might have two Y chromosomes and one X chromosome. Clearly, this is anything but simple.
The bill before us today, Bill C-16, makes no mention of genetics. However, it does address an equally complex subject, that of gender identity and gender expression.
As far back as the 1950s, we began to understand that a person cannot be defined merely by his or her physical sexual characteristics and to distinguish between “sex” and “gender”. In 1994, United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the following in a briefing:
|| The word gender has acquired the new and useful connotation of cultural or attitudinal characteristics (as opposed to physical characteristics) distinctive to the sexes. That is to say, gender is to sex as feminine is to female and masculine is to male.
Justice Scalia clearly states that “sex” and “gender” are two different things.
Transgendered individuals are people whose sexual identity does not correspond to the physical sexual characteristics with which they were born. They literally do not feel comfortable in their own skin, in the body nature gave them. They feel feminine, but have a male body, or they feel masculine, but have a female body.
With that in mind, it is easy to imagine the discrimination, prejudice, harassment, and violence these individuals are often subjected to. A shy teen, a small man, and a kid with above-average intelligence are often harassed. Now imagine someone who is transgendered.
Statistics are an excellent way to illustrate the discrimination transgendered people are subjected to. In Ontario, for example, 71% of transgendered individuals earn less than $30,000 a year. My colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke provided some statistics earlier on poverty rates among transgendered people, and those figures were far more grim than what I just mentioned.
According to Egale Canada, 90% of transgendered students reported being bullied on a daily or weekly basis. That is a lot. In addition, a few months ago, a medical clinic in Montreal that performs gender-affirming surgery was targeted by arson.
The prejudice and violence are very real. That is why, over the past several years, the NDP has been introducing bills in the House of Commons of Canada to stand up for the rights of transgendered Canadians and protect them from discrimination.
The main purpose of these bills was to add protections to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code based on gender identity and gender expression. That is what Bill Siksay, the former NDP member for Burnaby—Douglas in British Columbia, did in 2005. Because he thought this cause was so important, he introduced the bill twice in the House of Commons, in 2006-07 and 2008-09.
This issue is so important to the NDP that my colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who sits beside me, took up the torch and almost succeeded in having the bill passed in Parliament. The Green Party, the Bloc Québécois, and many Liberal and Conservative members voted in favour of it.
However, the unelected and unaccountable Senate decided to let the bill die on the Order Paper, even though it had been passed by members who were duly elected by Canadians.
As a result, after over 10 years of debate, these people, who are too often the victims of harassment and violence, still do not have any protection. The NDP is therefore pleased to see the government introduce Bill C-16. We have been asking for this for a long time. However, I am worried that this is just smoke and mirrors.
Since I am an optimist, I want to believe that the government really intends to protect this vulnerable segment of the population. After all, the last time, all of the Liberal members who were present for the vote voted in favour of Bill C-279, which was introduced by my colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke.
However, this time, the context is different. Today, the Liberals form the government and hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons. They can therefore ensure that Bill C-16 is passed at second and third reading. I challenge them to do so.
The House has passed this bill twice already and the government can ensure that it passes quickly through all stages of the legislative process. Then there would be one remaining important stage, which, in my political party, we would be happy to do without. However, since the Senate still exists, we will have to work with it. I challenge the Liberals to talk to their Senate colleagues, those the Prime Minister kicked out of the Liberal caucus, but who still feel like Liberals, and to convince them that the changes that Bill C-16 makes to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code are just and important to transgendered people.
As far as my Conservative colleagues are concerned, during the March 2013 vote, 18 of them, including some cabinet ministers, supported a similar bill introduced by my NDP colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. Other members among their ranks, including their leader, recently said that they would support Bill C-16. I hope that many others will join them to ensure that this bill is finally passed.
I would hope that, as with the Liberals, these Conservative members who see the merits of this cause will work to ensure that their Senate colleagues do not allow this bill to die on the benches of the other place yet again. I think it would be a national disgrace if this bill is not passed.
Bill C-16 would add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in section 2 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It would also amend the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as distinguishing characteristics protected under section 318, and as an aggravating circumstance to be taken into consideration under section 718.2, hate crimes, at the time of sentencing.
Since 1970, 948 transgendered people have been murdered around the world. This number is probably much higher, but most countries, including Canada, do not note the status of transgender in files involving violence.
Nevertheless, the evidence is clear: transgender people are victims of discrimination, prejudice, harassment, and violence. Therefore, it would be disgraceful to let down transgender Canadians once again. Trans and non-binary gender Canadians have been waiting for far too long to have legal rights in Canada.
Let us work together for this humanitarian cause and ensure that Bill C-16 passes quickly in the House of Commons and in committee, and just as quickly in the Senate, so that it becomes a law that Canadians can be proud of.
Hon. Patty Hajdu (Minister of Status of Women, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.
I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.
The bill is designed to support and facilitate the inclusion of transgender and other gender diverse people in Canadian society. Diversity and inclusion are values that are important to us as Canadians, yet we have heard repeatedly from trans and gender diverse Canadians that they still do not feel safe or fully included in Canadian society. Social science research also shows that many transgender and other gender diverse Canadians are not yet able to fully participate in our society. They face negative stereotypes, harassment, discrimination, and sometimes violence.
We know that discrimination and violence have significant impacts on social participation and an individual's sense of safety in the public sphere. Research conducted by the Trans Pulse survey found that approximately two-thirds of trans people in Ontario had avoided public spaces or situations because they feared being harassed or being perceived or outed as trans. The survey also indicated that the majority of trans Ontarians had avoided public washrooms because of these fears. Trans Ontarians also avoided travelling abroad, going to the gym, shopping at the mall, and eating out in restaurants, all commonplace everyday activities and pleasures that many of us are able to enjoy comfortably. However, for many trans people, these activities can be fearful because of their previous experiences of harassment and discrimination.
The research also shows that transgender or other gender diverse people face significant obstacles in obtaining employment. This is not due to a lack of qualifications. The Trans Pulse survey results I mentioned earlier showed that 44% have a post-secondary degree, but trans people are significantly underemployed, with many having been fired or turned down for a job because they are trans. Others felt that they had to turn down a job that they were offered because of a lack of a trans-positive or safe work environment.
It is clear that too many transgender and gender diverse people are being deprived of the opportunity to contribute to and flourish in our society. This is important not just for trans people but for us all. When a person loses an opportunity to work or is too fearful to go out shopping or eat in a restaurant, we all lose a potential contribution to the workplace, to the economy, and to our collective social life. Discrimination is a matter of concern to us all. It both undermines the freedom of those individuals to make the life they are able and wish to have, and it deprives us all of their participation in our society.
The bill would be just the beginning but is an important beginning. It is another step toward greater acceptance and inclusion. By adding the grounds of gender identity and gender expression to the prohibited grounds of discrimination listed in sections 2 and 3 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, we would protect the freedom to live openly.
The amendments proposed by the bill would make it clear that discrimination in employment against trans people is unacceptable and a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. An employer cannot refuse to hire or promote a qualified individual simply because that person is trans or gender diverse. These amendments will make it clear that federally regulated employers and service providers will need to provide accommodation for transgender and other gender diverse individuals when required and treat them in a manner that corresponds with their lived gender. Explicit recognition will also serve to promote understanding and awareness about trans people and their rights.
I now want to address one of the amendments that the bill proposes to make to the Criminal Code, which is to expand the hate propaganda offences in the Criminal Code to protect those who are targeted because of their gender identity or gender expression. To put this proposal in context, it is useful to give some of the history of these offences.
There are three crimes of hate propaganda. They were created in 1970. These are now found in sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code. These offences are advocating or promoting genocide against an identifiable group, inciting hatred against an identifiable group in a public place that is likely to lead to a breach of the peace, and willfully promoting hatred, other than in private conversation, against an identifiable group.
As we can see, a key element for all of these offences is the term “identifiable group”. When the hate propaganda offences were first created and for many years afterward, the definition of identifiable group was very limited in scope. It was defined in the Criminal Code to mean a section of the public that was identifiable on the basis of race, colour, religion, and ethnic origin.
In 2001, the then member of Parliament for Burnaby—Douglas introduced in the House Bill C-415, later reinstated as Bill C-250, and entitled “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda)”. This bill proposed to add sexual orientation to the definition of identifiable group in the Criminal Code. The member quoted in support of his bill a statement made by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1990 case of R. v. Keegstra, which upheld the constitutionality of the hate propaganda offence of wilfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group. The Supreme Court said:
|| The harms caused by [hate propaganda] run directly counter to the values central to a free and democratic society, and in restricting the promotion of hatred Parliament is therefore seeking to bolster the notion of mutual respect necessary in a nation which venerates the equality of all persons.
In 2004, Bill C-250 became law. As a result, the definition of identifiable group was expanded to include sexual orientation as an identifiable group for the crimes of hate propaganda.
I will now fast-track to 2014, when Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, received royal assent. One section of that bill amended the definition of identifiable group for the hate propaganda offences by adding more groups to that definition, specifically the criteria of national origin, sex, age, and mental or physical disability. As we have seen, the definition of identifiable group has been expanded considerably since 1970. This expansion reflects a commitment to equality and the desire of Canadians to protect more and more vulnerable groups in our society from the serious harms to human dignity that flow from the type of vicious hate speech prohibited by these Criminal Code provisions.
Bill C-16 proposes to add two new terms to the definition of identifiable group: gender identity and gender expression. Such an expansion is eminently justifiable on two grounds.
First, this expansion would extend to those in our society who are identifiable on the basis of gender identity and gender expression the same protections already afforded to other groups in Canadian society, such as those identifiable on the basis of their sex and sexual orientation. This would help to promote equality before the law and throughout Canadian society for trans people.
Second, this expansion would explicitly recognize that those who are identifiable on the basis of their gender identity and gender expression are in need of protection by the criminal law. For example, the Trans Pulse survey I mentioned earlier indicates that trans people are the targets of specifically directed violence; 20% had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans, and another 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed but not assaulted.
Here in Canada, we criminalize hate propaganda, in part because it undermines the dignity and respect of the targeted group. It undermines their sense of belonging and inclusion in society. Adding gender identity and gender expression to the list would send a clear message that hate propaganda against trans and other gender diverse individuals is not acceptable.
I encourage all members of the House to support this bill.
Mr. Randy Boissonnault (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, Tuesday May 17 was an important day. It was the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It was a day to recognize the efforts of everyone who has fought for equality, freedom, and respect for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, non-binary, and two-spirited persons. It was a day to celebrate the achievements of advocates and their friends and supporters in making Canada a more inclusive place in which to live. It was a day to look forward to a time when all societies embrace their diversity and draw strength and vibrancy from it.
May 17 was also the day on which the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-16 to the House of Commons. The legislation proposes to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add two prohibited grounds of discrimination, gender identity and gender expression. As a result of this amendment, it would be a discriminatory practice in matters of employment and the provision of goods, services, facilities, and accommodation, in the federal jurisdiction, to disadvantage people because of their gender identity or expression.
The legislation also proposes to amend the Criminal Code. It would expand the list of identifiable groups that are protected from hate propaganda by adding gender identity or expression to that list. Finally, it would make it explicit that hatred on the basis of gender identity or expression should be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing for a criminal offence. These are very important amendments.
The Canadian Human Rights Act advances the principle that all individuals should have an equal opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have, without being hindered by discrimination. All Canadians should be able to turn to the act and see their rights and obligations spelled out clearly. However, it is not evident from the current words of the act that trans and gender diverse persons have a right to equal treatment.
It is true that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has interpreted the act to prohibit discrimination against trans persons in some cases, but these interpretations are not easily accessible to the trans community, employers, or service providers who need to know whom the act protects. Moreover, these decisions concern particular individuals in particular situations. The full scope of protection for trans and gender diverse persons is not clear, particularly in relation to gender expression.
Gender expression refers to the ways in which people express their gender through choices such as clothing, personal appearance, name, use of pronouns, and other forms of expression. Adding this ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act would offer clear protection against discrimination by employers and service providers who would deny Canadians their dignity simply because they express their gender differently.
Trans people who have been discriminated against should not have to become expert in statutory interpretation or criminal law to advocate for their basic rights. It is not enough to hope that employers and service providers will look beyond the words of the act. As the bill proposes, Parliament should add these grounds to the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as the Criminal Code, so they would be in the statute book for all to see.
Make no mistake, there is no doubt that trans or gender diverse persons face an elevated risk of violence at the hands of others. The Trans Pulse project studied the experiences of approximately 500 transgendered Ontarians. That study concluded the following:
|| Trans people are the targets of specifically directed violence; 20% had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans, and another 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed....
In 2011, a study by Egale Canada indicated very high levels of verbal, physical, and sexual harassment against transgendered persons.
Transgendered Canadians are often discriminated against by their own family members. No group of people should be exposed to that kind of daily threat. Given the high levels of violence and threats of violence against trans people, it is clear that our laws require measures to specifically denounce the violence and discrimination inflicted on the individuals because of hatred of their gender identity or gender expression.
Our duty as parliamentarians goes beyond simply maintaining the good order set out in legislation. Canadians expect us to speak on their behalf, recognize their qualities and vulnerabilities, as well as affirm and protect their basic rights and their dignity.
This bill is not only an opportunity for us to reinforce our support for transgendered Canadians, but also an opportunity for the House to send a clear message to all Canadians that they can now feel safe and free to be themselves.
On May 17, when I stood beside the Minister of Justice to announce this legislation, we were joined by people who were well aware of the need for this bill.
They, and we, saw in this bill a real sign of acceptance and unity. This bill says to every transgender and gender-diverse person that they do not need to choose between being safe and being who they are. This bill says to young people in all parts of this country who are struggling to understand themselves, who are realizing that they are a bit different from their peers, that it is okay to be different and that they are special, that they are unique, and that they belong.
This bill sends a clear signal to our transgender and gender-diverse community members that the government will not stand for discrimination and that we stand with them, shoulder to shoulder. For any members of this House who may be considering voting no on this important legislation, I must ask why. This bill is about equality. It is about respect for diversity. Even if they cannot fully understand the lives of our transgender community, surely they can understand that no group of people should live under such threat of violence in our country.
I appeal to each and every one of my colleagues in the House to support this important issue.
I stand with all trans and gender-diverse persons, and I call on this House to affirm their equal status in Canada, and I will fight every day to ensure they are protected and free to live their lives safely and free from fear. I do so as a member of this House who is a proud, openly gay man. I was able to earn a place in this House because of the hard work of those who went before me who stood to be counted, people who stood up to discrimination, who fought for individual rights, who stood for inclusivity and acceptance, who were bullied, and against whom the laws discriminated in the past.
Today, I and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the trans community to say, “No more”, and that we will continue to fight and stand up for those who still need our protection.
To conclude, the proposed changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code's sentencing provisions would help to create a better and safer Canada that is inclusive of all forms of diversity. I urge all members of this House to support the passage of this important bill.
Mrs. Sylvie Boucher (Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix, CPC):
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Thornhill.
I rise today to speak to Bill C-16, which I believe is an important legislative measure to prevent all forms of discrimination against all Canadians, regardless of their colour, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression, and that includes transgendered Canadians.
Over the years, a great deal of progress has been made in terms of social acceptance and our mentality has changed. What seemed unimaginable 20 years ago is now a normal part of our everyday lives.
We are less focused on individual characteristics and more focused on who we are as a society. Society is made up of different people and different personalities.
I am going to give a simple analogy to describe social progress. Social progress works the same way as a three-legged race. If people walk in step and agree to work together, the team makes progress.
Every member of the House is different, has their own story and their own path. Every one of us has dealt with different situations and we all react differently. Our differences should never stop progress, but instead allow it to take flight.
Justice is extremely important to me. That is why I think it is important to have an open and respectful discussion on this. My mindset is to live and let live. My personal experience forced me to be open to realities other than my own, which led me to be open to differences. At first we are confronted by and conflicted about the unfamiliar, but over time we learn, try to understand, and do not judge.
As my father used to say, never judge anyone until you have walked in their shoes. He was right. We were elected by secret ballot. We do not know the identity of those who voted for us. That is another reason for us to govern for all Canadians by ensuring that respect and equality prevail.
Canada, our country, my country, has always been and continues to be a leader when it comes to progress and individual rights. I could not be prouder of my country, Canada, when it comes to social progress. Canada leads the world in terms of fostering social acceptance and reducing crime and hate speech on its own soil.
Women won the right to vote 100 years ago under the Conservative government of Robert Borden; people from all origins have been welcomed to our country every year for centuries; and gay marriage was legalized over 10 years ago. It has always been a priority to protect minorities to make it easier for them to be included in society. We must continue the trend and protect people of all gender identities, so that they can be an important part of our society and contribute to it without enduring prejudice or disparaging and intolerant remarks.
In 1982, the Constitution Act guaranteed a number of rights, including democratic rights, equality rights, legal rights, and especially the fundamental freedom of opinion and expression. Some will say that freedom of expression should be taken for everything it means. I agree, but let us go over the meaning of each of those words.
The word “expression” amounts to saying or writing what we really think and feel. The word “freedom” is about the absence of submissiveness and the ability to do as we wish.
However, freedom does not mean the absence of barriers, obstacles, or limits. Freedom of expression, like all the freedoms we enjoy, must include lines in the sand that must not be crossed. For instance, we all have the right to drive, but that does not give us the right to speed and put the lives of others at risk. We also have the right to smoke, but we cannot do so in restaurants, because it jeopardizes the health of those around us. The same is true of freedom.
Basically, we are free to do as we please, as long as it does not harm other people around us. I recognize, however, that it is hard to set limits around freedom, because it cannot be measured; it is not black and white. That it why I am so glad we are having this kind of debate in the House today.
I will be voting for this bill in the name of equality and respect for the individual rights of all people. As a Conservative, I represent people who advocate for maintaining law and order. I sincerely believe that in a world where people respect one another, society can make better progress.
Hon. Peter Kent (Thornhill, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
I rise today as well to speak to Bill C-16, a government bill that proposes to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.
As the minister's summary of the bill reads:
|| This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.
|| The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.
My colleagues will recall that these essential elements of the bill descend from the last Parliament where they were essentially contained in a private member's Bill C-279. Members will also recall that the bill was passed on to the upper house, with 149 votes in favour and 137 votes against. However, the bill died on the red chamber's order paper.
I voted against Bill C-279, on March 20, 2013, and I will vote against the successor legislation, Bill C-16, as well. I am pleased to have this opportunity to explain why.
I am passionately in favour of the legal protection of all Canadians from discrimination in its many forms. I am passionately in favour of the legal protection of all Canadians from hate crimes. I am proud of the laws that have evolved over the years, and the reality that Canada is recognized around the world for our recognition of diversity and equality under the law.
I am proud that the current Canadian Human Rights Act defends the principle, when it states:
||...that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.
I am proud of the Criminal Code as written today, which defines that “...identifiable group means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability”.
As well, the Criminal Code provides in section 718.2, states:
|| A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:
||...a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender...[on] evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor...
When the original version of the bill was debated in the previous Parliament, the then parliamentary secretary for the minister of justice, Mr. Robert Goguen, eloquently explained the redundancy of the similar proposed amendments to include gender identity or expression. He reminded parliamentarians that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal had already accepted and considered a number of complaints brought by trans persons on the grounds of sex. In fact, Mr. Goguen argued that the ground of sex in any discrimination law was interpreted broadly, having evolved over the years, and was usually understood to cover discrimination complaints not based only on sex, but on pregnancy, childbirth, and transsexualism.
The examples of tribunal use of the existing grounds already in the act provided clear and consistent evidence that the existing Human Rights Act already recognized that discrimination on the basis of transsexualism was discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, as well as discrimination on the basis of disability.
The parliamentary secretary to the justice minister then said:
|| For similar reasons, we may wish to ask ourselves whether it is necessary to add these grounds to the sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code. The section in question lists a number of deemed aggravating circumstances on sentencing, including evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability or any other similar factor. Again, the list includes sex, and it also refers to any other similar factor. Consequently, judges may already be able to impose longer sentences for hate crimes against transsexual persons in appropriate circumstances.
I think it is clear, for all of the reasons cited today, that the amendments to both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code are unnecessary.
Let me stress again that I am passionately in favour of the legal protection of all Canadians from hate crimes. I am proud of the laws that have evolved over the years, and the reality that Canada is recognized around the world for our recognition of diversity equality. I am proud of the work done by fellow colleagues in the House to respect, protect, and improve the lot of trans persons in Canadian society.
I believe, firmly and sympathetically, that trans persons facing discrimination in federally regulated work places and in accessing federally regulated services are already protected by the current act and the code. I also firmly believe that the amendments proposed in Bill C-16 are redundant and unnecessary, and I will respectfully oppose this bill.
Mrs. Celina Caesar-Chavannes (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Richmond Hill today.
I am very honoured to stand here today to support Bill C-16, which aims to amend both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to add gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.
Canadians rightly expect their government, and their laws, to respect their fundamental values. It is something Canada does very well on so many fronts, but we all know that we can do better.
I am very pleased to be here today to talk about why I believe that this bill will do a great service for Canadians by bringing our current legislation more in line with some of the values we hold dear.
We, as Canadians, are fortunate to live in a country that embraces diversity. We see diversity as a strength and are rightly proud to celebrate those from all walks of life who contribute to the Canadian tapestry and our society.
We also know that diversity in our society did not happen by accident. The extension and protection of rights has been a work in progress for more than half a century. The two items we are here to discuss amending today, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate speech section of the Criminal Code, are fundamental to that work.
The changes proposed today are another step toward our goal of being a society free from bias and discrimination and in which every Canadian is valued and protected. The Canadian Human Rights Act, in conjunction with human rights legislation provincially and territorially, has played, and continues to play, a fundamental role in ensuring that Canadians, regardless of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other grounds, can participate fully and equally in all aspects of Canadian life.
Unfortunately, we know that trans and gender-diverse persons have been, and continue to be, disproportionately impacted by discrimination and hate crimes. This, quite simply, is unacceptable.
We can, and we must, do more to ensure that gender-diverse Canadians are free from discrimination and are protected from hate propaganda and hate crimes. Bill C-16 would be critical in addressing the real and dangerous discrimination faced by gender-diverse and transgender individuals.
I would first like to speak about the amendments this bill would make to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The act is crucial in ensuring that Canadians have equal opportunities to live, work, and carry out their daily lives without discrimination, but it is not working for everyone. In a 2010 survey of 500 transgender individuals in Ontario, 13% of respondents indicated that they had been fired, and 18% were refused employment based upon their transgender status.
Again, this is unacceptable.
By adding gender expression and gender identity to the list of prohibited discriminatory grounds, we would make sure that all Canadians, regardless of gender identity, would have equal opportunities to participate in every facet of Canadian life.
Inclusion of gender identity as prohibited grounds for discrimination would be much more than just words on paper. It would provide individuals who have complaints with access to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It would provide a fair and comprehensive process to ensure the protection of their rights and an opportunity for redress in cases where those rights were not respected.
It is my steadfast belief that when we extend and protect the rights of some Canadians, we do a great service not for just those individuals but for all Canadians.
Respect for human rights is so fundamental to who we are as Canadians that whenever we can act to do better to protect and enshrine rights in this country, we have a duty to do so.
Bill C-16 would also make important amendments to the Criminal Code to add gender expression and identity to the list of distinguishing characteristics of an identifiable group to ensure greater protection from hate speech and crimes motivated by hate.
The same survey I referenced earlier found that 20% of transgender individuals who responded had been physically and sexually assaulted, and far too many of these crimes were not reported to police.
Violence and hateful propaganda must never be tolerated in a fair and peaceful country like Canada, but when those crimes are motivated by hatred of specific or identifiable groups, it is incumbent upon us to do more to protect those targeted individuals and to hold the people accountable for their actions. The amendments to the Criminal Code proposed in this bill would provide increased protections for gender-diverse individuals and would permit longer sentences in cases where a crime was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate.
We are under no illusion that the changes in the bill will end all discrimination against transgender and diverse populations, but it is an important step, one that builds on the advocacy work that those in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies have done for many years. I am proud that the Government of Canada is now catching up. These changes would put in place fundamental protections needed to ensure a basic level of protection.
There is more we can do. We must ensure equity for gender-diverse Canadians, but it starts with ensuring their inclusion in the Criminal Code.
On a personal note, it is particularly important to me to speak today to the bill, because as a black person and as a woman, there have been periods in Canadian history when people who look like me were not viewed as persons. During Women's History Month, and particularly today, on Persons Day, it is important to recognize this. I am a generation removed from those fights, so I recognize that the privilege given to me to serve in the House of Commons requires me, it is my duty, to do all I can to help extend those rights to all.
Further, I have three children at home, and in everything I do I cannot help but think about how it will affect their lives. It is important to me that they know that they are growing up in a Canada where same-sex marriage is the law of the land. This particular bill is a further extension of the values we hold dear and the values my children, as young as they are, hold very dear.
I hope that 20 years from now, there will be a generation of children for whom the idea of discrimination based on gender identity, or any other discrimination, is unthinkable. Bill C-16 is critical in making that a reality.
I would like to commend my colleague, the hon. Minister of Justice, for her hard work on this file. Her obvious commitment to diversity and inclusion is an example to all of us in the chamber. I want to thank her for her leadership. I am proud to stand with her today in supporting this legislation, and I encourage all my colleagues in the House to do the same.
Mr. Majid Jowhari (Richmond Hill, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I take great pride in having the opportunity to participate in this debate and lend my support on such an important and much-awaited bill, Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.
The bill proposes to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity or gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination. It also would amend the Criminal Code to add gender identity or expression to the definition of identifiable group for the purpose of the hate propaganda offences and to the list of aggravating circumstances for hate crime sentencing. Furthermore, it would allow longer sentences for criminal offenders motivated by hate based on gender identity or gender expression.
In simple words, the bill would recognize that trans individuals are equally deserving of protection from discrimination based on gender identity as are all Canadians protected from discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, and conviction of an offence for which a pardon has been granted.
I am also proud that it is a Liberal government proposing the bill, just as it was a Liberal government in 1996 that amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation in this list. It has been 20 years since that aspect of Canada's human rights act was amended. It is now 2016, and it is time that we modernize our laws to truly reflect our society and our diversity. Of course, I strongly acknowledge and commend my NDP colleagues for their leadership in the previous session in the promotion and raising awareness of these gaps in our legislation to the House.
As has previously, repeatedly been mentioned and is certainly a point worth reiterating, trans and gender diverse persons have been disproportionately impacted by discrimination and hate crimes. A survey conducted by Trans Pulse project in 2010 showed that out of 500 transgendered respondents in Ontario, 13% had been fired and 18% were refused employment based on transgendered status. Twenty per cent had been physically or sexually assaulted, but unfortunately not all of these assaults were reported to the police.
It does not stop there. Trans individuals also face daily bullying at home, in school, in the streets, in malls, and in many other places. According to a large-scale survey of LGBTQ across Canada conducted by Egale Canada, 68% of trans students reported being verbally harassed about their perceived gender identity; 49% of the trans students have experienced sexual harassment in school in the last year, as of 2011; and 90% of trans youth reported hearing trans-phobic comments daily directed at them, but what is sad is that 20% of these students reported hearing some of these comments from the teachers.
In passing the legislation we would not only show transgender and gender diverse individuals that they do deserve protection, that they are recognized by our government, and that our country's legislation does protect and represent all Canadians regardless of their gender identity or expression. As well, by enshrining trans and gender diverse individuals as a separate recognized group in our law, law enforcement agencies would be better able to carry out their duties.
Let me explain. As it stands, our law enforcement personnel are not as properly trained to understand and respond to crimes related to gender identity as they should be. Furthermore, because there is no separate recognition of trans and gender diverse persons in our legislation, it also means that we lack the appropriate data from our government to have a better understanding of the depth of the problem in our society. Without this understanding and without data, it will be difficult to appropriately address the issue.
Additionally, the impact of hate crimes and bullying does not end at the point at which the act has ended. The impact has far more severe ramifications on the mental health of the victims. In a survey conducted by Trans Pulse in Ontario in 2014, it was reported that of those who have experienced physical assault, 56% have seriously considered suicide and 29% have attempted suicide. In the same survey, 35% of those that have faced verbal abuse seriously considered suicide, compared to 8% who attempted suicide. What is concerning is that 28% of individuals have seriously considered and 4% attempted suicide even though they have not been subject to physical nor verbal abuse.
What this suggests is that mental health issues are rampant amongst this segment of the population in Canada. We must act now to address these issues. Today, we are taking the first step in introducing the legislation. However, in the future, further steps must be taken, which will be facilitated by the passing of the bill. These steps would include providing adequate training to our health care providers to assess and quickly react to possible mental health trigger warning signs, to identify the root causes of mental health issues, and to assist victims in finding appropriate recourse through the law.
Next steps would be promotional and advocacy campaigns that raise awareness of these issues, that provide adequate training to all stakeholders in question, and that show trans and gender diverse Canadians that they are included, respected, protected, and cared for.
I am proud to come from a riding that has already enshrined gender expression and gender identity in its policy. For instance, in 2014, Richmond Hill, through its employment accommodation procedure, aligned its employment policy with the Ontario Human Rights Code and included gender identity and gender expression under the definition of protected groups, whereby individuals from the trans and gender diverse population can seek recourse for employment discrimination through this policy.
Ontario has adopted such a bill into its legislation. Richmond Hill has adopted such a policy into its regulations. It is time for the federal government to follow suit. I look forward to being part of a society that is tolerant and inclusive, achieved by passing a bill that seeks to achieve just that.
I encourage all my colleagues to support the bill.
Mrs. Cathay Wagantall (Yorkton—Melville, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been quoted often as saying we are stronger because of our diversity. I could not agree more. What makes Canada great is our pluralism and inclusiveness. However, what deeply concerns me is the statement that was made and echoed by the Minister of Justice this morning, which is that we must go beyond tolerance of differences to acceptance.
The reason I do not agree with this thinking is because it literally removes what makes Canada the great democracy it is, where we all have the right to think differently and make different choices and express contrary views without fear of repercussion. What we must do is accept all people. What we must not accept is the loss of respect for differences, views, and choices. We must accept people while respecting various views and varying choices.
I forgot to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.
Today, we are asked to consider extending these protections to include gender identity and gender expression. As elected officials, we have a duty to the Canadian public to exercise the best judgment we can to ensure that we continue to protect those already protected under the law, while considering the needs of those asking for additional considerations.
How does gender identity and expression differ from protection provisions already extended under the 1996 Canadian Human Rights Act to sexual orientation? Typically, a person's gender is consistent with the biological sex characteristics, resulting in an individual dressing and/or behaving in a way which is perceived by others as within generally accepted cultural gender norms. Gender, we are told today, is no longer based just on biological sex characteristics. Rather, it is based on what one feels he or she is or what one identifies with. Male, female, agender, genderqueer, trans man, trans woman, transgender, non-binary, even questioning, or unsure are some of the options. The vocabulary is continuing to evolve for those seeking new roles or identities for themselves.
Gender expression refers to the ways in which one may opt to manifest or express their masculinity or femininity. Sexual orientation can include heterosexual, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, queer, questioning, or unsure, same gender loving, or others. If options for identifying oneself extend to questioning and unsure, how do we protect that? How does an individual know if he or she falls in this category? How is an employer supposed to know if he or she falls in this category? What about lawmakers and enforcement services?
With respect to the other provisions under the law, we provide citizens, businesses, service providers, and lawmakers with clear definitions, as we should. Will a new law protect people who have committed to and changed their identification, as well as those who want to change or think they want to change, or perhaps they have been thinking for the past couple of weeks they want to change, or in the last hour? It is a very broad spectrum we are asked to consider today, from “I feel like a woman today" to someone who has completely committed to the process, changed him or herself, has gone through transformational surgery, and now wants protection from discrimination.
As a business owner, if a male employee has been going to the men's washroom for 10 years, suddenly decides to go to the women's washroom and people hear a woman scream, is it discrimination to ask him to leave? Is the man just opting to put his toe in the water, so to speak, and now has the right to, or would a pervert possibly be kicked out? Where does the onus of responsibility lie to determine what the true circumstances are? Is this not putting an inordinate amount of responsibility on our employers, businesses, and service providers? Clearly, the females in this instance have rights, too, or do they? As do the businesses or service operators, or do they?
As a small business owner in a small family community, we have respectfully indicated to customers that we could not provide them the services they requested. Fortunately, they understood. Our consultation with a lawyer affirmed that we had the right to determine who our clientele was as he also had the right to determine what cases he wanted to take. Where the challenge exists is this. Tools are being used widely to promote a loss of diversity, not a growth in diversity. To think differently is being attacked with hate language and terminology that says, “If you disagree with me, then you hate me”, and that, in turn, is impacting other people's freedoms and choices.
I have taught my children to know what their values are and to make good choices based on those values. I have also taught them to value everyone, regardless of how their values and choices may differ from their own.
In the community we lived in until six years ago, there are mosques, gurdwaras, temples, and churches. The church that my husband pastored had the Christmas story told in 13 different languages. There were 83 different people groups, and my children were the minority as white Caucasians in their school. They have friends of different faiths, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientation. They have relationships regardless of their differences. This is true diversity and true acceptance.
I greatly respect the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke and the way that he reached out to the gay community of refugees coming to Canada. At the first briefing by the Minister of Immigration, the member asked how the gay community here could connect with a Syrian gay community coming into Canada as they were routinely discriminated against, harmed, and murdered. I expressed my absolute support for his desire to help them make the transition to Canada a safe and positive one.
No one should be persecuted or discriminated against for their choices or beliefs. However, the same could be said of the Yazidis and Christians, who are one of the four most vulnerable groups identified by the United Nations, who also are not in the camps at all, because they will be murdered there, and who often do not make it there, because they had been thrown overboard and drowned before they reached safety.
The question has to be asked. What is to be done when values and beliefs of individuals and faiths collide in Canada? Do we support one and attack another?
This is what is happening, and I fear could happen on an even larger scale when claims are made to the Human Rights Commission. Coexistence is what makes diversity great, not an artificial inclusiveness that simply moves the markers and tosses that which does not agree out of the equation by defining a different view, belief, or right to share that perspective as hateful.
As we start down this road, are we prepared to extend rights to every incarnation and how many more are going to evolve? Should something as important as our human rights charter and Criminal Code be this fluid?
I had also hoped to provide a definite number respecting how many individuals were requiring gender identity and gender expression protection. Unfortunately, like its definition, there are no clear hard core numbers or studies readily available for reference.
The gender identity and gender expression population is estimated to range from 1% to 3%. Every population is important and should not be discriminated against. However, should the needs of a small and broadly-defined minority of 1% to 3% outweigh the concerns of the general population that equally has and share those rights?
As discussed, the labels for this population are continually morphing and evolving, and the numbers that identify with this population are somewhat dubious at best. In our zeal to want to be seen as fair and open-minded, we seem to have forgotten the faces of those whose equal rights also exist. If we are in fact prepared to pass this law and let everyone do whatever they want on any given day or whim, do we not have a responsibility to ensure that we are not now discriminating against the larger population's health, safety, and quality of life?
Proponents of the bill should or would have no issue, I would think, with a grown man coming into a women's locker room to shower, as the bill would allow a self-identifying or expressing man in this case to do so if he so chose. However, aside from those who are comfortable with it, there is a large percentage of the population that is not.
Women's rest rooms and locker rooms are traditionally family changing rooms. By passing the bill, are we then be saying that a person's need to express his or her gender or identity foreshadows the mother's need to also protect her child from seeing a naked man at, let us say, a YMCA children's swim class? Have we really gone this far in our society? Is this really where the majority of Canadians want to evolve or aspire to?
With incidents of violence increasing against women and children, and, yes, against men, and with incidents of sexual predators on the rise, child kidnappings and so forth, and we see it all the time in our news, is it prudent for responsible legislators to expand this umbrella so irresponsibly?
To ask the majority of Canadians to give up their own rights to privacy and to gender identity and expression, and bear the cost for the same, is asking too much. I am confident that a good portion of our society agrees with this.
For these reasons, I accept, embrace, and support the rights of all individuals to live without discrimination for their values, beliefs, and choices in Canada, and so I cannot support Bill C-16.
Mrs. Cathy McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep your last point in mind as I address my comments through you to the House.
I am also rising to speak to Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. It is a bit of an innocuous title to a bill that requires parliamentarians to reflect on some personal and fundamental values. It is also important to note that the bill will likely receive majority support, while we must acknowledge that some of my colleagues and many Canadians do have concerns about what the bill actually means.
I will be supporting the bill at second reading, and I hope my remarks will help shape a thoughtful dialogue, especially for those who are less comfortable, and also will address some of the specific concerns I have heard during the debate in the House today.
First, it is important to talk about the technical aspects of the bill. Bill C-16 would make three changes to the law. It would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression. This amendment would provide explicit protection to gender, transgender, and gender diverse persons. That is from discrimination in areas such as employment opportunities and access to goods and services.
The bill would also amend the Criminal Code in two ways. It would prohibit hate propaganda against groups that are identifiable based on gender identity or gender expression, and certainly an example is extremist literature that is especially targeting them.
Finally, it would amend the Criminal Code to clarify that sentencing for a criminal offence may be greater if the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate.
As stated by the minister, the objectives of the bill are to recognize and reduce vulnerability of trans and other gender diverse persons to the discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crimes and to affirm their equal status as Canadians.
I think the statistics are irrefutable that transgender people face high levels of discrimination and also a high risk of violent crime. Recent research by Egale Canada said 95% of transgendered students feel unsafe at school and nine out of 10 have been verbally harassed due to their gender expression.
I did some research as I was looking at my comments today, and I went to a document that the World Health Organization has put out. It is very interesting. It talks about gender identity versus sex, and it says we often tend to confuse and mix the two together. As a quick look at what it calls sex, typically females are XX and there are males who are XY, but babies are born with chromosome abnormalities—Turner syndrome, XXX females, hermaphroditism, and a whole host of issues—but clearly it says that is sex and it is determined by a range of chromosome complements, hormone balance, and phenotypic variants, which determine sex.
It puts out gender as being more of a social construct, and in western countries it has tended to be very binary in nature, whereas in other cultures it has been much more fluid. Certainly we look at sex and we predominantly have males and females, XX and XY, but we do look at there being a whole variant within sex. Having not a binary philosophy around how we look at gender, as many other cultures do, is something we should be looking at.
This is not an abstract discussion. I think everyone here knew people in high school who were much more comfortable with their circle of friends; and we just heard one of my colleagues talk about Terry, who had to run home from school to escape bullying and abuse. I think many of us had friends in high school whom we were aware of. Also, perhaps it was our mother's aunt, whom we loved as a child but perhaps wondered what made her seem a little different, and we could not quite put our finger on it.
We have talked a bit here about what the bill is. We have talked a bit about the WHO definition. I am going to focus some comments also on some arguments that have been put forward today against supporting the bill.
The first one is that transgendered people are already protected under the human rights code. The debate has been fairly comprehensive in that area and I have been convinced that there is not full protection. There are some loopholes in terms of our human rights code, and sex and sexual orientation do not completely cover off the protection that is necessary. It was certainly a valid argument. I have listened to both sides and I believe there are some gaps in terms of protection.
The other point is that this is a bit of a symbolic affirmation as well. Not only would it close a loophole, but it is important and symbolic. Here I would like to share a local example.
We had an editorial on our local radio that talked about whether we even needed pride parades anymore, that it is sort of over and done with, “Let's get on, everyone is accepted”. It was responded to by another local journalist who quite clearly articulated that if people thought homophobia and transphobia were over in Canada it was perhaps because they had never been queer. She then went on to talk about what it was like for her personally to move to a new community, to wonder if she was going to be accepted, and the challenges that she had in her everyday life.
The other thing we are hearing about is that perhaps there would be heterosexual predators who would take advantage of the bill and use it in terms of going after our young daughters and sons. I have been looking at recent examples of horrific crimes. Today we hear about someone in Nova Scotia, Klutzy the Clown. Last week, we heard about a teacher, a sports coach. We have heterosexual predators out there and our children must be protected from them, but I do not think that a trans person would use a single-occupancy restroom in order to perpetrate these crimes.
It is kind of interesting. I have thought about this at great length because I think that the people who have this concern are very concerned. We have a single washroom that we created in the park, and it was created for people with disabilities, for trans folks, and for others to access. It is a single washroom. The reaction that we got back because we had created a gender-neutral washroom was very stunning. On airplanes, there are gender-neutral washrooms.
This was a very interesting experience. My daughter went to university and she was staying in residence. I thought it was very strange that it was not only a co-ed floor but there were co-ed washrooms and showers at the university. I thought that was very strange and wondered how it was all going to work out. I asked her about it and she said that it was sort of strange at first but after the first week it was just normal in terms of that particular co-ed set-up. We perhaps worry about the bathroom issue in a way that we should not.
In conclusion, again I certainly know that we will be hearing more about this particular debate in committee and when we bring it back to the House. By supporting the bill in Parliament, we would send a collective, strong message and comfort to the many trans and gender diverse Canadians who have had a very difficult path in life. Again, I look forward to the continued debate.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I stand today to address an important piece of legislation. I applaud in particular the Minister of Justice, who has introduced two substantial pieces of legislation in a relatively short time span. I admire the efforts and the work that she, through her department, has done in order to present Bill C-16 to the House. I understand that the legislation was part of the mandate letter that was provided to her by the Prime Minister. That speaks to the degree of importance that the Prime Minister, cabinet, and the government as a whole, any political party, place on the legislation.
I listened to the many speeches that have taken place today and I have found that all political parties support Bill C-16. We do not often get that sort of support and it is worthy of notice.
I would like to again highlight the effort put into this file by the Minister of Justice and her department. This did not just happen overnight. When legislation is brought forward a significant contribution is made by many different stakeholders from virtually every region of our country. It is important that we acknowledge the efforts of the many individuals who have allowed us to get to this point where we are now debating Bill C-16.
It is important to recognize that Ottawa played an important role, a strong leadership role with respect to the legislation. I will get back to that leadership role, but it is important that we recognize that there are other jurisdictions.
I asked the member for Richmond Hill if I could quote him specifically in his response to a question because it is pertinent to today's debate. He said, “many other provinces and territories across Canada had adopted legislation that sought to protect the rights of trans and gender diverse persons in Canada. Most Canadian provinces and territories now list gender identity, and some have included gender expression, among the prohibited grounds of discrimination under their human rights law.” He also said, “The human rights laws in the Northwest Territories, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, while the human rights laws in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, including Newfoundland and Labrador, prohibit discrimination based on both gender identity and gender expression.”
When members think of Bill C-16 and how they might vote, they need to recognize that Ottawa, albeit an important player, has a leadership role to play. It is also important to note that while most provinces have amended their human rights laws to provide explicit protection as noted above, gender identity and/or gender expression had previously been implicitly included in some jurisdictions under other explicitly enumerated grounds, such as sex, as a matter of policy, and/or as a result of court decisions.
It is important to recognize that while New Brunswick, Nunavut, and Yukon have not amended their legislation to explicitly include gender identity or gender expression in their laws, the New Brunswick and Yukon human rights commissions have published guidelines on human rights that indicate that gender identity discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.
It is important to recognize that across Canada we are moving toward a more modern and a more inclusive society. The legislation would align with Canadians' wishes and truly represent them.
As a representative of the great constituency of Winnipeg North, I believe that I represent all the people of Winnipeg North. I want the members of my constituency to feel comfortable knowing that I will represent their interests first and foremost. This is something I do in different ways. For example, in caucus discussions, we know that we can say whatever we want. We know that at times there are some limitations in the chamber regarding what a member might want to say. However, I want my constituents to understand that no matter what their background is, whether based on ethnicity, religion, or belief, when coming to talk to me, I will not discriminate in any way so that I can represent their interests, no matter what percentage of the population they might claim to be part of in my constituency. I say that because this debate should not be about one's faith or religion; it is a fundamental right we are debating.
Back in 1948, the United Nations brought forward a universal declaration about the importance of human rights. Since that day, there has been the intention and goodwill of politicians around the world to honour it by bringing forward ideas, resolutions, and legislation to try to embody what that declaration was proclaiming.
We often hear about the lack of studies and reports. The nice thing about Google is that it does not take much to get a sense of what might be out there. I would like to make reference to a report I was able to identify. I would encourage members who are having a difficult time with this issue to try to get a better understanding of what many individuals in our society are trying to come to grips with. Many are trying to make a difference by, for example, seeing legislation such as Bill C-16 pass.
It is a report by the Trans Pulse project team in Ontario. I would like to provide some selected comments from that report.
I will start on page 1, which highlights how effective this report was, and still is.
|| To date, the project has produced 14 academic research articles in peer-reviewed journals, 5 reports created at the request of government or community service agencies, and 8 e-bulletins to provide short summaries of key findings in easily accessible formats.
I would emphasize that this report originated in Canada's largest province, Ontario.
It posed this question: “Who are Trans People in Ontario?” I love the response. I believe it is appropriate for me to read the response to that question.
|| Trans people in Ontario report a full range of ages and occupations, and are geographically distributed across the province proportionally to the population.
This is something members have actually raised. This is not just an urban issue. It goes on:
|| They belong to all ethno-racial groups, and 7% identify as Aboriginal. Of course, trans people also form families: 44% are in a committed relationship and 24% are parents.
|| While they may not have had language for it at the time, 59% knew that their gender identity did not match their body before the age of 10, and 80% had this knowledge by the age of 14. Gender identity is often clear years before people socially transition to live in their core gender. While approximately 80% of Ontario trans people have socially transitioned to live their day-to-day lives in their core gender, most full-time, only 8% report that they had begun living in their core gender by age 14. It is import[ant] to note that there is a lot of sex and gender diversity within trans communities. About three-quarters of trans people indicate they need to transition medically, which may involve different combinations of hormones and/or surgery for different individuals. Though trans women have received greater media attention, there are about equal numbers of trans people on male-to-female and female-to-male spectrums in Ontario.
This is an important point.
|| About 1 in 5 trans people do not identify as male or female, or even as primarily masculine or feminine. These more gender-fluid people can identify as both male and female, neither male nor female, or as something else entirely (e.g. as another traditional gender recognized by Aboriginal or other cultural groups).
The report provides some extensive polling, which I thought was quite interesting. The report talks a lot about the discrimination and violence experienced by trans persons.
|| In everyday life, trans people experience the effects of living in a society in which stigma and discrimination against trans people are common. In addition to instances of discrimination and violence that would constitute human rights violations, trans Ontarians nearly universally report that they have experienced some type of “everyday transphobia”. For example, 96% had heard that trans people were not normal, 73% had been made fun of for being trans, and 78% reported their family had been hurt or embarrassed. These daily indignities can take their toll; 77% worried about growing old as a trans person, and 67% feared they would die young.
There are some interesting numbers the report releases, but let there be no doubt that it is common that there is discrimination, violence, and structural barriers for trans people.
Continuing with the report, on the issue of violence, it states:
|| Trans people are the targets of specifically directed violence; 20% had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans, and another 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed but not assaulted. Many did not report these assaults to the police; in fact, 24% reported having been harassed by police. Trans people also face violence in institutional settings such as prisons; 6% of Trans PULSE participants had been in prison or jail, and one-third of them reported experiencing violence due to their gender....
|| The majority (57%) of trans Ontarians had avoided public washrooms due to these safety fears....
|| Of those who had experienced physical and/or sexual violence due to being trans, 97% report avoiding at least one type of public space....
The impact of discrimination and violence on social participation and health is something that is very prevalent.
Mental health and suicide are very serious issues. A graph of the proportion of trans Ontarians reporting past-year suicidality by past experiences of transphobic assault or harassment has very interesting numbers. It is going up.
We need to look at what Bill C-16 is proposing to do. Canada celebrates diversity and inclusion. All Canadians should feel safe being themselves. As promised, the government has introduced legislation to add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and to list it in the distinguishing characteristics of identifiable groups protected by the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.
Our government believes that all people can live according to their gender identity and can be protected from discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crimes. We are committed to ensuring that trans and gender-diverse Canadians are free from discrimination and are protected from hate propaganda and hate crimes. Bill C-16 would ensure that protection from discrimination based on an individual's gender, identity, or expression is included in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The Canadian Human Rights Act was proclaimed in Parliament back in 1977. In reading through it, I found something worth repeating, which is the actual purpose of the act. It states:
|| The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.
I think all Canadians understand the importance of the Canadian Human Rights Act. There are agencies, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission, that investigate issues and pass them on to the Human Rights Tribunal. There is an apparatus, whether through legislation or our bureaucracy, to ensure that discrimination is marginalized in our country.
Today we have before us legislation that would give more strength to what Canadians have accepted overwhelmingly, the Canadian Human Rights Act. That is what the government is proposing to do, recognizing that transgender people are suffering discrimination far beyond what the average Canadian suffers. Incorporating it into the Canadian Human Rights Act is the right thing to do.
If members listened to the speeches this morning, this has crossed party lines. I appreciate the opinions of all, but I would emphasize that this should not be a debate about faith. It should be a debate about human rights. It should be about discrimination and the role parliamentarians can play in minimizing discrimination.
It goes back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights back in 1948 and the leadership role Canada can play. We have a Prime Minister who has mandated that the Minister of Justice make this legislation a priority so that it is passed during the first year of this government's mandate.
We recognize how important it is as parliamentarians to say that we will not stand for violence, bullying, and discrimination, When we are provided the opportunity to protect those rights and ensure there is a higher sense of equality, we will step up to the plate and support this legislation.
I appreciate and respect the opinions of all, but I look at this issue as a human rights issue first and foremost. We owe it to all our constituents, no matter where they come from or what their perspective might be, to represent them well. When we have legislation of this nature, which would ensure that sense of equality, we need to stand and be counted in support of the legislation.
I understand there is some reservation from opposition members. Let us attempt to address that by allowing the bill to go to committee and see if those points can be addressed, and then make that final decision on third reading. I encourage members of the House to pass this legislation at second reading, allow it to go to committee, and see what the members of the public and others have to say. How wonderful that would be in recognition of the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed many decades ago.