Evidence of meeting #53 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was tribunal.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Ian Fine  Acting Secretary General, Secretary General's Office, Canadian Human Rights Commission
  • Susheel Gupta  Acting Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
  • Diane Watts  Researcher, REAL Women of Canada

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much.

My goal in bringing forward the bill was to address a problem for a community much discriminated against within Canada. When I met with some objections over the term “gender expression”, as Ms. Findlay has just said, not being as well understood or defined, I agreed that it could be removed from the bill and we would still make progress. In the best of all possible worlds for me, as for the Liberals, it would still be there, but I'm seeking the maximum support for this bill. As I've said to Mr. Rathgeber privately...not just a majority, but I'd like to see as many parliamentarians on side as possible, because it makes a very strong statement to the Canadian public.

For that reason I'm suggesting we narrow the scope of the bill; we take out the more contentious.... We deal with “gender identity”, which has a clear definition, as you'll see in law, that's more clearly recognized. If we as a group try to write the definition of “gender expression”, we'll be breaking new ground in Canadian law, in international law. We'll be doing something that no one else has really done. At this point, I think I am prepared to say we really can't do that in this committee, so let's take the term out.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Mr. Bruinooge.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have just a couple of questions on this motion to amend. I think Mr. Garrison has answered some of this.

Going back to some of the comments earlier in relation to the testimony from Mr. Fine, I know it was suggested that he express some clarity on their position. Just going back to my questions to Mr. Fine, I felt there wasn't a lot of clarity in relation to duty to consult and things of that nature.

My question on this particular motion to amend is again going back to how first nations communities will implement this measure. I know there are a number of systems within first nations communities that I'm not sure have been fully considered yet by this committee. I'm thinking in particular of a practice by the Iroquois to appoint clan mothers and having their input on their processes—processes that have lasted for thousands of years right into modernity.

I think there's probably some value in getting more input on how these changes will impact those communities. I think it's probably incumbent on us as parliamentarians to consider that as we move forward on measures like this. I think it's important; even though there isn't a specific process that Parliament has identified for movers of bills that have demonstrated impact on first nations communities, I think there is some general consensus that there should be some outreach in relation to changes that will impact first nations communities.

I know when I was working on the section 67 repeal back in 2007, which actually extended the Canadian Human Rights Act to first nations people for the first time, it was a process that lasted some 30 years. If it in fact would have started right after the bill was first brought in, introduced, and passed...and really a process of 30 years was in play for being able to consult with those communities and bring them into a place where they began to absorb the changes and the impacts those changes would have.

Am I suggesting that we need to look at that type of a timeframe in relation to this? Probably not. Clearly in the past, though, I think there has been that acknowledgement in relation to these important changes that we're seeing.

Mr. Chair, perhaps this is a question also to you in terms of your process. I know we're currently dealing with this first motion to amend by Mr. Garrison, but what kind of process are you going to be looking at for amendments to other sections? If I were to put something on the table, let's say in relation to a transition period, how would you envision that occurring here today or at future committees?

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

The committee is its own boss. They decide. So that would be up to the committee.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Perhaps after we address Mr. Garrison's first motion, or second—I'm not sure how many he has—there will be an opportunity for other suggestions to be brought to the table, such as an exemption for first nations people or something along those lines?

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

If you wish to make a motion, it has to be in writing, and we'll vote at the end of the bill.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Okay.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Just so everybody understands, there was no request, for anyone here, from Justice, which frequently occurs when we do clause-by-clause. So the clerk...we've decided that we will invite someone from Justice to be here at the next meeting.

Mr. Seeback.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks for letting us know there will be someone from Justice here when we reconvene. I think it's overly optimistic to think we'll get through clause-by-clause in the next 15 minutes, before the bells ring for our votes tonight.

I don't want to belabour the point, but Ms. Findlay was talking about a case and people trying to figure out how to fit in to family status. Family status wasn't defined, and therefore people had to spend time trying to work their cases within previous decisions. That's the trouble, for me, with the statements I've heard that gender expression is going to be somehow covered under gender identity and gender expression isn't covered. When something is going to be read in, either by a tribunal or a court, and it's read in without a definition, that gives me some pause, and I think it will give others some pause. I look forward to hearing from members of the justice department on their thoughts about that taking place.

Thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Ms. Glover.

November 27th, 2012 / 5 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the committee for allowing me to take part in this very important discussion today. I am very much in favour of the suggestions put forward by Mr. Garrison. And with all due respect to my colleagues sitting next to me, I believe it's important that we do pursue the suggestions made by Mr. Garrison.

I would point out that one of the amendments clearly does provide a definition. To ignore the fact that there are packaged amendments in front of us and to state there is no definition I think is unfair. I would suggest that members take a look at the package that has been provided by Mr. Garrison so they can be well informed of the intent of those amendments. I know we're going to get to them in clause-by-clause, but in my opinion they are well done. They set out what gender identity is, which reflects specifically on what is felt by a person who is transgendered. It has nothing to do with the behaviour exhibited, which is gender expression and has been removed.

I make that as a first point. I must add that I am a proud Métis woman and a real Canadian woman. I have had discussions with many aboriginal people. I spent 19 years with the Winnipeg Police Service, seeing horrific acts of violence against these marginalized individuals, from trying to cut the testicles off a pre-operative transsexual, to the most severe of beatings. I can assure this committee that none of us on any side of this table want to see those things occur.

To give hope and opportunity to transgendered people through a bill like this, to give them hope in knowing they will have clarity every single time they report, every single time they want to go before a commission or a tribunal, that gender identity means they can be a transgender individual and not have to rely on sex, which to most people means plumbing, or disability, which is not what many of them feel, I think is imperative. I think it's imperative that this move forward. I think it's imperative that we, as Canadians and parliamentarians, embrace the notion that we are inviting other Canadians to feel the sense of belonging that this bill will give them.

When people say it's symbolic only, I disagree wholeheartedly. I want transgendered individuals to feel they can go to a police service, that they can go to a court, knowing full well that gender identity is in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. I agree with the Canadian Bar Association when they say it will also provide clarity and public acknowledgment. I agree with Mr. Fine, who asks that there be a leaning towards more explicit language, which is what this bill will do. And I agree with all of the two-spirited people I spoke with at Safe Night off Winnipeg Streets recently who said this is an important bill.

They commend Mr. Garrison. I commend Mr. Garrison. Aboriginal people are typically the most marginalized in my province. They are the ones who, unfortunately, have a high rate of assaults, etc. When you are an aboriginal person who is also transgendered or two-spirited...they suffer tremendous violence. I want them to be protected, so I will be supporting the amendments. I have considered them fully, and I will be supporting them because I believe in what Mr. Garrison is doing. I believe in all of the folks who are sitting in this gallery, and I believe they need this.

I thank you, Mr. Garrison.

I thank you for allowing me to be here, Mr. Chair. I will leave it at that and hope the committee will do this in a timely fashion.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Ms. Findlay.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

I just wanted to add something on this issue of first nations people. I've dealt extensively with first nations people in many iterations over a long legal career. The case before the tribunal, which I referred to, involved a first nations transgendered person who was a prisoner in our federal system. At the time of the alleged discrimination the person was pre-operative, and at the time we actually held our mediation sessions the person was post-operative, male to female. She was very grateful for an opportunity to bring her issues forward before a neutral tribunal that would be applying human rights jurisprudence to her particular issues. To somehow exclude her, to exclude first nations people from the very protections that we are trying to afford here in this bill and in the act generally, I think would do a grave injustice to first nations people. I think that person would be quite horrified to think that they were somehow less protected under the laws of Canada than any of the rest of us are.

I simply offer that quick example of how I would not support any exclusion of first nations people from something that would seek to protect them.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Mr. Rathgeber.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I agree with the very lucid argument of my colleague, Mr. Seeback, regarding the confusion that's caused by definitions or lack thereof, and I find myself in the unique position of disagreeing with Ms. Glover, in that perhaps amendment NDP-1 causes more confusion than clarity. I agree with her when she describes the despicable act of having transgendered persons having their testicles removed or being subject to violent assaults, but I remind all members of this committee that those things are illegal. They're assault, probably assault causing bodily harm, possibly aggravated assault. The provisions of the Criminal Code allow for an aggravating factor based on any bias, and enumerate some of them, and then have a final catch-all of any other similar factor.

As members of the committee know, I feel there's some redundancy here, which is why I require some clarity.

I have a question for Mr. Garrison, if he's prepared to answer it. In his attempt to remove gender expression from his bill, does he think it's covered in his proposed definition of gender identity, which is contained in his second amendment? Or is he confident that it's protected under the current tribunal jurisprudence, which it clearly is in my view. We've heard emphatically from witnesses that transsexualism is discrimination based on sex or gender. Is he satisfied leaving it as a matter of Canadian Human Rights Tribunal arbitration written judgments, or does he believe that it's covered in his next section?

I'm more confused by all of it, because the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal used a different word. They didn't say “gender identity”. They stated that transsexualism is discrimination based on sex or gender. I don't know if that's the same as gender identity or gender expression or both.

I put that out to Mr. Garrison to answer if he chooses to, because I am more confused now than I was when we started this process.