House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

February 7th, 2011 / 11:05 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

moved that Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to start and later finish the third reading debate on Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression). I am pleased that the bill continues to make progress here in the House.

The bill would add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act, providing explicit protection for transsexual and transgender Canadians. It would also add gender identity and gender expression to the Criminal Code sections dealing with hate speech and sentencing for crimes where hate was a motivating factor.

The bill arose from in-person consultations with members of the transgender and transsexual communities in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, and with many transfolks online in communities all across Canada. It is routed in their hope of full and equal citizenship and their experience, often daily, of discrimination, prejudice, misunderstanding and violence.

It is my hope that with this bill this House and Canadian society will take a stand against transphobia and for the full equality of transCanadians.

Back on November 20, Canadians and people around the world marked Transgender Day of Remembrance. We remembered victims of transphobic murder and violence. Here in Ottawa, there was a march that started at the Ottawa police headquarters with a flag-raising ceremony supported by the Ottawa Police Service and proceeded to Parliament Hill for an historic rally for transrights and in support of Bill C-389.

I want to point out that this is not a bid for special rights but for equal rights for a very marginalized community in Canada. At earlier stages of the debate and in committee, the key concerns raised were about the need to define gender identity and gender expression and the question of redundancy.

On the matter of the definition, the Canadian Human Rights Act does not define each of the prohibited grounds of discrimination that it contains. This is intentional. It encourages living definitions, grounds that are defined by common usage, experience, jurisprudence, tribunal decisions and science. In keeping with that feature of the act, there is no definition of gender identity and gender expression in this bill. I hasten to point out that gender identity and gender expression are not new terms or new ideas. They have been in use for many years.

Also, while there have been successful human rights complaints launched by transpeople using the current law's provisions on “sex” and sometimes “disability”, we should never forget the fact that successful challenges to discrimination have been made by transfolks using current law, including an explicit reference to gender identity and gender expression, which is still important. It is important for absolute clarity. Transpeople should not have to think their way into protection using other categories originally intended to cover other groups in our society.

It is also important that a group that is marginalized in our society and that suffers significant discrimination and prejudice actually see themselves in the law, and that those who would discriminate against them know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their actions are not acceptable.

It is also important that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has an explicit educational mandate on issues related to the experience of transsexual and transgender Canadians.

There is a helpful document on both the issue of the definition and the need for explicit reference in law: the Yogyakarta Principles: The Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

The Yogyakarta Principles were developed by the International Commission of Jurists and the International Service for Human Rights on behalf of a coalition of human rights organizations. They were adopted by a distinguished group of 29 human rights experts from 25 countries in November 2006. Included in that group of experts were: a former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson; eight UN rapporteurs on human rights in specific countries or specific human rights related issues; two members of the UN human rights committee; the former chair of the UN committee on the elimination of discrimination against women; and one member of the UN committee on the rights of the child.

How did this expert panel define gender identity and gender expression? It said:

...each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.

For the record, that is a very formal definition. A more informal one is that gender identity is an individual's self-conception as male or female or both or neither, as distinguished from one's birth-assigned sex. Gender expression refers to how a person's gender identity is communicated to others through emphasizing, de-emphasizing or changing behaviour, dress, speech and/or mannerism.

The Yogyakarta Principles have been used in many different settings. They have been cited favourably by courts in India and Nepal; the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights; by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in a guidance note; and by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, on a number of occasions.

During the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in December 2008, Ms. Pillay said:

No human being should be denied their human rights simply because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. No human being should be subject to discrimination, violence, criminal sanctions or abuse simply because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity....

This past September, Ms. Pillay said:

Also of relevance, we have the Yogyakarta Principles.... These principles, which were developed by experts, offer additional guidance on the obligations of States under existing international legal instruments and also contain useful recommendations for implementation at the national level.

The definition provided by the Yogyakarta Principles, as well as Yogyakarta Principle 2, have also been part of the United Nations universal periodic review human rights process.

The universal periodic review, or UPR, is a unique process that h involves the review of the human rights' records of all 192 UN member states once every four years. The UPR is a state-driven process under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each state to declare what actions it has taken to improve the human rights situations in its country and to fulfill its human rights obligations.

As part of the UPR process last year, Canada accepted a recommendation from the Netherlands to apply the Yogyakarta Principles as a guide to assist in future policy developments. Principle 2 explicitly calls on states to include gender identity within non-discrimination legislation. Bill C-389, which we are debating today, would provide Canada and our government the opportunity to fulfill the commitment made to this process.

There are also critics of the bill and I want to deal with some of the issues they have raised. Some critics base their concerns on a larger issue that questions the current framework of human rights law in Canada. I recognize that this is an issue in some quarters and some people believe we should review how we deal with human rights law in Canada. I personally do not share this concern but I do recognize that this is a serious argument to be debated.

I would say to proponents of this argument that, with great respect, this is not the time or place to make that stand. We are discussing including a group of citizens into our current human rights law framework. This is a group of citizens who, without doubt, today face serious discrimination and prejudice.

The approach of this bill is clearly in line with the current structure of human rights law. I would encourage those who take this position to make their arguments about the larger system, bring on the debate on that system, but, the meantime, we must not make transpeople wait. We must not make the equality of transCanadians the line in the sand in that other debate.

Another group of critics focus on one issue, the issue of public bathrooms. I will state clearly and emphatically that nothing in this bill would allow inappropriate conduct in public washrooms. It would not change criminal and other sanctions that exist for assault, sexual assault, pedophilia, indecency, harassment, exhibitionism or voyeurism. For example, peeping Toms or men disguised as women who enter a women's washroom to harass or assault women or girls would still be subject to criminal charges. This bill does nothing to change the sanctions against such inappropriate behaviour.

Raising this issue in the way it has been raised is purely and simply alarmist. It implies, too, that transpeople are somehow criminal by nature, an idea that is patently false.

However, this matter is hinted at, in perhaps a more subtle criticism of the bill, that it would somehow lead to “unintended consequences”.

The reality is that today we all share public washrooms with transsexual and transgender people and that we always have. As is appropriate, most of us never consider the gender of a person using a washroom when we do. We never know if we are sharing such a facility with a transperson. There is no reason for this to be or become a concern. Washrooms are intended for a specific purpose and when used for that purpose there is no problem. Jurisdictions that have implemented this change to their human rights law have seen no increase in crimes committed in public washrooms or gendered spaces as a result.

In reality, it is transpeople who face serious problems in public washrooms. They are the ones who have been assaulted, insulted and denied access. This is the actual problem and it is a serious problem that should demand our attention. Transgender and transsexual people should be able to go about the activities of daily living without fear or discrimination.

There is great support for this bill here in Canada. There is support in all parties represented here in the House, and that support is greatly appreciated. Many other support the bill as well, including: the Green Party of Canada, the City Council of Vancouver, the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health, human rights commissions, the Canadian Federation of Students, Egale Canada, ARC International, Amnesty International, the Rainbow Health Network, le Association des transexuels et transexuelles du Québec, Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, project Jer's Vision and the Trans Alliance Society. There is also very strong support in the trade union movement, including, among others, CUPEs Pink Triangle Committee, PSAC Equal Opportunities Committee and the Canadian Labour Congress itself.

I want to thank many people for their work on this project. I want to recognize four people in particular, which I realize is often problematic, but I want to thank Denise Jessica Freedman, who is a social work intern from Carleton University and works in my office. She has taught me a lot about the situation of transgender and transsexual people in Canada and, in particular, the experience of the transsexual community.

I also want to thank Matt McLauchlin and Susan Gapka, who are co-chairs of the NDPs' LGBT commission. I also want to thank my legislative assistant, Sonja van Dien, for her work.

In conclusion, I want to paraphrase a statement from the Canadian Labour Congress and an earlier work by the Canadian Auto Workers Union in its handbook called “To our allies:”, a handbook on LGBT rights and how people can work in support and solidarity of those rights:

Until we’re considered equal, and not simply ‘tolerated’.

Until our youth aren’t forced to leave home for the streets.

Until our partners are welcome at all family, social and workplace events.

Until the police are there to protect us not harass us.

Until sex trade workers are not seen as criminals.

Until our children see our families reflected in school curriculum and story books.

Until our differences and our cultures are celebrated not denied.

Until it’s safe to come out at work.

Until it’s safe to come out at school.

Until hospitals, banks, travel agents, and insurance companies see us as people not problems or profits.

Until we’re not stereotyped into certain jobs or denied others.

Until parents aren’t freaked out by having lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender children.

Until we don’t have to justify, explain, educate and expose our private lives.

Until harassment at work stops.

Until our streets are safe for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.

For our Allies 31

Until religions open their doors to our celebrations and expressions of faith.

Until we can express our gender without fear of reprisal or ridicule.

Until gender stereotyping stops and we are all free to be wholly human.

Until the cure for homophobia is discovered.

Until we can love and be loved, with joy and gay abandon.

Here in the House this week we can ensure that at least in part “until” becomes now for transgender and transsexual Canadians.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, some of the rationale that was given for not supporting the bill was the judgment by some experienced prosecutors that when an offence is particularized it can be more difficult to get a conviction under whatever the provision is.

I wonder if my colleague has a comment on that or if he could tell the House his position from the legal side, that making it too specific would actually make it more difficult to accomplish the aim, which everybody agrees on, and that is to eliminate discrimination at every chance we get.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence has made great strides on the whole issue of transgender and transsexual Canadians' place in that organization. There recently has been some positive publicity about the way the Department of National Defence has supported transgender and transsexual people transitioning from one gender to the other who are members of the Canadian armed forces or working with the forces. The department is to be congratulated for that enlightened policy. It is one place in our federal government where there is the positive aspect of full inclusion and where equality and the gifts and talents of transpeople are recognized.

With regard to particularization of offences, we have good legislation around hate crimes. Judges are allowed to increase sentences if they determine that hate was a motivating factor in a crime. This section of the law has been used a number of times and more recently it has been used in relation to the experience of gay and lesbian Canadians in particular.

There has been some confusion about how to use that law but that should not put into question the value of that kind of legislation, the value of that aspect of the Criminal Code. It has received great public support at times where it has been clearly determined that hate was a motivating factor when a crime was committed, particularly an assault or a murder. That kind of provision has incredible support among communities that have been affected by discrimination.

I would take exception by saying that being more particular somehow limits the application of that law. It has been used appropriately and it gives the courts and judges appropriate mechanisms to deal with particular kinds of crime.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could give any examples of how it is working in countries that have followed the direction of the United Nations. I wonder if he could give us any examples of where it is not working under the general provisions that we have and what the problem is.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his strong public support of this legislation and for being one of the seconders of the bill.

In jurisdictions where this change has been made in law, the outcomes have been almost if not completely universally positive. It gives transgender and transsexual people the clear indication that they are valued members of society, that they are protected under human rights law and that they have access to remedies under human rights law in those jurisdictions that have adopted the change.

Here in Canada a number of municipalities have made the change and, in terms of their workforce and in their areas of jurisdiction, I believe it has been a positive change. The Northwest Territories has made the change. It included gender identity in its list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in its human rights law a number of years ago. My understanding is that it has been a positive change and I am sure the member for Yukon would concur in that.

I believe that jurisdictions that have moved this way have seen better protection for their citizens and a better appreciation for the contributions that transmembers of their communities make. Other jurisdictions have taken a stand to say that they believe there is a full and equal place for transcitizens in society and in their communities.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to contribute to the debate on Bill C-389 as presented by the member for Burnaby—Douglas.

During previous debates on the bill, some have spoken about the discrimination faced by members of the transgender communities. I am aware, and I think all members are aware, of the need to protect all Canadians from violence and discrimination. I am proud that Canada is recognized on the international stage as a country that is committed to the promotion of diversity and equality and that this protection is provided by our Constitution and laws to all Canadians.

However, recognizing this, we need to consider whether the amendments proposed by Bill C-389 are clear or whether they are necessary. I submit that they are not and, for the reasons that I will describe in the next few minutes, I will be opposing the bill.

Before I begin discussing the details of the bill, I will take a couple of moments to discuss my concerns with the vagueness of the bill as drafted.

As hon. members who have studied the bill will notice, the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” are not defined in the bill.

When the member for Burnaby—Douglas appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, on which I sit, he was asked if there was a generally accepted definition of these terms. With regard to the definition of “gender identity”, he said that there were a number of definitions but noted that the one he used more often than not was an individual's self-conception as male or female, both or neither as distinguished from one's birth assigned sex. He also quoted the definition of “gender identity” found in the Yogyakarta Principles, which he just referred to in his comments, which he said was a United Nations' document well-known in human rights circles. That document defines “gender identity“ as follows:

...each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.

With regard to the definition of gender expression, the same hon. member and sponsor of the bill stated:

The definition I...use for gender expression is that gender expression refers to how a person's gender identity is communicated to others through emphasizing, de-emphasizing, or changing behaviour, dress, speech and/or mannerisms.

However, the definition of “gender identity” given in the Yogyakarta Principles includes specific reference to forms of gender expression. Why then is gender expression also used as a separate term in this bill? Is that term not superfluous? If not, then what does it mean?

I respectfully submit to all members of the House that, as a result, we are left with uncertainty and vagueness about what these concepts mean. As all members know, if undefined important terms such as “gender expression” and “gender identity” would create a lack of clarity and a real problem for the bill and for those who will be called upon to interpret the bill.

In this regard, it is instructive to look at imperative legislation in other democratic countries. In 2009, Scotland passed legislation allowing for an aggravated sentence where a crime is committed, in part, on the grounds of prejudice toward transgender identity. The term “transgender identity” is defined but the term “gender expression” is not used.

Our neighbours to the south in the United States at the federal level passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. hate crimes prevention act and it uses the term “gender identity”, which is define, but does not use the separate term “gender expression”. In my view, this shows that the bill is deficient by failing to provide definitions of these integral and important terms.

I will now examine the bill's proposal to add the terms “gender identity“ and “gender expression“ to the hate propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code and the sentencing provisions found in paragraph 718.2(a)(i).

Subsection 718.2(a) of the code uses general wording as follows:

(a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing,--

Paragraph 718.2(a)(i) then goes on to list certain criteria deemed to be aggravating factors used to increase a penalty for a crime beyond its usual range where the crime is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate, as follows:

(i) 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,--

The words “without limiting the generality of the foregoing” and “or any other similar factor”, I submit, make it abundantly clear that factors, other than those specifically enumerated, can be considered in cases where crime is motivated by hatred, bias or prejudice. In my view, adding the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” adds nothing to these sections and is therefore unnecessary.

I would now like to turn my focus to the amendments proposed in the bill that propose to make additions to the Canadian Human Rights Act. Some members have argued that this bill is necessary because transgender Canadians have faced discrimination in the workplace and in obtaining housing and services. However, these members downplayed the fact that under the federal Canadian Human Rights Act, transsexuals have already been protected from discrimination on the grounds of sex.

I would like to remind members of the House that both federal and provincial human rights tribunals have already protected transsexuals from discrimination in employment and in services. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal followed the approach taken by the human rights tribunals in British Columbia, Quebec and several other provinces, and have found discrimination against transsexuals to be covered by the existing ground of sex. This interpretation has subsequently been confirmed by the courts. Again, these additions would appear to be unnecessary.

In fact, the ground of sex in anti-discrimination laws is interpreted very broadly and has evolved over the years. It is usually understood to cover discrimination complaints based not just on sex, but also on gender attributes, pregnancy, childbirth, and more recently, transsexualism.

Given this history, I would ask all hon. members to consider whether an amendment to add the terms “gender identity” to the Canada Human Rights Act is really necessary. As members can see, in the moments preceding this, I have argued that they are not, that the proposed amendments in Bill C-389, although well-intentioned, are both unclear and unnecessary, and for all of those reasons I will be opposing the bill.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to speak to Bill C-389, affectionately known as the trans rights bill.

I was here for the first hour of debate at second reading when my colleague, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, moved the bill and spoke to it. He pointed out what a historic moment it was, a moment to actually have a debate on transgender issues in Parliament and that it was the first time that this issue had even been discussed within these four walls, in the House of Commons.

The member for Burnaby—Douglas, who is a tireless advocate for issues in the rainbow community and also the NDP critic on sexual orientation and gender identity policy, pointed out that while it was a historic moment in the House, his one regret was that, to our knowledge, there were no transgendered MPs in the House who could speak to this bill and provide a first voice perspective to the importance of this legislation.

I have been thinking a lot about that since we heard from the member for Burnaby—Douglas on that point. I am a queer rights activist. Since my first meeting at TBLGAY at York University in my undergrad year, I have done what I could to stand up for the rights of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people in Canada. I have done what I could to be an ally to the rainbow community.

However, nothing that I can say about our trans rights bill in this House could be a replacement for hearing from the lived experiences of transgendered Canadians.

I am going to use my time today to bring the voices of people, some from Halifax and others from around Canada, who contacted me about this bill.

Some of them have identified themselves to me as being transgendered, some as trans allies, and some have not identified themselves one way or another, but they have identified themselves as supporters of this bill.

They have all contacted me because they care deeply about what happens to this legislation. They care deeply about transgender and transsexual rights.

I want to share their voices with everyone in this House, so that these people have an opportunity to be heard by all MPs in this important debate.

Sandra Bornemann is a young woman with whom I have had the privilege of working with in Halifax. She works for the youth project in Halifax. We worked on some projects together. We worked on some issues together. Sandra wrote to me and said quite simply, “Trans people are often victims of discrimination, harassment and violence. They are all too often denied employment, housing, access to health care and face difficulties obtaining identification. Trans people are workers, citizens and beloved members of our families. They deserve respect, equality and protection from discrimination and violence”.

Krista McLellan wrote: “I am writing to you as a constituent to ask that you support Bill C-389 when it comes up for third reading in December and that you ask your caucus to do the same”.

Another constituent of mine wrote: “I am a resident of Halifax and am a transgendered person. While I have spent much of my career advocating for the rights of others (e.g. African Nova Scotians, persons with disabilities, new Canadians, single parents, gay, lesbian and bi) within my community, I have never been able to find the courage to identify that I am transgendered or to advocate for myself. It was only a few years ago that I disclosed to my wife and adult children that I am transgendered. Perhaps the reasons for keeping this a secret have been numerous. For example, not wanting to distract attention from the groups I worked with. Also, there was certainly fear. The fear of discrimination, loss of employment, hurt to my family and friends, etc. There was also the fear of being labelled sick, as I have heard others refer to transgendered people so many times. I have become aware of Bill C-389, an Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code and I am asking that you support this bill. As I am sure you are aware, transgendered people cover a wide range of expressions. This includes, most typically, transsexuals and crossdressers. In my case, I believe the aboriginal term “two spirited” best describes what I am (both male and female). For years I believed this was a curse, but I have come to realize it is a blessing. It has allowed me to truly achieve all I have in life and to gain a unique perspective in the world. In closing, I do hope that now you can help advocate for me and others by supporting this very important bill”.

John Ross and Rev. Warren Schell co-wrote a letter to me, and it reads: “We are writing to you today to ask you to support Bill C-389. We are very aware that transsexual and transgender people are among the most marginalized persons in our society. They often encounter great difficulty in finding places to live, employment and services”.

That was obviously an excerpt.

I would like to read another excerpt from a letter I received from Mercedes Allen, who said, “I would like to express my deepest appreciation for your support of Bill C-389 at second reading, and hope that you will continue to do so when the bill comes up for discussion and final discussion and vote on Wednesday, February 9th”.

She discusses her thoughts about the legislation and finishes her letter by saying, “Again, I thank you for your support...and all that you have done to support our community. I am not a “spokesman” for the trans community per se, but nevertheless believe I can say that your support is much appreciated by many.

I will read from another letter that I received, which states: “I am writing today to contribute my support for Bill C-389. Currently, transpeople are only protected implicitly, and often face extreme violence and discrimination. Many people live in poverty and have difficulty paying for the daily costs of living and health care. This is largely due to the discrimination and violence that they are subjugated to, including difficulty in finding employment, residence, support networks, and services. It is a testament to the strength of many transpeople who have overcome all odds to stand up for their rights. Currently, transpeople are underrepresented in governments worldwide. There have been only two openly transsexual members of Parliament in the world, Georgina Beyer (New Zealand) and Vladimir Luxuria (Italy). While a few places in the world offer explicit protections to trans people, Canada does not. I feel it is time for Canada to again become a leader in human rights and offer explicit protections for transgender, transsexual and gender-variant members of our community. I urge you and your colleagues to be a voice for members of your constituency whose protections are at stake and support Bill C-389”.

This letter was from April Friesen.

Another constituent from Halifax, Stephanie Ehler, wrote to me and stated the following: “It's an unfortunate travesty that more hasn't been done before now for the rights of persons who are transgendered. The current situation really puts the pressure on you to do all you can to make positive steps forward and you have my support and encouragement in doing so”.

Matthew McLaughlin and Susan Gapka, two utterly tireless trans rights advocates, sent me a quick update even this morning just to let me know that two studies came out just this week in the United States showing that trans people do face discrimination despite what we may hear from opponents to this bill.

They also pointed out that the areas of federal jurisdiction covered by the bill are some of the most sensitive areas where trans people are affected and where they are more likely to be harassed: banks, air travel, immigration, customs, prisons, and the list goes on. These are really important areas that we need to address.

Matt dispelled the so-called bathroom argument pretty succinctly when he said to me, “On the bathroom scare, it's pretty hypocritical considering that this has never happened in any of the more than 100 U.S. and overseas jurisdictions with protection, but washroom harassment has happened to nearly every trans person”. That is a good point.

The letters that I have shared with MPs in the House do not even come close to the number of face-to-face contacts I have had with trans people from Halifax and their allies, who thank me for our support of this bill and share with me their stories of courage, fear, bravery, anger, terror, love, hate, pride, power, and stories about themselves or people that they love. I really believe that if every MP had the opportunity to hear the stories and look people in the eye while listening to them, they would have no choice but to support this bill.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to participate in the debate on Bill C-389, which aims to add gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code.

I have always been an ardent defender of human rights, including the rights of transgendered people. Transgendered Canadians face an unacceptable amount of discrimination in their everyday lives. Any amount of discrimination is unacceptable, but I must point out that transgendered Canadians face a much higher level of discrimination than others. Too often they are the victims of discrimination in the workplace and health care system, and they are more likely to become victims of violence.

In no way will this bill lead to the decriminalization of any form of sexual exploitation. I believe that such crimes are the most reprehensible in our society. I also find it extremely offensive to categorize all transgendered individuals as peeping Toms, pedophiles or rapists, as some do. I am proud to support this bill.

There are a number of myths surrounding this bill and the impact it will have. I would like to speak about the eight main myths and show that they are not based on truth or fact.

As I just mentioned in French, there are eight principal myths that are being promoted to oppose Bill C-389 and I wish to debunk them in the House.

Myth number one is that Bill C-389 would provide an opportunity for pedophiles to hang out in bathrooms, waiting for young girls. This is completely false. Pedophilia is an heinous crime in all circumstances, without exception. Pedophilia is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada under section 151. Section 151 stipulates:

Every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years...

In no way whatsoever would the bill permit any form of sexual exploitation, including pedophilia. I find it offensive to characterize all transgendered individuals as pedophiles, as some have done in their opposition to the bill.

Myth number two is that the bill would expose our children to perverts in public showers and changing rooms. We already have heard members of the NDP, including the sponsor of the bill, address this, but I would like to address it again.

This is, again, a completely false statement. As indicated above, in no way whatsoever would the bill permit any form of sexual exploitation. Any form of sexual exploitation is punishable under our Criminal Code. Therefore, for people to claim that the bill would legalize sexual exploitation, in certain cases, is completely false. They know it is false, and shame on them for trying to use that as an argument against the bill.

Myth number three is that the bill would override other criminal laws. It is shameful that anyone would try to use that argument to oppose Bill C-389. Part V of the Criminal Code of Canada is clear on what constitutes a sexual offence. Nothing in Bill C-389 would supersede or override these provisions, regardless if one is transgendered or not. Therefore, for people to promote that myth, shame on them.

Myth number four is that teaching of gender expression in schools would become mandatory. There is not a single provision in the bill which would require the teaching of gender expression in schools. Anyone who claims there is should have the courage to stand and point out where that is in the bill. There is nothing in the bill that would require the teaching of gender expression in our schools.

Myth number five is that Bill C-389 would promote sexual confusion among vulnerable teens. According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation, “refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes”. That comes from “Answers to Your Questions For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality”, Washington, DC, United States, 2010.

The bill would not promote sexual confusion. If anything, it would promote sexual clarity. We have heard about how young teens who are transgendered are thrown out of their homes are subject to discrimination. For teens to feel safe about expressing their gender, sexuality and identity is necessary in a free and democratic society that promotes the rights of everyone and seeks to protect individuals and groups from discrimination. This bill would move that fight and that protection so much further in a positive way.

Myth number six is that Bill C-389 is being advanced for a tiny group of sexual activists. Again, this is completely false. Transgendered individuals face an unacceptable amount of discrimination in their everyday lives and are likely to become victims of violence. We have heard it again and again, whether it be from testimonials, which were read by the member sponsoring the bill, or from the letters the member for Halifax has received from transgendered individuals, or from friends or relatives of transgendered individuals expressing the kind of violence that transgendered individuals face in our society today.

Although transgendered individuals constitute a small minority of the Canadian population, all Canadians have an equal right not to be subjected to discrimination. This bill is being advanced in the name of equal rights. It is not because there is one, or ten or a hundred that discrimination is justified. It is not justified. All Canadians, regardless of their sexual orientation, their gender expression or identity have a right to be safe, to work, to equal access to health services, to lodging and to move about in our society without fear of being victims of violence because of their gender expression or identity. If adopted, the bill will go a long way to ensuring that.

Myth number seven is that Bill C-389 would make any complaint against transgendered individuals a hate crime. Again, this is completely false. Not all complaints against transgendered individuals will be considered hate crimes. The Canadian Human Rights Act defines a hate message as:

—any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Only messages relating to transgendered individuals that fall within the above definition would be considered hate messages. This is currently the case for messages related to one's race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, or sex.

I will have to end there because my time is up. However, I support the bill and I urge all my colleagues, including those of my caucus, to support it. I am pleased it was adopted in the past vote.

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11:50 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all of the MPs who participated in the debate on Bill C-389 here in the House, in committee and in the community. I want to express my appreciation to those who are supporting the bill. Please note too that members of the transgender and transsexual communities appreciate this support.

I would like to speak personally for a moment. As a gay man, I know that securing my place as a full and equal citizen has been a long journey and an often hard-fought struggle. As a gay man, I know that my liberation came about thanks to the hard work, risk-taking and sacrifice of many queer brothers and sisters, and many strong allies. As a gay man, I know that the battle for my equality in our society was often led, often championed, by members of the transgender and transsexual community. I know that it was the drag queens who helped us fight back, and perhaps taught us to fight back, against the oppression, discrimination, prejudice and violence that we faced.

At Stonewall, but also long before and long after Stonewall, it was members of the trans community who helped lead and motivate our fight, and who stood in solidarity with us time and time again. That is one reason why I am proud to stand in solidarity with the transgender and transsexual community, as we finally seek their full equality and seek to establish their full human rights in law in Canada.

I have been greatly honoured to have been taken into the confidence of the trans community to be an ally and to work in solidarity with the community. It has been an honour to hear their stories and learn of their struggles. I have learned to be a better ally, a better friend, a better citizen as a result.

I have met beautiful, strong, loving and articulate people who face challenges I can hardly imagine and I am sure I do not fully appreciate. I count as friends people who live proud lives and express their full humanity against many odds. My understanding of what it means to be fully human has been challenged and expanded greatly by what I have been taught.

I have seen and sometimes shared the frustration, the anger, the tears and the deep sadness of people who are not yet equal, who too often face violence, sometimes to the point of death, and who mourn the loss of friends and family for whom the pain was more than they could bear. I have been strengthened by their resolve to claim their true identity and their place in our society, to live full lives and to be fully human.

This week the House will make a decision on the explicit inclusion of transgender and transsexual Canadians in our human rights law. That vote on Wednesday night will likely be very close. We may see the bill pass, which will be a cause for celebration and an opportunity to continue our work as it moves to the Senate; but the bill may also be defeated, it is that close. If that happens, let us remember that things have changed since we began this particular project six years ago. Let us remember that this is not the only forum in the struggle for the full equality of trans people. Let us not forget the victories and progress we have made in other places. Let us bask in the support of the new friends and allies we have found here in this place and across the country, and let us get ready to resume our work with new strategies and new plans.

I am confident that the change we seek will come. Justice will be done, and perhaps very soon the open and proud voice of transgender and transsexual Canadians will be heard loudly and clearly in this place. I hope that very soon an open member of the trans community will be elected and be able to directly, and from personal experience, voice the concerns of the community here in the House of Commons. There are celebrations to come.

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11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

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11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.