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.