An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.


Randall Garrison  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Third reading (Senate), as of June 17, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination.
It also amends the Criminal Code to include gender identity as a distinguishing characteristic protected under section 318 and as an aggravating circumstance to be taken into consideration under section 718.2 at the time of sentencing.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


March 20, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
March 20, 2013 Passed That Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression), {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments].
March 20, 2013 Passed That Bill C-279, in Clause 1, be amended by adding after line 21 on page 1 the following: “(2) In this section, “gender identity” means, in respect of an individual, the individual’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex that the individual was assigned at birth.”
March 20, 2013 Passed That Bill C-279 be amended by replacing the long title on page 1 with the following: “An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity)”
June 6, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

December 5th, 2022 / 11:25 a.m.
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René Villemure Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Chair, I am replacing Mr. Fortin and will do my best.

Thank you very much for being here this morning, Minister.

The Bloc Québécois is always very concerned about safety. So I would like to talk to you about our Bill C‑279 , which seeks to amend the definition of a criminal organization to include any group composed of three or more persons in Canada or abroad, where one of the main purposes or activities of said group is to commit or facilitate one or more serious offences, and that is a criminal entity listed on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety on the new list that the bill would establish in section 467.101 of the Criminal Code. This new list would link the criminal entity to any individual claiming to be a member.

Will you support our Bill C‑279?

Protection of Freedom of Conscience ActPrivate Members' Business

March 28th, 2022 / 11:45 a.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased though a bit surprised to be speaking on Bill C-230. Less than a year ago, on May 27, 2021, we were in the House debating Bill C-268, the very same bill from the very same member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek. While I am a bit in awe of the member's ability to place so highly in the random draw for Private Members' Business in two successive Parliaments, I am also at a bit of a loss to explain why the member would squander her luck on this bill.

There are two reasons I say this. As MPs we get limited opportunities to place bills directly before the House. I had that opportunity in 2013, and I used it to put forward Bill C-279, which sought to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Canadian human rights code and in the hate crime section of the Criminal Code. Though many thought it unlikely, the bill did pass the House with support from MPs from all parties. It took a lot of work to put together that coalition of MPs. While my bill followed a somewhat torturous path, there was always a path forward and it became law.

I wonder why it is that having heard so clearly, in speeches less than a year ago, that there was limited, if any, support for this bill outside her own party, the member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek has brought it back again. Since there is nothing to indicate any change of circumstances or any change of heart, this bill will go nowhere this time as well. Failing to bring forth a bill that might have some prospect for passing or reintroducing this bill instead of bringing forward a new bill presenting ideas not already debated here in the House leads me to call reintroducing this bill, at best, a missed opportunity.

The second reason I have for declaring the reintroduction of this bill a lost opportunity has to do with the bill itself. This bill picks up a tiny portion of the extensive and important debates on medical assistance in dying that took place on Bill C-14 in Parliament in 2016 and again on C-7 in the last Parliament. It seeks to take one small and very debatable point and turn it into a wedge issue in the House.

We are waiting for the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying to get down to work on outstanding important and critical issues around medical assistance in dying, but as that committee has yet to get under way, I want to take this opportunity today to restate the principle that has guided New Democrats through these debates.

We believe that medical assistance in dying is an important tool for helping to end unnecessary suffering for patients facing end-of-life issues and for avoiding the unnecessary suffering of their families, who have to accompany them on this journey. This is the reason New Democrats will always defend the right of access to information about MAID and access to the service for all those who qualify for assistance in dying and choose to proceed.

In the debate on Bill C-7, many issues arose concerning the challenges Canadians face at the end of life, some of which Bill C-7 addressed directly and some which have not yet been addressed. Two important concerns were front and centre, and these, for me, were the most important. The first was to help alleviate unnecessary suffering by eliminating the waiting period, which was a cause of great concern for patients who feared loss of capacity before they could complete the waiting period and thus make them ineligible for medical assistance in dying and forced to consider suffering.

The second was a change allowing a waiver of final consent. This is a provision I know quite well, personally, as a friend of mine chose to go earlier than she would have liked because of a brain tumour and her fear that she would lose capacity to consent at the last moment and, in doing so, have to continue making her family suffer.

A second challenge was also debated in Bill C-7. How do we preserve as much autonomy as possible for Canadians who are dying? Most of the issues related to this still have to be dealt with at the special joint committee. This includes questions of advance directives, the question of access to MAID for those with mental illness and for mature minors, and whether protections for people with disabilities from being pressured to seek MAID are adequate. I remain frustrated with the delays in dealing with these very important issues. The bill before us is not one of those.

A third challenge that came up in the debate on Bill C-7 was access to services at the end of life. We learned there are a great many gaps in services in our Canadian health care system for those who are facing death. There are gaps in diagnostic and treatment services depending on where one lives, whether it is a major city with excellent facilities or a rural and remote area. We learned of important gaps in palliative care.

However, instead of addressing these challenges, the challenges of autonomy and the challenges of access to services, Bill C-230 is about something else altogether. What this bill would do is override a patient's right to access information about and to have access to legally provided medical services, based on the personal beliefs of a service provider.

Let me put that in plain language. Let us suppose there are a variety of treatments available to a patient. It does not really matter in this case what they are. If a medical professional believes that one of them should not be available, this bill says there is no obligation on that professional to make sure patients find out all the options available to them. Professional organizations, like colleges of physicians and surgeons, and colleges of nurses, have found this to be unethical behaviour, so they require doctors, to varying degrees, to refer patients to someone who is supportive of those services and who is available to provide those services.

This requirement to refer exists in its strictest form in Ontario as the right of patients to an effective referral, meaning a referral to a health care professional who is available, capable and willing to provide that service. This has been upheld by the courts as a reasonable compromise between the rights of patients' access to medical issues and the conscience rights of service providers. That is the main reason I cannot support this bill. If passed, it would result, on a very real and practical basis, in the denial of access to necessary health services for many Canadians.

Many communities have a very limited number of doctors and if one of those doctors, or even more than one of those doctors, is unwilling to let their patients find out about medical assistance in dying, then we are condemning those Canadians to suffer at the end of life in ways that other Canadians would not have to suffer. No health care professionals are in fact required by law to participate, and that is why I find titling this bill “intimidation of health care professionals” disingenuous at best. Is requiring a referral actually participation in medical assistance in dying? Clearly it is not, and trying to torque a requirement to provide information into participation helps no one understand the real issues of conscience involved in medical assistance in dying.

An equally important reason for opposing this bill is the dangerous precedent that this bill would set. Its role as a potentially precedent-setting bill has already been noted by anti-choice advocates who have been vocal in their support for this bill. They recognize that it would provide a precedent for denying referrals for access to contraception and abortion services, and I want to point out that denials of service and denials of information are very real in our existing Canadian medical care system.

This bill would also be a very bad precedent for current attempts to deny transgender minors the counselling and medical services they need to affirm who they are. Without access to services that others may think are inappropriate, this will leave families with trans minors struggling to find the information and support that their kids really need. If this kind of precedent is allowed, medical professionals would not have to provide a referral to someone who would be providing a medically necessary service.

As I approach the end of my comments today, I cannot end without mentioning yet another unfortunate precedent set in this bill, and that is its use of inflammatory language. I have no doubt, as I said in my question to the sponsor of this bill, of her personal convictions and their strength. However, as sincere as they may be, the language used in this bill conjures up a spectre of the use of violence to intimidate medical professionals, something of which there is absolutely no evidence of happening in Canada. Invoking the spectre of violent intimidation is certainly not conducive to an informed debate on the real issues that are in question here.

I will close my comments today by restating that, on principle, New Democrats are opposed to any legislation that would limit access to Canadians seeking information about or the service of medical assistance in dying. No matter how strong the beliefs others may hold, this right exists to access medically necessary services. There is no doubt that the end of life is a difficult moment for all families, and medical assistance in dying, I still believe, is an important way of ending unnecessary suffering both for patients and families at the end of life. I would not like to see anyone denied access to information they need to make a choice that protects their own autonomy of how their lives end. At this point, let me salute the health care professionals who assist patients and their families through this very difficult process.

Once again, I lament the tendency of not just this member but, indeed, many Conservative members of the House to use private member's bills for scoring political points and sharpening divisions in the House—

February 21st, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
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Richard Marceau General Counsel and Senior Political Advisor, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank the committee members for inviting me. I'd also like to thank Chandra Arya, the member who brought forward Bill C-305, as well as all the members who supported it at second reading.

This legislation has been on the Jewish community's agenda for quite some time. Understandably, then, I would like to set the backdrop for Bill C-305. Though in no way do I want to take any credit away from Mr. Arya for sponsoring the bill. Quite the contrary.

Back when I was in your shoes and serving as my party's justice critic, the Jewish community approached me to have protective safeguards already available to houses and places of worship and cemeteries extended to community centres and schools belonging to the community.

They convinced me, so I put together a bill, which I was about to introduce when the 2006 election was called. I was defeated in the election, but Carole Freeman, a Bloc Québécois MP took up the charge and introduced the bill. After passing at second reading, Bill C-384 was referred to this committee. The 2008 election was then called, and Ms. Freeman lost her seat as well.

Between 2008 and 2011, a Liberal MP by the name of Marlene Jennings brought the bill back, this time as Bill C-451. It garnered widespread support from all parties, but Marlene, too, lost her seat in 2011.

During the 41st Parliament, Marc Garneau, now Minister of Transport, reincarnated the bill as Bill C-510, but it was too low on the priority list to ever see the light of day.

It's been 10 years since the bill first came about, and we are here today to study it. Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The objective of the bill is fairly straightforward. It is to extend the protection already given to houses of worship and cemeteries to other buildings and structures used by communities at risk.

Our community, the Jewish community, has often been the target of vandalism. As Michael mentioned, Jewish Canadians are victimized by hate-motivated crime at a higher rate than any other identifiable group. StatsCan data shows that roughly three-quarters of these crimes fall under the legal category of mischief—broadly speaking the vandalism or destruction of property.

Vandalism of community centres and schools involves more than attacks on buildings. It reverberates throughout a community and throughout a city. It touches every member of a community, whether that person goes frequently to that place or not. That is why it must be seriously punished.

The bill extends the protection by defining the word “property” for the purposes of subsection 4.1 as being:

a building or structure, or part of a building or structure, that is primarily used for religious worship...

that is primarily used as an educational institution...

that is primarily used for administrative, social, cultural or sports activities or events—including a town hall, community centre, playground or arena—, or...

that is primarily used as a residence for seniors

I understand there are concerns about the bill's being too broad, more specifically about the groups afforded protection in subsection 4.1 and about which buildings would be covered. Let me tackle one at a time.

The fact is, the subsection is about mischief relating to religious property. I have heard concerns that extending it to cover buildings associated, for example, with the LGBTQ+ community would denature the subsection. We at CIJA have no problem extending protections to LGBTQ+ community buildings. Our longstanding advocacy in this area, including our deep involvement in support of C-16—previously C-279—brought forward by Mr. Randall Garrison, speaks for itself.

I don't think the principle of inclusion with regard to the LGBTQ+ community is at issue. The question may be whether these protections should be included in the same subsection, thus changing its nature, or whether they should be extended to LGBTQ+ community buildings in a different subsection. To the Jewish community, the how/which subsection matters less than the what, namely that these institutions be covered and better protected.

As for the issue of the bill's being too broad regarding which buildings would fall under this subsection, I disagree. What about, for example, a synagogue, a mosque, or a temple that rents space in a mall? Shouldn't those be protected? How about the social services agency of a community that rents space in an office building? Today the Jewish social services agencies from across Canada are on the Hill, meeting MPs and ministers to discuss the issues around disability. They would tell you, and rightly so, that they would like and need their offices to be covered.

At a time when Sayyed al-Ghitaoui, an imam at Montreal's Al Andalous Islamic Center, who called for the destruction of the cursed Jews, imploring Allah to kill them one by one, and to make their children orphans and their women widows, has the support of his mosque; at a time when Igor Sadikov, a member of McGill University's student society sent out a tweet that read, “punch a [Z]ionist today”; at a time when—and this happened on February 6, 2017—someone hacked the attendance sheet of a children's swim team in Côte Saint-Luc, hosted by Google Docs, and filled it with murderous threats against the Jewish community, as well as several references to Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization, banned in Canada, that seeks the destruction of Israel;

At a time when six Muslim worshippers were so brutally gunned down while engaged in prayer, when a wave of hate vandalism hit many religious and community institutions in Ottawa, including the community centre where my sons work and the synagogue I am a member of, it is time to send a strong signal that anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, anti-Sikh bigotry, and all other forms of hatred have no place in Canada, that schools and community centres are as central to minorities' lives as houses of worship or cemeteries, and that mischief against those buildings should be seriously punished.

I encourage all members of Parliament to continue to support Bill C-305 and to pass it without delay.

Thank you very much.

October 27th, 2016 / 11:45 a.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Thank you for that.

There's only one other question I have. Bill C-16 is really a successor to Bill C-279, which had been put forward by Mr. Garrison in the last Parliament. At one point in Bill C-279, “expression” was removed from the bill, and it was limited to gender identity. Could you explain the rationale for including “gender identity” and “expression” in terms of the language in the current bill?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

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.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11 a.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

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 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?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2016 / 12:35 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Fredericton.

I am proud to stand today to speak in support of Bill C-4. The war on organized labour is over. This legislation would reverse the legacy of the previous government, which rushed through two anti-union measures, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, just prior to the last election. Those measures put in place redundant reporting requirements and made it harder to certify and easier to decertify a union. With Bill C-4, our government would repeal both of these punitive pieces of legislation.

The reasons we are doing this are threefold. The old combination of legislation under Bills C-377 and C-525 was unnecessary, impeded collective bargaining, and was ideologically driven.

Argument number one is that the old legislation is unnecessary. No one asked for Bills C-377 and C-525. Employees did not ask for them, unions did not ask for them, and even employers were not clamouring for this legislation. These bills constituted a solution to a problem that did not even exist. The only champions of Bills C-377 and C-525 were the members of the previous government. The ostensible reason they asserted was that they were trying to promote increased financial transparency and accountability for unions and to inject democratic principles into their processes. This rationale was defective then, and it remains defective now. First, to the idea that unions are not transparent and that members do not get to see the financial statements or expenditures, this information was and has always been made available to union members. Unions are member-based organizations that release information to their members, information that is confidential.

My colleagues across the way keep harping on about how unions are undemocratic organizations. Once again, that is incorrect.

Unions meet regularly, and all members are welcome to participate. At meetings, members are empowered to hold their leaders accountable. Discussions and debate take place during the meetings, differences of opinion are aired, and solutions are put forward. Taken together, those aspects are features of a democratic system.

Unions also hold membership votes. Decisions are made by the members themselves. The members are the ones who make decisions and issue instructions. Leaders are elected by union members and can be removed from their positions. That is another key principle of a democratic system.

I say this with some experience. I am the product of an organized workplace. For the past 12 years, before being elected, I served as a civil servant with the Ontario public service, practising law as a crown attorney. I have first-hand knowledge of the transparency and accountability parameters by which unions abide.

Yet another argument offered by the previous government in support of the old package of legislation was that it represented a modest increase in the financial disclosure obligations for unions. Again, this is incorrect. The reporting requirement in old Bill C-377 calls for at least 24 detailed statements to be submitted by unions of any size, from the smallest groups to the largest national bodies. The collection and managing of these submissions would cost the government millions of dollars, $11 million to start the oversight mechanism and $2 million every year thereafter. Those are not my figures. They come from the Canada Revenue Agency and the parliamentary budget officer. Just so we are clear, under Bills C-377 and C-525, the previous Conservative government increased the size and scope of government and government regulation, adding to the amount of red tape and, more important, adding to the amount that Canadian taxpayers would be required to shell out for such additional bureaucracy. The irony is palpable.

Argument number two is that the old legislation impeded collective bargaining. As I said at the outset, Bill C-525 made it harder to certify and easier to decertify a union. With the new Bill C-4, we would repeal those provisions. Our government recognizes that certification of a union is an important part of the collective bargaining process.

As I mentioned, I spent 12 years as a crown attorney specializing in the area of constitutional law. Section 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects freedom of association. That has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to include “the right to a meaningful process of collective bargaining”. Why is collective bargaining so important as to warrant constitutional protection? The Supreme Court has explained that, in paragraph 58 of a decision called MPAO.

The Supreme Court said:

The guarantee functions to protect individuals against more powerful entities. By banding together in the pursuit of common goals, individuals are able to prevent more powerful entities from thwarting their legitimate goals and desires. In this way, the guarantee of freedom of association empowers vulnerable groups and helps them work to right imbalances in society. It protects marginalized groups and makes possible a more equal society.

Collective bargaining is important because it helps to promote fairness and equality. We get that and we are not going to waste more taxpayer dollars litigating these types of cases in the courts. On that point, I would simply note that the charter challenge launched by the Alberta Union of Public Employees against the old Bill C-377 was suspended immediately upon our government's announcement that we would be repealing the government's punitive legislation.

However, it is not just me who understands the utility of collective bargaining as a vehicle for addressing inequality, it is also my constituents in Parkdale—High Park. It is people like Mr. Hassan Yussuff, the President of the Canadian Labour Congress, who is my neighbour in Roncesvalles Village and a tireless advocate for workers' rights. It is people like Wyatt Bilger, a hard-working carpenter and resident of my riding and a member of Carpenters Union Local 27. It is people like the countless artists, filmmakers, performers, and television producers in my riding who contribute so much culturally to our community, who are also proud members of ACTRA, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. It is people like the hard-working tradespeople and manufacturing employees in Parkdale—High Park who are members of LiUNA, Unifor, and the CAW.

All of these individuals and groups appreciate what this newly elected government recognizes, that workplaces that include collective bargaining are a net positive, not a net negative for our communities.

Argument number three is that the old legislation was ideologically driven. There was no rationale whatsoever that informed the passage of Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 other than rigid, anti-union sentiment. To illustrate this point, let us look no further than the rushed passage of the bills through Parliament. Bill C-377 was one of the four bills to get to the Senate just before the writ was issued for the last election. It was expedited to the Senate and was made made into law. But one of the four bills that received support from all parties in this chamber was left to die on the Senate order paper in place of passing Bill C-377.

What I am talking about is Bill C-279 that had been introduced as private members' legislation by my NDP colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. Bill C-279 was going to amend the Canada Human Rights Act to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination. All parties supported and passed that private member's bill in the House in the 41st Parliament. However, instead of championing that bill in the Senate, the previous Conservative government decided to promote the passage of Bill C-377. Conservatives chose to attack organized labour rather than back Bill C-279, which would have protected the rights and freedoms of gender and gender variant Canadians who deserve the same treatment and rights as every other Canadian.

Not only did the Conservatives attack unions, they told trans and gender variant Canadians that their rights were not a priority. Thankfully that was yet another mistake of the Conservatives that our government has pledged to rectify. The commitment to amend the Canada Human Rights Act to add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination is in the mandate letter for the Attorney General of Canada.

We have seen this ideological pattern before in terms of the old war on the environment, the war on the civil service, and the war on evidence-based policy. We have taken stands to reverse all of those previous battles. Now with Bill C-4, our government brings to an end the war on organized labour.

The role of this government, of any government, is to create jobs, but it is not just about creating any jobs, it is about creating good quality, secure, well-paying jobs. We recognize that unions help to do this. They ensure fair compensation for workers, promote safety for individuals, and protect workers' job security and their well-being.

A secure worker is a more productive worker and productive workers are good for the economy. We understand this. The previous government did not. As I said, the war on organized labour is over. Unions are not the enemy of progress, they are a partner in that progress. Our government is committed to working with them, not against them, to further the economic development of this country.

For these reasons, I urge members in the House to vote in favour of Bill C-4.

Public SafetyOral Questions

June 18th, 2015 / 2:35 p.m.
See context


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, not only is the Senate plagued with major ethical problems, it has delayed and derailed legislation that was passed twice by the democratically elected House. Bill C-279 would have guaranteed equal rights and protections for transgender and gender variant Canadians.

Given that the Senate is still blocking equality for transgender Canadians, will the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness respect the will of the House, and act now to protect the safety of transgender people? Will he immediately issue guidelines to guarantee equal and respectful treatment for transgender people at our borders and in our corrections system?

Free VotesPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2015 / 6:05 p.m.
See context


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to participate in today's discussion of Motion No. 590 and try to get back on track. As we know, the motion concerns free votes on matters of conscience. I think all members would agree this is an important topic and Canadians want to know where parties stand on this issue.

My colleague, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, has continued in a recent trend in private members' business by bringing forward a motion that pertains to how we conduct ourselves and do business in the House of Commons. I applaud the member for bringing forward such a straightforward motion. It might be one of the most direct and to the point motions we have had the pleasure to debate in this session of Parliament.

It reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, all Members of Parliament should be allowed to vote freely on all matters of conscience.

I would like to spend my time today reviewing some of the history of the use of the free vote in Parliament and our government's record in that regard.

I have a quick comment on the motion itself. It is worth mentioning, given our system of responsible government and the importance of confidence convention, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain has made the important distinction of limiting the motion to matters of conscience. No one would disagree that party solidarity on confidence matters is crucial, given the important consequences.

At the other end of the spectrum, matters of conscience are those where the representative role of individual members is the most acute. I hope no one would disagree that free votes are particularly important on these matters. We have seen a number of private members' motions come forward that address issues related to how we do business in this place and also the role we play as members of Parliament. Similarly, the motion addresses one of the most important roles we perform, and that is voting.

When I took a moment to compare the motion with some of the others we have debated in this session there was one clear difference that struck me, which I will address in a moment.

Since the start of 2014, the House of Commons has adopted Motion No. 428 from the member for Burnaby—Douglas, regarding the implementation of an electronic petitions system. We also passed Motion No. 431 from my colleague, the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, related to the study of the process for selecting the chairs of committees of the House. The House also adopted Motion No. 489 from my colleague, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, to study the process for electing the Speaker of the House of Commons.

A common thread among those motions is that they all required a consideration of the standing orders, the rules that govern the House. As members know, the standing orders are carefully balanced based on parliamentary principles and traditions and reflect the interests of all members. They set out in detail how things such as petitions or the selection of committee chairs are handled.

It is in relation to the rules of the House of Commons that I discovered a key difference between Motion No. 590, which we are debating today, and the other three motions I just outlined. What I noted is that when one takes a close look at the standing orders, nowhere does one find a reference to a free vote. As noted on page 576 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 0 'Brien and Bosc, it states:

There are no rules or Standing Orders defining a "free vote" in the House of Commons ... Simply defined, a free vote takes place when a party decides that, on a particular issue, its Members are not required to vote along party lines, or that the issue is not a matter of party policy and its Members may vote as they choose.

What we can conclude from this omission from the standing orders, and what Canadians should know, is that the principle of free votes and when they are used rests with each individual party.

How is it then that each party has used free votes in this place? As I mentioned at the outset, given our system of responsible government, I would suspect that all parties agree there is a need for party discipline when it comes to voting on such matters as, for example, the budget and main estimates. These have traditionally been matters of confidence. However, in what sort of circumstances have members been afforded freedom in how they vote? Let us look at some examples.

As stated in O'Brien and Bosc on page 577, it is not clear when the first free vote took place in the House of Commons, but that the first free vote of note took place in 1946, on the matter of milk subsidies. While voting down the government's intent to eliminate milk subsidies was not necessarily a matter of conscience, it did open the door to free votes on several key matters of government business through the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The national flag debate in 1964 was treated as a free vote.

Similarly, as noted by Ned Franks in his November 1997 article in Policy Options, the issue of capital punishment and abortion, as items of government business, were treated as free votes by the Progressive Conservative Party and the Liberal Party over those three decades. For example, there were a number of free votes on capital punishment, including the original legislation to abolish capital punishment in 1967, which passed, and a motion to reinstate capital punishment in 1987, which was defeated.

Generally, the well-publicized free votes that have taken place since 1946 have been largely limited to matters of morality and conscience. Following the significant reforms to private members' business brought about by the 1985 third report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, known as the McGrath reforms, there has been an even greater opportunity to have free votes. The McGrath reforms resulted in more private members' business being introduced and debated, resulting in more free votes. Importantly, these are also the matters of most significance for individual members and their constituents.

We as a government are quite proud of the record number of private members' bills that have become law under our government. I would contend that our government has a demonstrated record with free votes, especially on matters of conscience. Let me highlight two examples that would back this up.

Bill C-624, introduced by my colleague, the member for Ottawa—Vanier, called to amend the National Anthem Act, which was a gender issue. The second reading vote on the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca's Bill C-279 on gender identity is another prime example. The vote passed 150 to 132 on June 6, 2012, with 15 government members voting differently than the majority of their caucus.

What are the characteristics of our Parliament that are relevant to this debate? First, our system is modelled after what is known as the Westminster style of government; that is, after the parliamentary institutions that emerged from the United Kingdom over the past 800 years. Legislative power is vested in Parliament to become law. Legislation must be assented to by each of Parliament's three constituent parts: the House of Commons, the Senate and the Crown.

The executive powers of government, in other words the power to implement government policies and programs, are formally vested in the Crown, but effectively exercised by the Prime Minister and cabinet, which belong to the governing party. The executive function is fulfilled by the Governor-in-Council, which is, practically speaking, the Governor General acting with, and on the advice of, the Prime Minister and the cabinet. The role of the executive is an important aspect of the principle of responsible government, which is a cornerstone of Westminster-style parliaments. The Prime Minister and cabinet are responsible to, and must answer to, the House of Commons for their actions.

Another important characteristic of our parliamentary system is that our Parliament is also the forum for our representative style of government. Members of Parliament are individually elected to represent their constituents within a single electoral district, and that is their representative role. In addition, members generally have campaigned and been elected as a member of a particular political party, and thus also have a responsibility to their constituents and parties to uphold the overall objectives of their parties.

This leads us to another key feature of our parliamentary system, which is the role of party discipline. This is the practice whereby individual members of a party are strongly encouraged to support their party's position on issues of importance to that party. This practice is not enshrined in the Standing Orders, but plays an important role in ensuring that the government of the day is held to account for its actions, making it clear to Canadians what the positions of the official opposition and other parties are in Parliament. At the end of the day, political parties are formed to accomplish certain collective goals and to represent key shared values. To do this, they require MPs to stand together so there is no ambiguity as to where the party stands.

I am proud to be a member of a party that stands for clear policies and stands up for essential Canadian values, and one of those values is the recognition that some matters are of such importance that members should be free to vote their conscience. This government will support the motion, and I expect that all hon. colleagues who respect the democratic process will do so as well.

National Action Plan to Address Violence Against WomenPrivate Members' Business

April 28th, 2015 / 6:10 p.m.
See context


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB


Motion No. 444

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should develop, in collaboration with the provinces, territories, civil society and First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and their representatives, a coordinated National Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women which would include: (a) initiatives to address socio-economic factors contributing to violence against women; (b) policies to prevent violence against women and policies to respond to survivors of violence; (c) benchmarks for measuring progress based on the collection of data on levels of violence against women over time; (d) independent research on emerging issues that relate to violence against women; (e) a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls; (f) strategies that address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of different communities including specific attention to Aboriginal women, women with disabilities, women from minority groups and young women; (g) participation by community and other civil society organizations, including support for those organizations to participate in the implementation of the national action plan; and (h) human and financial resources earmarked specifically to carry out the program of action set by the plan.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to rise to support Motion No. 444, a motion to create a national action plan to address violence against women.

It is a privilege to move such a motion in the House.

It is my great privilege to sponsor this motion, which is the only meaningful legislation to address violence against women that Canada has seen in decades. Now the need for action is urgent. The next steps are clearly laid out by feminist anti-violence advocates across our country. They are asking for a national, coordinated, comprehensive action plan that works in partnership with provincial, territorial, and indigenous governments.

It is my sincere hope that, with this motion, we can resolve together to set Canada on the path toward sustained and substantive equality for women and girls, because we know that without freedom from violence, women cannot achieve equality and, without gender equality, women will always remain vulnerable to violence.

I would like to begin my speech by thanking the advocates, front-line workers, survivors, and community members who have taken time out from their extremely busy schedules and busy lives to meet with me as I travelled from region to region over the past three years. These remarkable people have dedicated themselves to confronting the violence women face every single day, and they deserve honour and gratitude from the House and from all Canadians.

It is due to the extraordinary efforts of this chronically underfunded and under-resourced sector that women find safety, support, and justice. While the needs of women vary quite a bit between regions and communities, the majority of people I met with had a very singular message to deliver to their federal government: violence against women is a crisis in Canada and it is getting worse, not better.

This crisis is fed by systemic gender-based discrimination and women's inequality. Likewise, the way forward for our government is to empower women to address that inequality. To do nothing is to perpetuate it. To do too little is to perpetuate it. To ignore the voices of survivors, family members, evidence-based researchers, and front-line service providers who know what Canada can be doing right now is to willfully neglect the safety of women in our country.

What would a national action plan do to change the landscape of anti-violence services for women? Ann Decter, the director of advocacy and public policies for YWCA Canada says:

Canada needs a national action plan on violence against women that will set national standards for prevention, support services, legal services and access to justice and crucial social policies, such as access to safe, affordable housing. A National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women needs to be part of the plan. M-444 provides for all of this, and as such, has our full support.

Not only has the federal government not done enough to recognize, treat, and prevent violence against women, but for the past several decades under the Liberals and the Conservatives, the governments have adopted policy that actively places vulnerable women further at risk.

For example, when the Liberals came to power in 1993, they cut off federal investment in new social housing projects. In 1996, the Liberal government announced the end of the national affordable housing program. By the late nineties, it had created a serious housing shortage that has directly resulted in the increased vulnerability of women who must leave situations of domestic violence. Indeed, a lack of affordable housing is the number one reason why women cannot functionally escape the violence they face.

Needless to say, the Conservatives have continued to abandon their responsibility to deal with housing problems, and it is Canadian women who continue to bear the brunt of this burden.

When the Liberal government downloaded legal aid onto the provinces and cut off all earmarked funding, it created conditions in which women now find it nearly impossible to seek justice and safety through the courts.

When the Conservatives elected to forbid funding to any research or advocacy, Canada fell into a state of having little to no data regarding violence against women. This is a very serious problem, and only a national action plan could begin to solve it.

Kate MacInturff, one of Canada's foremost feminist voices writes:

The difficulty of collecting data about violence against women has been a barrier to progress in ending that violence. However, the data that does exist tells us three things very clearly: this problem is big, it comes at a high cost, and we are making little or no progress in putting a stop to it.

It was the Liberals who were at the helm when poverty conditions on first nations grew worse and worse. Under a majority government, funding for first nations education on reserve was cut. The Conservatives have done nothing to fix this gap. The Auditor General reports that schools on reserve are underfunded by 30% compared with schools off reserve.

We now see indigenous women facing extreme rates of violence that correspond directly to extreme rates of poverty, housing shortages, and a lack of economic opportunities. Make no mistake, the systemic and long-standing underfunding of first nations is a form of racial discrimination against indigenous peoples.

Dr. Dawn Harvard, the interim president of the Native Women's Association of Canada wrote to me and said:

It is crucial that a National Action Plan assess the root causes in order to address Violence Against Women.

The fact that many Aboriginal women were killed by someone who shares their ethnicity is something that holds true for most victims of homicide, regardless of their ethnic origin. Therefore, we cannot write off this issue, by saying it is Aboriginal men killing Aboriginal women, and therefore, is not a federal responsibility or there is not a need for an inquiry or any of these kinds of excuses that seems to be inferred.

We also know that there continues to be non-Aboriginal men that are extremely violent toward Aboriginal women, and that Aboriginal women experience more severe forms of violence by these offenders than non-Aboriginal women so there continues to be racialized hatred and devaluation exhibited against Aboriginal women and this needs to be addressed.

Dr. Harvard went on to say:

A National Action Plan can also create a mechanism for investigations into misconduct and discrimination within the criminal justice system and police forces and needs to establish a mechanism for investigating allegations of misconduct or discrimination within the federal, provincial or territorial components of the criminal justice system, and hold accountable those entities who commit acts of misconduct or discrimination.

M-444 is very clear: a national action plan to address violence against women must include a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. Almost every governing body in Canada, along with the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada, and many indigenous people, are in agreement that a national inquiry, done properly, is necessary to treat the root causes this tragedy. Only the Conservatives disagree, and they alone stand in opposition to real, substantive action.

Meanwhile women continue to disappear and women continue to be killed. Where I'm from, in northern Manitoba, every single community has been affected by the tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women. The tragic cases of women from our riding, including Lorna Blacksmith, Leah Anderson, and Tina Fontaine, who were murdered in the last few years, have led many Manitobans to speak out and organize. The story and bravery of Rinelle Harper inspired action back home and across the country. For me and for our north, this fight is personal to all of us, and we will not stop until there are no more missing and murdered indigenous women in our country.

While denying the call for a national inquiry and litigating against those who seek to correct funding discrimination against first nations children, this Conservative government repeatedly ignores calls from the UN and other international human rights organizations to take action to address the systemic discrimination, racism, and violence endured by indigenous women and their families.

The relationship between Canada and first nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples is now in a state of crisis. My colleagues in the NDP, including our leader, know there is a different way forward. We are committed to a national inquiry. We are committed to a national action plan. We are committed to a housing strategy that includes indigenous communities both on and off reserve, and we are committed to forming a nation-to-nation relationship that will take all of us forward.

For me, as the member of Parliament for Churchill and the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP, this is not a theoretical pledge but the first steps toward healing and reconciliation. When we speak about violence against women, it is crucial that we understand the intersectionality that can compound the risk of violence, and advocates across the country know this to be the case every day.

Although violence happens to all women, regardless of class, race, sexuality, or gender identity, it is important to recognize that inequality in all its forms can increase violence in the lives of women. The most effective way to end violence against women is to address the root causes of inequality. Canadian women earn 72% of what men earn and work one-third of minimum wage jobs. We need to address the economic inequality and the feminization of poverty that we are seeing across our country.

Racialized women are often the target of discrimination, stereotyping, and harassment. We need to address racism in Canada.

Many immigrant women are facing isolation and lack of access to anti-violence services. Women are made increasingly vulnerable to abuse when their immigration status is tied to their work visas or their marriage status. We must address the violence faced by immigrants, refugees, and temporary foreign workers who are women.

We must confront transphobia. Earlier today, outside on the lawn of Parliament Hill, trans folks and allies gathered to voice their outrage that the current government will allow Bill C-279 to be destroyed by an unelected Senate. Transgender women face some of the highest rates of violence in the country. Of all marginalized peoples, trans folk immediately require the explicit right to live free of discrimination.

I am proud of the work we have done in the NDP. We have repeatedly brought this bill forward and will continue to do so until this vital piece of human rights legislation is enshrined once and for all.

Disabled women face disproportionate rates of violence. Queer women, women who are lesbians, face disproportionate levels of violence. That intersectional understanding of the violence they face is critical in moving forward with a national action plan.

After speaking to hundreds of women and advocates about this motion, I can say that the one point I heard repeatedly was that anti-violence services cannot continue to function with few or no resources.

The Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses recently published its 2015 shelter voices survey. It found that, on a single day, shelters in Canada welcomed 122 new women residents and 81 child residents. However, on that same day shelters were forced—and are forced—to turn away 302 women and 221 children seeking shelter, due to a lack of resources. It is heartbreaking and infuriating for the service providers. I have been told first-hand from multiple sources that most front-line staff are actively subsidizing the government with free labour.

Let us be clear. This is about the money. Governments choose to prioritize funding, and the violence against women sector is simply underfunded and has been for decades. It has not been prioritized by Liberal or Conservative governments. In the meantime, we are the ones giving voice to the need for a national action plan.

This issue is as personal as it is political for me, my colleagues, and my community. We have seen women, feminists, across the country make history to draw attention to the violence they face on campuses, on social media, in the workplace, and on our streets. Parliament must sit up and pay attention to the conversation women are having on the ground, in classrooms, online, and everywhere. It is our right as women to demand action from the government, and it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to respond and take action.

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

February 18th, 2015 / 5:30 p.m.
See context


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand today and say that I support something that has originated on the other side of the House.

I would like to congratulate the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for a fantastic job on Bill C-586, which is known as the reform act. I would also like to thank the member for Toronto—Danforth, who sits on this side of the House, for steering our party and for contributing a lot to the debate here as well.

I am proud to say that I jointly seconded this bill and supported it all the way through the process, and will, of course, again support it in its third reading.

The bill addresses how parties nominate candidates, choose their caucus chairs, expel members, undertake leadership reviews, and select interim leaders. It is a very wide-ranging bill that would affect what some people might call “inside baseball”.

The Canadian public has heard a lot about the bill, but I think once they see the rubber hit the road when the bill finally passes, they will see a difference in how this chamber operates and how Canadian democracy operates. For that reason, I think it is an important bill.

The bill has been through many iterations. There has been a lot of talk across parties and within parties about how it would operate, so I commend the member for sticking with it and getting it to this stage in the process.

However, I worry a little bit about the fate of the bill in the Senate. We know that it has to go through the readings there, and, as the chair of our committee said, we are coming to the end of the runway in terms of this parliamentary sitting. I am worried about how the Senate is going to deal with the bill, in that it might try to delay it or perhaps propose amendments that would delay the passing of the bill until we come to the next election. Then, of course, we would have to start all over again.

What has prompted this worry and concern is that the Senate is currently playing games with a bill from my seatmate, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. That is Bill C-279, regarding transgendered rights. The Senate promised it would not interfere with the bill, as it has passed this place, but interference has happened twice. It happened in this Parliament and in a previous Parliament with a bill from the former member of Parliament for Burnaby—Douglas, Bill Siksay. We are now unsure about whether Bill C-279 will make it through the Senate.

Of course, the Senate can delay the bill until there is an election called, and again that process would have to start all over. I think that is probably my largest concern.

With the Prime Minister's support and with our support on this side, I think that all members have now come to a version of the bill that we can agree with, although I worry that the senators will be a main threshold, and the spotlight should be on them.

This is a bill that talks about how we conduct ourselves here in this House, in the green chamber. It is not about the red chamber. I think those in the red chamber should just pass the bill through as quickly as they can so that this measure can be in place before the next election.

In terms of substance, the bill would remove the statutory requirement that party leaders approve party candidates in general elections. I think this is perhaps the tip of the spear and that we are getting into the whole topic of nominations and how candidates are selected. I will touch on that aspect a bit more later.

The bill would also require parties to vote in a formal way on the rules governing their caucuses and enable us as members to choose how power should be balanced between members and our party leaders. I think that in this area the bill has struck a balance with its flexibility.

There are different requirements in different parties, which have different principles on which they stand. I think there is flexibility required, but not so much flexibility that the bill would be meaningless. I think the bill has struck a balance in terms of how different parties would approach this issue.

I think there will be a level of public scrutiny after the next election when the bill is in place and we have to vote on these rules. They will be widely reported, and Canadians will have a much better idea of how parties function within this House.

I am sure that we New Democrats will decide to elect our caucus chairs. The Liberal Party may not choose to do that, and I think that would cause a lot of interest within the public and again distinguish the parties from one another, so I think that is very important.

The bill would establish formal rules on how we expel or re-admit caucus members. It is something that is done but it is not formalized. It is important that it be formalized so that everyone would know the rules of the game before they get into it. It would reduce the speculation and the uncertainty around these processes. Even though the rules may vary between parties, it is important that there be codified rules.

The bill would establish how we remove party leaders and then how we select interim leaders. As we sadly know, that was the situation we faced with the passing of Jack Layton, as has happened throughout the history of Parliament. Codification of how this would happen is critical. When Jack passed away, the party was in shock and it was not time to be making up the rules of the game. The rules should be known before something happens. When leadership or party leaders resign, it is better to have this in place beforehand. It is a good idea.

These are all good ideas. The flexibility shown in the crafting of this legislation and its movement over nearly two years has been well done. I praise my friend for his diligence in seeing this through.

I would also like to thank my colleague from Toronto—Danforth. He suggested in his speech a number of things that he would like to see in the bill and that he might look for in future bills. This will be an ongoing process, and I agree with my colleague from Toronto—Danforth that there will be constant iterations as we go through how we work here, as it has always been. In particular, my colleague from Toronto—Danforth would like to see some changes perhaps made in the timing of when notices are given or decisions are made, or the form in which they are reported. These are things that we can talk about after we have had the first iteration of this in the next Parliament. We could possibly tweak it after the first iteration.

My motion on electronic petitions is now at committee, where it will go through the same process of debate back and forth on how this should work. Once it is in place and tried, then there will be room for adjustments.

I would like to return to the part of the bill that interests me the most, the nomination of candidates. All parties are in the middle of nominating hundreds of candidates who will compete in the upcoming election. It is hard to open a newspaper without seeing some report on a nomination process, either controversial or not. This legislation touches on this by addressing whether or not the party leader has to sign a candidate's nomination papers, but there is more to be said here.

I am intimately familiar with this process having gone through it myself. My wife, Jeanette Ashe, has just finished her Ph.D. on this topic. She examined 10 years of nomination contest data made available by the British Labour Party. I am happy to be able to call her Dr. Ashe now. The data she collected and the interviews she conducted allowed her to paint a detailed and precise picture of this rather secretive process. I have written about this myself. In the academic world, it is often called the “secret garden” or the “black box” of politics. The public really has very little idea. It is like a sausage machine where meat goes in one end and the sausage comes out the other, if we can refer to ourselves as sausages. However, we do not really know what happens in the middle. This legislation touches on a bit of that. It has been formalized in the Canada Elections Act, but it can change. A party leader or someone else will sign the papers, but what happens within this process is important. It is time that we shed a little light into the secret garden.

Right now Elections Canada looks at the financing of the nomination process. There is a cap on how much individuals can spend and financial disclosure is required. With this legislation, we would have a bit more. We will have a bit more discussion on this.

Elections Canada should perhaps look into having more reporting around the nomination process. For example, Elections Canada does not report on the results. It looks at who wins the process but it does not look at who participated in it.

The key for my wife's study was that the British Labour Party did track this and make it available. Perhaps that could also be more formalized. Perhaps Elections Canada could record, not like the primary system in the U.S., which is completely regulated by electoral officials, but to just have transparency, recording perhaps who ran and how many votes were cast in these contests.

If we are fortunate enough to come back in the next Parliament, I look forward to working on that with my colleague across the way.

Trans Day of RemembranceStatements By Members

November 20th, 2014 / 2 p.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize November 20 as the Trans Day of Remembrance. People in communities across Canada and around the world are marking today by remembering victims of transphobic violence and rededicating themselves to working to end discrimination against transgender, transsexual, and gender-variant people.

Last year, there were 83 murders of trans people, and countless more were victims of violence and discrimination.

On this Trans Day of Remembrance, we should also look forward and ask how we can make things better. The past year has seen some progress on trans rights in places as diverse as Dallas, Texas, and Mexico City. Five Canadian provinces have recently added to their human rights codes explicit protection against discrimination, but it is clear that much more remains to be done to build a more inclusive Canada where transgender and gender-variant Canadians can participate fully and live without fear.

At the federal level, the Senate remains the last obstacle to full legal equality for the trans community. It has now held up passage of Bill C-279 for nearly two years after its approval by the House of Commons.

Once again on this Trans Day of Remembrance, we urge the Senate to pass this legislation without further delay.

Motions in AmendmentProtecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

September 22nd, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, my neighbour, for her support for equality for transgendered Canadians.

Half of my private members' bill, Bill C-279, is identical to the changes that are being made in this bill on behalf of women and those who are discriminated against on the basis of national origin or mental or physical disability. Again, I want to go back to the fact that someone deliberately omitted gender identity from that list. I think it exposes the government on this issue, in that it has not been neutral but has instead been an obstacle to achieving full equality for all Canadians.

Motions in AmendmentProtecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

September 22nd, 2014 / 5:30 p.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to Bill C-13, and I think that is unfortunate.

Like many MPs, I had high hopes when the issue of cyberbullying first came before the House. I had high hopes that we would recognize the urgency with which we needed to respond to cyberbullying and the risk of suicides, especially when we were faced with the unfortunate examples of Rehtaeh Parsons in Nova Scotia and Amanda Todd in B.C. taking their own lives.

In fact, we did respond relatively quickly. The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour introduced a private member's bill in June 2013. It was a simple bill that did not include a lot of extraneous material. It was a simple bill that would have made it an offence to produce or distribute intimate images of an individual without that person's consent.

Unfortunately, despite attempts to get unanimous consent to move the bill forward, the government said that it had to do a lot more study and think a lot more about what it wanted to present in a government bill. When that bill finally got before us in November 2013, nearly a year ago, as usual with the Conservative government we found a far broader bill than was necessary. It is a bill that includes many issues that have little or nothing to do with cyberbullying, including restrictions on telemarketing, theft of telecommunication services, provisions on terrorist financing, and bank financial disclosures.

What we have before us now is a bill with a much broader scope and one that includes bringing back many aspects of the Conservatives' previous Bill C-30, which was widely rejected by public opinion and especially by privacy advocates.

As someone who worked closely with the criminal justice system for more than two decades before coming here, I have some very serious concerns about the government's attempt to expand access to personal information, both with and without a warrant, that remains in Bill C-13

I am very concerned about the new and low bar for grounds for getting a warrant to get personal information. I see no justification for lowering the grounds for a warrant from “reasonable grounds to believe”, to this new category of reasonable suspicion. For that reason, of course, we proposed an amendment to delete this clause entirely from the bill.

In fact, I believe, despite the speeches we have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, that the Spencer case this summer brings into question the constitutionality of many provisions of Bill C-13. This was an important ruling banning Internet service providers from disclosing names, addresses, and phone numbers of customers voluntarily to the authorities.

The bill would also create a worrying new category of those entitled to our personal information. It has expanded from the well-defined, in law, concept of peace officers, and we know who they are, to this unclear new concept of “public officers”. Does this mean tax officials? Who does this mean are public officers?

In committee we proposed 37 different amendments to try to narrow the scope of the bill. As my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour so eloquently put it a few moments ago, we were trying to make sure that this bill did not spend the rest of its life being challenged in court. Unfortunately, we did not see any of those amendments adopted, and I do not think we will see our amendments adopted at report stage.

I want to return to one surprising inclusion in Bill C-13 that I was happy to see there. For whatever reason, the government decided to reopen the hate crime section of the Criminal Code in clause 12 of Bill C-13. There is some connection there with cyberbullying and cyberbullying's relation to an escalation into hate crimes.

I think perhaps there was a justification, but I was very surprised to see that when the government listed the new identifiable groups to receive protection, it added national origin, sex, age, and mental or physical disability. Yet what was left out was gender identity.

The House of Commons had already agreed, in a vote on my private member's bill, Bill C-279, on March 20, 2013, by a margin of 149 to 137, with support from all parties, to include protection on the basis of gender identity. Therefore, there was a deliberate omission from this list of new protected grounds of something that we had already decided in the full House.

This is why earlier today I proposed an amendment to clause 12, which I had already placed in the justice committee. I was optimistic that we would be allowed to debate this bill again. I proposed this amendment in committee to try to correct what I felt was an error in the drafting of Bill C-13. It should have included gender identity, precisely for the reason I cited: we had already voted on this provision here in the full House of Commons.

I was very optimistic in committee. After all, two of the five government members in the justice committee had voted for my private member's bill. Therefore, I expected when I proposed the amendment it would pass in committee by a vote of 6 to 3 in favour, because that is how those members had previously voted on the very same provision in Bill C-279. However, at the last minute, one Conservative changed his vote and one member was substituted out of committee. Hence, my amendment was defeated 5 to 4.

This is why I placed my amendment on the order paper again and asked the Speaker to take the unusual step of allowing it to be put before the full House again. The Speaker ruled that my amendment did not meet the test set out in our rules, which would have allowed it to come before the House today as part of this debate.

The problem, of course, is not the Speaker's ruling. It is instead that the government, which always posed as neutral on the provisions of my private member's bill, has found a way of using a government bill to undo the decision that had already been taken in the House on Bill C-279 to provide protection against hate crimes to transgender Canadians. This shows a fundamental disrespect for the will of the majority as already expressed in the House. Therefore, when it comes to respecting the rights of transgender Canadians, it turns out the government is not as neutral as it was pretending to be. This perhaps explains what has happened to the same provision we could have been talking about today, over in the Senate in Bill C-279.

The second problem we have in achieving protection against hate crimes for transgender Canadians is, of course, the Senate. The bill has been before the Senate two different times. The first time was in the spring of 2011. It was approved by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate, which failed to act at all before the election was called. Therefore, that provision died before the Senate.

As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-279 passed the House of Commons on March 20, 2013, a year and a half ago. It has been in the Senate for a year and a half. I know they only meet three days a week, but there are still plenty of sitting days for them to deal with this. In fact, in 2013, it did pass second reading. In other words, it received approval in principle. Now we have the House of Commons saying that what we were supposed to be dealing with in the bill to be true and the Senate, in principle, agreeing. It was sent to the human rights committee, which held hearings and approved Bill C-279 without amendment and returned it to the full floor of the Senate, where a third reading and final vote was not called. The House prorogued and that bill started over.

Here again is where the supposed neutrality of the government on protecting transgender Canadians against hate crimes comes into question. The bill could have been expedited through the Senate, as it had already been through all the stages there. Even simpler, the bill could have been sent back to the human rights committee, and since it had already held hearings and dealt with the bill, it could have been returned quickly to the floor of the Senate. Instead, the government leadership in the Senate sent the bill to a different committee, the legal and constitutional affairs committee. This is an interesting choice. This not only meant that the committee would have to hold new hearings, but it is the busiest committee in the Senate, with the government's crime agenda. It means this committee will have to deal with bills like the one we have before us today, Bill C-13; Bill C-36, dealing with sex work; and Bill C-2, dealing with safe injection sites. It will have to deal with all of those before it ever gets to a private member's bill.

Again, the fig leaf of neutrality claimed by the government is looking a little withered, since decisions on where the bill is going and its timing are made by the government leadership in the Senate. It is beginning to look a lot like the government intends to let Bill C-279 die in the Senate once again.

The final obstacle to achieving protection for transgender Canadians against hate crimes, and I think the real reason gender identity was omitted from the new groups protected in the hate crimes section 12 of Bill C-13, is the failure to recognize not just the fundamental justice of providing equal rights to transgender Canadians, but the failure to recognize both the urgency and the inevitability of doing so.

Transgender Canadians remain the group most discriminated against in Canada. They remain the group most likely to be subject to hate crimes and most disturbingly, they remain the group most likely to be subject to violence when it comes to hate crimes. All transgender Canadians are looking for is the recognition of the same rights that other Canadians already enjoy. We are missing a chance here in Bill C-13 to provide equal protection against hate crimes to transgender Canadians.

There was a time when other Canadians did not enjoy the equality they do today. There were provisions in our law that seem incredible now. There was a time when Asian Canadians could not vote or practise the professions. There was a time when I, as a gay man, could have been jailed for my sexual orientation, fired from my job, or evicted from my housing. Now, fortunately, that time has passed.

I am disappointed, then, that we are missing a chance today to move forward to the time when we look back and cannot imagine that transgendered Canadians did not enjoy the same rights and protections as all other Canadians. I know that day will come, and I will continue to work to make sure it is sooner rather than later.

Motions in AmendmentProtecting Canadians from Online Crime ActGovernment Orders

September 22nd, 2014 / 3:25 p.m.
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Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC


Motion No. 7

That Bill C-13 be amended by deleting Clause 23.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-13 be amended by deleting Clause 26.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-13 be amended by deleting Clause 47.

Mr. Speaker, this morning we debated the bill on prostitution. This afternoon, we turn to the bill on cyberbullying. I am almost tempted to start out the same way. This bill also garnered a lot of attention and caused quite a stir. I received many comments from my constituents in Gatineau about this. These people had the same concerns I did. That told me that I was on the right track when it came to the position that the NDP and I took on this file.

I believe it is important to reiterate that many people take the government at its word and believe that it can have a positive impact on the lives of the young people who have suffered all kinds of bullying, their parents and everyone who has been affected by bullying.

As we all know, Bill C-13 was created in the wake of tragic situations involving certain Canadians. Young people committed suicide. Suicide can happen anywhere, in the armed forces and in the general population. Bullying is not a new concept. It has existed for many a moon. I think that we need to find real solutions to offer help instead of playing politics.

From the outset, our approach was not to hold up Bill C-13, but to allow it to take its course. We wanted to be sure that there was an in-depth study in committee and that various witnesses would be able to share their point of view on the bill.

The bill is known as the protecting Canadians from online crime act. It contains 47 clauses and is 53 pages long, but it does not even touch on cyberbullying or online crime. Rather, Bill C-13 addresses the distribution of images, one very small part of bullying. The rest of the bill addresses issues as varied as immunity for Internet service providers, the concept of peace officers and public officers, telecommunications theft and so on. Bill C-13 covers a lot of ground.

We shared these concerns with the minister, the Attorney General of Canada. We thought it would be wiser to split the bill in two so that we could tackle the image distribution issue head-on since it was not as controversial. As for the touchier violation of privacy issue, there are tools that the minister makes a point of talking about regularly, saying that we cannot do one without doing the other. He would have us believe that there are currently no tools available, but there are. We wanted to make sure that what we were doing on that score was completely reasonable. However, the government turned a deaf ear.

Naturally, witnesses told us exactly the same thing and said they were very concerned. Many aspects of Bill C-13 resemble Bill C-30, even though the government agreed to some changes and realized it could not go any further with that particular vision. It did make some minor concessions. The government tried to address cyberbullying via image distribution and the highly publicized cases of Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd and others who did the worst thing imaginable. Seeing no way out of the problems they faced, they saw that as the only solution. That really breaks my heart.

Everyone will agree that there is nothing worse than thinking that suicide is the only way to solve a problem or the only way out. As a society, we are failing miserably. In my opinion, claiming that Bill C-13 will save young lives is laying it on rather thick.

I do not want to dwell on the issue, but even Amanda Todd's mother told the committee that she did not want people's privacy to be invaded in order to keep others safe. That was not necessarily the objective. Once again, the government is failing to be transparent. Like Sophia Petrillo-Weinstock in the television show Golden Girls, I am tempted to say, “Picture it”.

Thursday, June 12 was the last day set aside for the clause-by-clause examination of Bill C-13. On Friday, June 13, the Supreme Court of Canada was scheduled to render its decision in Spencer v. The Queen. This case dealt with the matter of police access to personal information. Several witnesses who appeared before the committee said that this case would definitely have an impact. At the very least, the government should have exercised caution and waited for the Supreme Court ruling.

Some believe that the committee merely conducted a concept study, but that was not the case. The government was producing legislation. The government bill is 53 pages long and we examined it. Then, the committee heard from witnesses with regard to the various aspects of the bill that they were concerned with. For some, it was the distribution of images. For others, it was the violation of privacy and technology. We heard from a whole slew of witnesses who were concerned about very different aspects of the bill.

The people who were dealing with the part related to the interception of data and the gathering of information without a warrant or court authorization felt it was important to wait for the Spencer ruling. After it was tabled, some experts indicated that the June 13 ruling contradicted certain aspects of the government's bill. That is what we were trying to avoid. We had therefore asked the government to wait.

Time and time again in committee, I asked whether we should not wait until June 13. Should we not read the ruling? Should we not seek advice from staff at the Department of Justice who could explain the ruling to us and tell us whether or not it would have an impact?

In law, if you put five lawyers in a room, they would not all say the same thing. In the House, not everyone is a lawyer. Furthermore, even amongst those of us who are lawyers, not everyone is a specialist in every subject. That is why we study things in greater depth in committee, come back to the House with our recommendations, and then vote with full knowledge of the facts.

At this very moment, regardless of my personal opinion and the fact that several specialists said that the ruling in R. v. Spencer goes against many aspects of the bill, I am quite worried. If there is one area in which I do not want to see any glaring errors, that is justice. Justice must be applied correctly and equally across the board.

All that explains why we changed our position. We supported the bill at second reading, but all of our fears regarding this government bill were confirmed in committee.

It seems that the government is using this bill to try to score political points rather than make any meaningful changes. The evidence is quite clear. The fact is, the government voted against the motion moved by my hon. colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, M-385, regarding cyberbullying. Furthermore, it also voted against the bill introduced by my hon. colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Bill C-540.

Basically, if you ask me, everything is crystal clear.

There is also Bill C-279, introduced by my hon. colleague who delivered a speech on it this morning.

This all tells me that this bill is more about politics than anything of real substance.