An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code

Sponsor

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

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

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Oct. 18, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

March 9th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It's a pleasure to be back just a little over a month from the last time I was here. It's good to see all of you. I'm looking forward to this conversation as well.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to the committee again. I'm pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today, and I'm happy to contribute to your proceedings to the best of my ability.

Yesterday, we celebrated International Women's Day. I was very proud to have been invited to speak on March 7 at the Daughters of the Vote gala. The Equal Voice organization held the event to highlight the significance of the day. The Daughters of the Vote initiative brought young women aged 18 to 23 to Parliament. They came from each of our 338 federal electoral districts to represent their community and share their vision for Canada. Yesterday, these young women had the opportunity to meet with their MP and sit at their MP's place in the House of Commons.

It was inspiring to see the House full of young women and to look into what the future holds. All of us who have the privilege to serve also have the duty to support and encourage young Canadians to engage in our democracy. In particular, this committee has the unique opportunity to reflect on how to ensure that all Canadians are best prepared and able to participate in civic life. Your study of the CEO report and its recommendations positions you as stewards and champions of the franchise. The Daughters of the Vote who are in Ottawa today, and all Canadians, are counting on your reflections.

This is why I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, specifically, for your work so far on the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations report. I read with interest your interim report, which was tabled on Monday. I am going to spend more time reviewing it and reflecting on your recommendations as the government considers its response.

I am very happy to see that you have reached a consensus on the key recommendations that are the core of the Chief Electoral Officer's proposed voting services modernization efforts. In addition, you have collectively supported a range of other recommendations, including recommendations to improve the delivery of voting services to non-resident Canadians and enhanced information-sharing authorities to improve the quality of the national register of electors, the latter being something that may come before you for consideration as part of Bill C-33. These are important recommendations that will improve our electoral process.

There was also consensus on many of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations related to ensuring an accessible electoral system for electors and candidates with disabilities. Enhancing inclusion as a defining value of our democracy stands high among my priorities for the coming months and years.

I look forward to your upcoming work on the recommendations set out in the Chief Electoral Officer's report.

I'll highlight a few, I hope to hear your thoughts on the issue of the length of the election period and on the polling day, recommendations A21 and A22. These recommendations have implications for the political financing regime and the participation of Canadians in the voting process.

Recommendation A25 would address the question of partisan nominees for poll staff and promises improvements in Elections Canada's recruitment processes. In light of your support for recommendation A1, your view on this recommendation would be informative.

Recommendations A33 and A34 would provide additional tools for the Commissioner of Canada Elections. My mandate letter includes a commitment to enhance Canadians' trust in the integrity of our system, and I would value your thoughts on these recommendations.

Recommendation A39 concerns adjustments to the broadcasting arbitration regime. The way that political parties communicate with Canadians and the nature of media have changed considerably over time. These provisions have hardly been modified in recent years.

Recommendation B9 has a significant impact on gender non-conforming electors. In relation to Bill C-16, I think it warrants consideration, since equality could be ensured in all aspects of the federal government.

Recommendation B15 would affect the process in place to help electors with a disability.

Recommendations B12, B24, B18, B26, B27, and B43 are all related in different ways to the integrity of the process and Canadians' trust in that process. As trust is paramount to the success of any election and the peaceful transfer of power, I would welcome the committee's thoughtful input on these as well.

Finally, recommendation B44 raises the important issue of how we adapt to a fixed-date context for elections in a Westminster system. I would ask the committee, if you think it of merit, to reflect on how this and other recommendations are impacted, and what the challenges and opportunities are in relation to fixed-date elections in the Canadian experience.

All of these recommendations raise a variety of questions that would benefit from the expertise of this committee. They seek ways to keep our electoral laws up to date with the expectations of electors and political actors. Your considerate review of these matters is valuable.

As I noted during my last appearance, my mandate letter includes a commitment to enhance the transparency of fundraising activities. In meeting this commitment, I intend to introduce legislation that makes fundraising events public, and to require additional disclosure of who attends, and when.

We have heard Canadians' concerns in this regard, and we intend to act. I hope to introduce legislation this spring, and if referred to your committee by the House, I would very much appreciate your consideration of the bill and any recommendations you may have.

Of course, there's also Bill C-33. Your work so far on the recommendations report will well position you in considering this bill and its measures to reduce barriers to voting while enhancing the integrity of the electoral process. Bill C-33, I believe, complements the work that you are undertaking with the CEO recommendations.

The road to the 2019 election is getting ever shorter. I am committed, as I know all members of this committee are, to improving our electoral system before the next election to the benefit of all Canadians. To accomplish this goal, Canadians need us to work together. I hope to continue to receive your valuable input to inform the direction of improving our electoral process to make it accessible, efficient, and equitable for voters.

Elections Canada needs sufficient time to implement any changes made to the Canada Elections Act before the next election and would like to be election-ready well in advance of an expected writ. The more time Elections Canada has to prepare, the better.

We must also take into consideration that other legislative changes may be necessary to implement your recommendations.

The development and preparation of this bill, and the important discussions and debates in the House of Commons and Senate, shouldn't be rushed.

To give Elections Canada the time it needs, as well as to give parliamentarians the time they need, my hope would be to introduce legislation before the end of this year that would build on your hard work with respect to the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations. It is our responsibility to take the time to get this right. It is also our responsibility to get it done. It's what Canadians expect. If the House could have your next report before the House rises for the summer, preferably by May 19, I think we would be well positioned to advance some significant reforms that would improve the electoral process for Canadians.

I am sharing my thinking with the committee because I sincerely want to work together with you. I respect this committee's independence and know the committee will set its own agenda. I hope my remarks today help provide insight to you about my thinking and perspective on the matters before this committee.

Thank you again for inviting me here today. I look forward to working with you on these important issues.

Thank you.

March 9th, 2017 / 9:50 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm thankful that this motion has come forth. I think it's important to have “sexual orientation” as part of this bill. It's just like my motion previous to this, although it maybe didn't highlight something as much. It does have “gender” here, so I congratulate the.... It's not a negative thing to add.

That's part of the overall thing, so this highlighting it a little bit differently is more consistent with practices. As I said, my motion was based upon Liberal legislation that was passed in the House of Commons. We've seen lots of Liberal legislation pass that didn't necessarily often reflect the entire, full House. It could have been a compromise. I think this is important, because again, it brings up the whole issue....

I'm speaking to just the subamendment, not to the main motion. With regard to the subamendment, we've seen incredible advances in society on gender acceptance and inclusion. I could point no further than my daughter's high school, where this is actually an asset in terms of celebration and openness. It also has dealt with, many times over, issues related to bullying and other things that have taken place. This is one of those things where there's been a greater acceptance in society. A lot of Canadians have come together to move this.

In the past, I saw this first-hand. I used to play in the Cabbagetown softball leagues. That was a program where I was one of two straight players who could actually play on the baseball team. You had to try out to make the team. I actually did, despite my not being the quickest player. At any rate, it was one of the best things I ever did in my life. That was during a difficult time, in the early nineties, when you had a number of people who would speak back.

In fact, with a previous employer of mine—this wasn't in the Windsor area—at one point an intervention took place on me because I was hanging out with somebody who happened to be openly gay at that time. People literally had me go to the boardroom, during business time, to tell me to stop hanging out with my friend because he was gay. That took place in the workforce in the early nineties, when I was this new employee.

I think this is very appropriate to be stated in this legislation, because we have no tolerance for that anymore. Things have changed, but that type of activity is happening still to some degree. It's not equal just yet. I would appeal to the Liberals to support this amendment I put forth, because we have to vote on the main motion eventually. I think this would be appropriate for the main motion to have. It would be very inclusive. I would be ashamed to vote on the main motion without this, and I appreciate the friendly stature of this amendment.

I'll leave it at that. I think it's self-explanatory, in many ways. For this particular motion right here, I think it's quite obvious that this should be unanimous, I would hope, in this Parliament. It would be a statement for us actually not to include that in considering the motion, in that we would be isolating that and saying it's not appropriate.

Again, it's consistent with the human rights code and consistent with the Liberal language that was placed in Bill C-16, which is in front of the Senate and which passed the House of Commons with a Liberal majority voting for their own bill. In fact, I don't think there was any dissension at that particular time. I would hope that this would be included for the debate that later takes place on the main motion. It would be odd to “gender divide”, I guess, at this particular point in time, something that's a regular stream for what we do. This would be a major step back, I think, in the cause.

I will leave it at that, Mr. Chair. Hopefully we will have this to consider for the main motion.

March 9th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have some questions for Mr. Schaan about this, but I just want to preface that by saying that if some feel it's inconvenient to sit through the questions and comments that I make on this, I'm fine with that. I know that a lot of people have been waiting a lifetime for inclusion, equity, and fairness. I would think basic respect is the very least they would get, to have these questions that have been posed to me from other people, and comments I've received from testimony not only here, that we heard, but also elsewhere.

The reason I came here today with the suggestion to the government, which I thought was realistic, on Bill C-16, being an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. Even one committee member, during debate, said, “It is now 2016, and it is time that we modernize our laws to truly reflect our society and our diversity.” That was a Liberal member from this committee. I came here to try to achieve that balance with a specific piece that could bridge the gap on what seems to be taking place here.

Mr. Schaan, I want to be clear, though. I think that people need to understand this. If this is not included in the regulations—the regulations will decide these things—is it possible then to have a regulation that does not include, for example, race, in terms of disclosure? If they go through with their.... For regulations, it will include whatever they want it to be. Is it mandated? Does it have to include, for example, race or ethnic origin?

March 9th, 2017 / 9:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

My question is for Mr. Schaan on the wording that has been presented by the NDP in the subamendment. Are the terms expressed there in line with the Employment Equity Act? Do we have a dovetailing of that?

I know that we're speaking about what was presented in Bill C-16, but I'm just curious as to whether or not that is enhanced by or related to the same terminology we have for the Employment Equity Act.

March 9th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will have copies distributed in both English and French. It's very much a modest change to what's been proposed by the Green Party in some respects, but once again it uses language that was specifically passed under Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. It says that Bill C-25, in clause 24, be amended by replacing lines 5 to 7 on page 9 with the following:

information respecting gender representation and diversity—including in regard to colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability— among the directors and among members of senior management as defined by regulation as well as any prescribed information respecting diversity.

Let's be clear on this motion. This was passed in the House of Commons as part of amending the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, and it still includes the regulations that will have the oversight of this.

This gives a good window, not only so Parliament can have something on the record for this but also for the regulatory oversight part of this so it is still fluid within that jurisdiction.

The big difference on this is that it makes it consistent with previous legislation passed through this particular House of Commons so we will not be inconsistent with what we have previously done. Following this path is obviously important for consistency, not just for this country, related to race and ethnic divisions and representation as well as regarding the gender issues we've raised in the past. In fact, if you didn't catch it, Mr. Bains had a good statement on promoting diversity and inclusion on International Women's Day. He said that Canada benefits when more women reach the highest levels of achievement. He said, regarding diversity and openness on International Women's Day, that Canada needs more women to reach the highest levels of achievement because an open society that values a diversity of ideas and perspectives is good for business, and that it is also good for innovation, which is Canada's path to economic growth.

I thought that was put well. This will help reinforce that for all members of Parliament.

Again, it would be odd for us to have a leading piece of legislation regarding the description of diversity and gender and then for us to divert away from that legislation, especially given that it's in the Canadian human rights code. I think it would be very alarming for us to divert from what the House of Commons has already passed as a definition. Again, for those who are concerned about any changes, there is the regulatory aspect part of it.

I'll leave it at that for now. Hopefully, we can dispense of this and move forward with a good vote and have this completed, because, again, it provides an open door for both. It's a win-win for everybody. It's also consistent with the government agenda. Again, I think it would be really odd for us as a committee to basically say the human rights code and the Canadian Human Rights Act are inconsistent with our legislation here. It would be quite telling for us to push back against Senate legislation that we have already passed in the House of Commons.

Thank you.

March 9th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

It specifically says that information respecting gender representation and diversity including in regard to “colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability” was passed as a definition in an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code. I think this is also based upon the Ontario human rights code, when they looked at that.

It was actually passed, and you voted in favour of it, Mr. Lametti, and right now it is in the Senate at second reading.

This was passed in the House of Commons, the specific definition that the bill had. I'll be moving that later, whether or not we deal with Ms. May's motion, which is very good as well but doesn't have the specifics related to legislation already passed through the House of Commons and just awaiting final approval by the Senate in this current Parliament.

I have copies, and at the appropriate time I can present them to members.

Thank you very much.

March 9th, 2017 / 8:45 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thanks for that intervention. It still doesn't change the fundamental fact that this is an opportunity for Parliament and for us to add an amendment. In fact, I have a subamendment to my amendment, which will be coming up. It actually uses language that was passed by this House of Commons, including the government members and the parliamentary secretary, most recently on Bill C-16, that outlines a specific element of diversity.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-23 and to argue in support of the reasoned amendment by my colleague, the member for Beloeil—Chambly. His amendment instructs the House to decline to give second reading to the bill because of several important reasons, which I will be happy to explore later in my speech.

I also want to note that it is very unfortunate we are conducting this debate today under a time allocation passed by the Liberal government earlier today.

The tone of this debate on the legislation has heated up considerably over the past few days during which it has been debated. In particular, there have been some misleading and grossly exaggerated statements from Liberal members of Parliament. There has been a general mischaracterization of the NDP's concerns, combined with over-the-top and fiercely partisan attacks, which have at times sunk this debate to a new low.

I hope to raise the tone of this debate with reasoned arguments against letting Bill C-23 pass at second reading.

Let me make one point perfectly clear. The New Democrats are in favour of measures that will facilitate fluid movement across the U.S. border, but not at the expense of human rights, respect for privacy of Canadians, and Canada's sovereignty.

I support pre-clearance as it currently operates. In fact, I have used the service several times in my life at the Vancouver International Airport when travelling to the United States, and it certainly works well as it currently exists.

I understand that pre-clearance is an important part of the Canada-U.S. relationship and to the free flow of trade and travellers between our two countries, but the provisions contained in Bill C-23 are too problematic for me to give my support.

Bill C-23 neglects to take into account the climate of uncertainty at the border following the discriminatory policies and executive orders of the Trump administration. Canada and the United States signed the agreement on land, rail, marine, and air transport preclearance on March 16, 2015, under the previous Harper government.

Bill C-23 was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on June 17, 2016. There was little fanfare at the time, as Parliament was more consumed by Bill C-14's progress through the Senate, and we were certainly all looking forward to the upcoming visit of then President Obama and his address to the House of Commons, which I think we can all agree was a tremendous speech.

The times have changed dramatically since that time, and they provide an even starker contrast to the reasons why this bill is so problematic. The Liberals are moving ahead with the agreement signed under Obama's presidency as if everything was simply business as usual. However, we must take into account the change in U.S. leadership.

The legislation was problematic before the inauguration of President Trump, but recent discriminatory orders and invasions of privacy now leave no doubt about the potential dangers and abuses that will result from the agreement. This is a president who excels at making statements with no empirical evidence to back them up. The most recent example is his shocking allegation that former President Obama ordered wiretaps on his phone during the election.

This man has little understanding of what a warrant is, of the checks and balances of the United States system, the constitution, and he has undermined the judiciary of the United States on repeated occurrences.

The U.S. customs and border protection agency is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. It is an extremely powerful arm of the executive branch of government, but it is now headed by someone who I do not think is fit for that office.

Agencies take their cue from the people at the top. This is a fact. Bill C-23 is proposing to give more power to foreign agents that are lead by an administration that routinely uses fear, lies, and personal attacks on its political opponents to advance its agenda. I cannot, in good conscience, support such a bill.

The third point I wish to address are the increased powers that Bill C-23 would provide for U.S. officers on Canadian soil, provisions regarding carrying of firearms, the power to conduct strip searches, detention, and interrogation.

In particular, I feel strongly that it is unacceptable to see officers of a foreign country who are in a position of authority bear and ultimately use firearms in the performance of their duties on Canadian soil. As is provided for in the summary of the bill, part 3 of the enactment makes related amendments to the Criminal Code to provide the United States pre-clearance officers with an exemption from criminal liability under the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act with respect to carriage of firearms and other regulated items. Bill C-23 would violate our precious Canadian sovereignty by increasing the powers of American pre-clearance officers on Canadian soil with respect to carrying firearms and by not properly defining a criminal liability framework.

There are those within the Liberal and Conservative ranks who dismiss this concern or see it as simply irrelevant. In fact, repeated speakers from the Liberal Party have used rather poor reasoning, in that U.S. agents would only be granted firearms if their Canadian counterparts were similarly armed in the same area. This sidesteps the issue and avoids the question as to why this measure is necessary.

I fully realize that with the combined Liberal and Conservative support for the bill, it is most definitely going to pass second reading. The troubling thing for me is that not one Liberal or Conservative MP has bothered to raise any concerns about this erosion of Canadian sovereignty.

The Liberals like to call themselves the party of the charter, but not one of them has addressed Canadians' concerns about being interrogated, detained, or turned back at the border based on race, religion, travel history, or birth place, as a result of policies that may contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Liberals have also failed to speak up about the lack of provisions protecting the rights and freedoms of transgendered persons during strip searches, in spite of the government's support for Bill C-16.

The Conservatives like to wrap themselves in the flag, and they talk a good game when it comes to protecting our border and our sovereignty, but not one of them has stood to address the fact that we would be giving more powers to agents of a foreign government on Canadian soil.

The final point I want to make is that Canada Border Services agents and the RCMP are filled with great men and women, who do their job in a most capable way every day. They are required to take the oath of allegiance before they can assume their duties as uniformed officers. Allegiance is given to the crown and other institutions that the sovereign represents within the federal and provincial spheres, including the state, its constitution, and traditions. On the other hand, U.S. customs and border patrol agents give their oath of allegiance to the United States Constitution and promise to faithfully discharge their duties in the office that they are about to enter, which is fully an institution of the United States government. This is the crux of the problem. United States officials operating on Canadian soil owe their allegiance to a foreign government, and yet we are prepared to give them powerful new measures, such as carrying firearms on our sovereign soil.

I think that borders matter and that they certainly need to be treated with respect. Also, sovereignty matters and precedents matter. Therefore, I think this is a slippery slope. If we pass Bill C-23, if we allow agents of a foreign government to operate on our soil in this matter, what more demands will be presented at a future instance from the United States government?

All I ask hon. members to do is pause and think about the wishes of their constituents. Did their constituents send them to this place to pass legislation to give agents of a foreign government the power to carry firearms on Canadian soil? This is a real sticking point for me, and I know from the correspondence that I and many of my colleagues have received that this is a major concern. We will certainly be raising it at every opportunity that we can.

February 23rd, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Glenn Gilmour

As you know, Bill C-16 refers to both gender identity and gender expression. To the extent that this bill only refers to gender identity, it is inconsistent with current legislation in the Senate, which has been already approved by the House. I'm certain that the government is aware of this inconsistency.

February 23rd, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Exactly.

I'll follow up on Mr. Bittle's point and then get to Mr. Cooper. In 1995, gay people couldn't get married in this country and there were no rights for transgendered individuals whatsoever. Perhaps our view today that the right of the gay community to feel safe going into its buildings is the same as the right of a religious community to go into its buildings, or the right of a racial community to go into its buildings. So the rationale may have changed because the way hate crimes today happen may have changed, and our view of the rights of those groups may have changed, which is why we're dealing with Bill C-16 in the first place.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts.

Mr. Cooper.

February 23rd, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Glenn Gilmour

My reply to that would be, I suppose, in part related to Bill C-16,, the bill currently before the Senate on expanding not only the definition of “identifiable group” but that would also amend the hate crime sentencing provision in the Criminal Code to add both gender identity and gender expression to that provision. In that sense, the hate crime sentencing provision, once Bill C-16 is passed, would reflect current thinking by Parliament on the need to protect groups that had not been specifically singled out for protection before.

The other part I would mention is that Bill C-305 only focuses on mischief committed against various groups when that is motivated by hatred. It does nothing to focus on violence against persons when that violence is motivated by hatred based on various criteria, such as sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The way the current law works is that, for those kinds of incidents, say assault or assault causing bodily harm, the sentencing provision in the Criminal Code, in 718.2(a)(i), is used to adequately denounce and punish such conduct, not Bill C-305.

February 23rd, 2017 / 8:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Chair and distinguished members of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I thank you for this opportunity to speak on my private member's bill, Bill C-309, an act to establish Gender Equality Week.

It's a great honour for me to appear before you today, not only in my capacity as the member of Parliament for Mississauga—Lakeshore, but also because, in my view, this is a real opportunity to have a profoundly positive impact on Canadian society.

Before elaborating, Madam Chair, I would like to take a moment to thank my team here in Ottawa and in my constituency for their dedicated work in bringing this bill to where it is today.

Adrian Zita-Bennett is my executive and legislative assistant, and he did much of the heavy lifting on the consultation and the development of the text of this bill. My amazing team in the constituency office—Dulce Santos, Hanan Harb, Leslie Peres, and Kyra Brennan—engaged our community in Mississauga—Lakeshore and supported us each step of the way.

Madam Chair, I would also like to thank Strength in Stories, which is a grassroots organization that helped to inspire this bill, and particularly its co-founder, Rachelle Bergen.

In addition, local and national stakeholders such as non-profit organizations, women's shelters, and all levels of government provided feedback that was critical in developing the preambular paragraphs of this bill.

My team and I felt that making frank and compelling mention of the full scope of gender-based inequalities that persist in Canada was an essential step to ensure that gender equality week will be effective in delivering two things: national engagement and prospective solutions.

The reason for this, Madam Chair, is simple. Solving any given problem first requires full recognition of the existence of the problem and of its scope. We need to be able to call problems by their names and be frank and open when tackling the challenges that we continue to face.

I am sure the members of this committee are not at all surprised to hear stakeholders tell them we still have a lot of work to do to create a more gender-equality-based society. I would like to cite some facts that reinforce that perception.

In the Global Gender Report it has published every year since 2006, the World Economic Forum reveals the scope of existing gender gaps and the efforts being made to close them, particularly in the fields of health, education, economic participation, economic prospects, and political empowerment. According to the 2016 report, which the forum published last October, Canada ranks 35th out of 144 countries, between Luxembourg and Cape Verde, but 1st in North America.

Madam Chair and distinguished members of the committee, we, as Canadians, must also acknowledge that the wage gap between men and women undermines our economy and the global economy. People around the world increasingly recognize that gender inequality is a major stumbling block.

According to a report the Royal Bank published in 2005, the lost income potential of Canadian women due to the wage gap is about $126 billion a year. A report published by the UBS financial services corporation last October states that global economic performance would rise by £10 billion if the wage gap between men and women were closed. Similarly, according to a report issued by the McKinsey Global Institute in September 2015, promoting gender equality would add £12 billion to global GDP by 2025.

Gender equality week can work to achieve what more and more international organizations and governments around the world are advocating: that the elimination of gender gaps will lead to strong and lasting economic benefits. As a 2013 International Monetary Fund report on women's participation in the global labour market put it, “The challenges of growth, job creation, and inclusion are closely intertwined.”

Here in Canada, gender-based inequalities have become ingrained in the fabric of our society, and if we do not address them directly, they will continue to persist.

Canadians of minority gender identity and expression are often faced with these challenges in an even more profound manner, and on the predicament of indigenous Canadians, Madam Chair, a 2015 RCMP report outlines that indigenous women make up just over 4% of our population and yet account for 16% of female homicides and 11% of missing Canadian women.

The acknowledgement of these outcomes goes far beyond partisan affiliation. All of us bear some responsibility in a society that categorically and systematically treats and values genders differently.

In short, if we truly seek to address these challenges, a pivotal first step is to recognize them frankly and understand them fully.

Second, the federal government cannot solve these problems by itself. Gender equality requires awareness and engagement on the part of all Canadians. To be clear, I'm very proud of the leadership of our Prime Minister and the federal government, who are working to address systemic gender-based gaps that have shaped Canada since Confederation.

The Prime Minister has achieved gender parity in cabinet for the first time in the history of Canada. Also for the first time, he appointed a woman as Leader of the Government in the House and a female minister who will focus exclusively on gender equality issues.

The Canadian government has launched an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and the Minister of Status of Women is developing a national strategy to combat gender-based violence. The government has also begun to implement the gender-based analysis plus tool, or GBA+, in all federal government organizations to ensure the aspects of this issue are taken into consideration in all government programs, policies, and statutes.

The Canadian government has tabled Bill C-16, currently being debated in the Senate, which protects Canadians who belong to minority groups distinguished by gender identity or gender expression by adding gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination as defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In early December 2016, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Status of Women announced that Viola Desmond, a Nova Scotian businesswoman and civil rights champion, will be the first woman to appear on a Canadian bank note.

Internationally, Canada has done its share as part of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and vigorously supports the HeForShe solidarity campaign launched by that organization.

Once again, I tip my hat to the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Canadian government in promoting gender equality.

But, Madam Chair, this is a cause on which all Canadians must lead. This is the thrust of the bill before you today. Government cannot do this work alone, and the mere passing of legislation without public recognition of and engagement with the challenges we face will be insufficient.

You may rightly wonder what exactly an annual gender equality week might look like. Each year across the 338 federal ridings in our country, gender equality week can inspire girls, boys, men, women, and those of minority gender identity and expression to take part in a dialogue to establish a more inclusive society. If we work together, Madam Chair, we can find solutions.

As parliamentarians we can use this designated week to deepen relationships and collaborate with our community leaders and advocacy groups. This work could take the form of community town halls and debates, research proposals, television and social media reports, fundraising initiatives, marches, arts and music, and other forms of advocacy. Through its emphasis on fostering local community-based dialogue on gender equality, we can also serve to strengthen current federal initiatives and communities across our country.

In my riding of Mississauga—Lakeshore, young people as well as seniors have participated in the development of the bill that is before you today. Members of our youth council have specifically expressed concern about the difficulties faced by women in entering and excelling in the workforce. Leaders in our community of seniors could play a big part in an annual gender equality week. They have seen first-hand how attitudes and policies have and have not changed with respect to gender equality, and their input would be critical to eliminating gender-based disparities, including poverty, for the next generation and beyond.

Madam Chair, our great country is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Canada has achieved so much since Confederation, yet on the issue of gender equality and equity, there's still so much more to achieve.

Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, is an effort to raise collective awareness of existing gender-based inequality and to work toward the establishment of a more inclusive society.

We need to be able to identify problems in a frank manner and understand that governments cannot solve the issues alone. This is an effort on which we must all lead, and we have before us an opportunity to achieve real progress in our communities and across our country.

Thank you, Madam Chair. I look forward to the committee's questions.

February 21st, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Assistant Professor and Faculty Director, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, University of Alberta, As an Individual

Dr. Kristopher Wells

Absolutely. I believe it has been said that it should parallel Bill C-16. As I mentioned, many people are targeted because of their gender expression, because they're not performing what it means to be societally acceptable as being a male or female. Or, what happens when you're gender diverse? That is a group of individuals who can be at some of the most extreme risks, as my colleague has mentioned.

As we're changing one part of the Criminal Code and we have the opportunity to be consistent, I think this is prudent. I think there's been a lot of conversation around this. The difference is that now I think we're getting a better understanding of gender identity and of what gender expression is and how they both create vulnerability in individuals who may operate outside of the male-female binary. We see this as more of a fluidity that's happening in our society.

As I always say, go to our students, to our young people, and go to Facebook. There aren't just two gender choices. There are over 50. As a professor who works in this area, I'll say that my students are my best educators on what is current in how they're identifying these days.

February 21st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Assistant Professor and Faculty Director, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, University of Alberta, As an Individual

Dr. Kristopher Wells

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

And to our colleagues who presented before, it's great to see the solidarity between communities talking about such an important issue of hate and bias in our country.

I believe that the proposed amendments to Bill C-305 are important to the preservation and protection of Canada's increasingly diverse, multicultural, and pluralistic identities, especially as we increasingly express and make visible our diverse identities and values directly through our public institutions.

As emphasized by member of Parliament Randall Garrison, I believe Bill C-305 should not only include sexual orientation and gender identity, but also gender expression, as prohibited grounds for the offence of mischief, which aligns with the current changes proposed by Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, which includes both gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Transgender individuals experience some of the highest rates of violence, discrimination, and prejudice in our society. Unfortunately, in Canada we have no way for law enforcement to track, charge, or specifically prosecute hate or discrimination that is motivated by gender identity or gender expression. Trans lives matter and are worthy of protection. This critical absence must be addressed.

It is vitally important to recognize and protect the LGBTQ community in similar ways as other cultural, racialized, or visible minority communities that are vulnerable to hate, prejudice, and discrimination because of an identifiable characteristic of a person. Much discrimination against LGBTQ people is based on their gender expression and the assumptions that are made as to what it means to be stereotypically male, female, or to be perceived as neither.

It has been said that homophobia and transphobia are one of the most powerful weapons of sexism, misogyny, and privilege in our society. LGBTQ individuals are often considered to be invisible minorities because they may not reveal their true identities unless they feel safe. This is why the LGBTQ community organizations, like pride or rainbow centres, and growing cultural celebrations, such as pride festivals, and specific LGBTQ-identified neighbourhoods or enclaves are all critically important safe spaces. These safe spaces are often visibly marked with rainbow flags to indicate inclusion, acceptance, and support. Indeed, it was a remarkable historic moment to witness the rainbow pride flag raised over Parliament Hill last June. This was a strong and visible signal to the world that Canada supports our LGBTQ communities both at home and abroad.

The challenge of the proposed amendments in Bill C-305 will be in establishing clear definitions as to what is meant by administrative, social, cultural, or sports activities or events. For example, many hate crimes and incidents happen in specific LGBTQ-identified neighbourhoods and at community or social events. Places like Church Street in Toronto, Davie Street in Vancouver, and Saint Catherine Street in Montreal all represent clearly identified and civically supported LGBTQ neighbourhoods.

Would these areas receive the same protection that is proposed by Bill C-305? I believe clarity is needed to ensure that these and other important community gathering places, such as pride festivals, which can draw tens of thousands, or in the case of Toronto and Montreal and Vancouver's pride festivals, hundreds of thousands of people.

Sadly, these celebrations of diversity also make them prime targets for hate and extremism. While mischief or crimes to property are one of the most common forms of hate crimes in Canada, most hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are not to property, but directly target individuals in the form of physical and sexual assaults and murder. Indeed, recent hate crime statistics indicate that of all the reported hate crimes committed in Canada, those targeting the LGBTQ community are among the most violent in nature and require serious medical attention. It's not one stab wound, but 40, as these individuals are not seen as persons, but as objects to be destroyed.

Sadly, only one in 10 hate crimes is ever reported to law enforcement. By attacking vulnerable individuals, most hate crimes are designed to instill fear and terror into entire communities. They strike at the very heart of what we believe an inclusive democracy should be, which is to live one's life openly, without threat or fear.

The proposed amendments to Bill C-305 raise several further questions. Will commercial spaces, such as LGBTQ-identified businesses, be protected under the legislation? Places like bars and nightclubs have been important and historic spaces of refuge and resistance for the LGBTQ community. In some cases they were the only safe spaces that existed in many communities.

Our modern pride movement is said to have emanated out of the police raids at the Stonewall Inn, an infamous bar in New York City. And now thanks to one of the final acts of president Obama, it has been recognized as the first national LGBTQ monument in the United States. Stonewall marked the beginning of a newfound source of community identity and activism. Those fateful riots in June of 1969 are the reason why many pride festivals are held around the world today.

The recent Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando, which took the lives of 49 innocent people and wounded 53 others, occurred in a gay-identified nightclub. This is another very recent and tragic example of the extreme hate and violence still directed at the LGBT community. There have been more than 25 documented directed attacks on LGBTQ-identified spaces, where people came to find community and love, but where they were met with hate and death.

Perhaps rather than the piecemeal amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada, all of which are well intended to address hate and prejudice, it's time for a different and more comprehensive approach. In Canada, law enforcement agencies still do not have a common operational definition of hate crimes, which causes challenges in police investigations, reporting, and the accurate collection of important national data. This is why there should be a specific hate crime section and universal definition included in the Criminal Code of Canada.

For example, a possible uniform definition might be this: A hate crime is an offence committed against a person or property, which is motivated in whole or in part to harm or instill hatred towards an identifiable group based on real or perceived race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.

The addition of a specific hate crime section in the Criminal Code of Canada, which could be in similar form to the current section on terrorism, section 83.01, and the education and application of this new hate crime section by police agencies and justice officials would ensure that Canada's diverse communities understand that our government not only advocates and supports peaceful co-existence between communities, but it also enforces the full extent of the law against hate-mongers and extremist groups whose goal is to attack diversity and difference and tear away at Canada's very social fabric.

While the proposed amendments to section 430 are important, hate is not only a crime against property. Rather it disproportionately impacts people, many of whom are the most vulnerable in our society. We must do more to protect and support our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. One look around the world shows us that hate and extremism are on the rise. The question is this. What will be our response to this growing threat? As we recently and tragically witnessed, Canada is not immune.

We must do more to protect our diverse communities. We must do more to give law enforcement the appropriate tools to adequately investigate, track, and prosecute hate-motivated crimes, regardless of whether they attack property or persons. It's time for us to have a much broader conversation about hate and extremism in Canada.

I hope this private member's bill will do just that.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

February 21st, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Marceau, I was really glad to hear of the work and support you've given to Bill C-16 and my colleague, Randall Garrison and his work on that. I think we've identified that gender expression is missing from this bill.

I have one quick question for you. In section 718.2 of the Criminal Code, one of the aggravating factors is also sex. Do you think that should be included in this specific part?

I ask because in my riding I have a building, the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society. It's a women's organization specifically there to help women out of abusive relationships, and if someone were to target that building just because it is helping women, do you think that sex is a key element missing from section 4.1?