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.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 4th, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in relation to Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

The committee has studied the bill and has agreed to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 3rd, 2016 / 3:05 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue to debate the Conservative Party motion.

Tomorrow, we will resume debate on Bill C-26, on the Canada pension plan.

Next week, as the hon. member said, we will be working hard in our constituencies and attending Remembrance Day ceremonies on Friday to collectively stand in honour of all who have fallen in the service of Canada.

When we return on Monday, November 14, the House will then have the fifth day of second reading debate on Bill C-26, the CPP enhancement bill. On Tuesday, the House will also have the fifth day of second reading debate on Bill C-29, the second budget implementation bill.

On Wednesday, the House will consider Bill C-16, the gender identity bill, at report stage, and hopefully at third reading. On Thursday, the House will debate Bill C-25, the business framework bill, at second reading.

November 3rd, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

We don't need to order a reprint of the bill because there were no amendments. So that ends the discussion on Bill C-16.

Mr. Clerk, will you be able to get that to me to report back tomorrow?

Thank you very much.

We'll now go to an in-camera session. We'll take a five-minute break while everybody else leaves the room.

[Proceedings continue in camera]

November 3rd, 2016 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Before we begin, I thought it was important that I express some of my thoughts on the decision of this committee to move directly into clause-by-clause. In my three years as a member of Parliament—it's not that long—I don't recall any precedent of a bill moving directly to clause-by-clause when it has been referred to committee.

I respect all members of this committee, and I hope that each of you has felt that as we have worked together on various bills. We've always been able to work constructively and had good discussions and honest dialogue, even on issues that invoked a lot of passion on both sides of the table here. It's precisely because of my respect and appreciation for members of this committee that I'd like to make a few comments.

I believe that as a committee, we've failed to do what we need to do. I believe that Canadians expect us to conduct a thorough study every time a bill comes to committee, to examine it, and to improve it where possible, and then to send it back to the House for third reading before it moves to the Senate. And I think collectively, as a committee, we have failed to do that; we have failed to discharge our duties. Our job as a parliamentary committee is to give due consideration and thorough study to all bills that are referred to us. We don't do that just to fill the time allotted to us here by our caucus, but we do it because it's a responsibility and a trust that has been given to us by our caucus, by our fellow Canadians, and also by our constituents.

The mandate of our committee states that we will review proposed amendments to federal legislation relating to certain aspects of criminal law, family law, human rights law, and the administration of justice, with respect to—among other statutes—both the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

As you're all aware, both of these statutes are set for amendment in Bill C-16, but I could just as easily have been speaking about any legislation referred to this committee.

I believe we all support initiatives that protect individuals from hate speech. We all believe that individuals deserve equal treatment under the law. Every one of us here condemns bullying or violence of any kind, but it really comes down to this: how do we know what we don't know? There has been much discussion in the media lately concerning the matter of free speech and the state of free speech here in Canada. Do we really know if this bill will have an impact on free speech? No, we don't.

Concerns have been raised about the impact on our immigrant and religious groups who have some deeply held convictions with respect to human sexuality. Have we explored whether there's a need for explicit safeguards to protect these groups? No, we haven't. And can we assure them that the concerns they may have have been studied thoroughly and that they have nothing to worry about? I don't believe we can.

Can any of us answer the questions raised about whether there's room for abuse because of this legislation? For example, when it comes to something as simple as women's athletic scholarships, do we know if a male who identifies or expresses his gender as something other than male would insist on applying this new law so he could qualify for a scholarship expressly intended for a female athlete? No, we don't know that. Had we properly studied this bill, maybe there would have been some recognition that this bill needs to include certain safeguards. We're in no position to answer any of these questions because we just haven't done our job; we haven't had a chance to study and to get feedback from stakeholders.

I believe we have a duty and an obligation to listen to Canadians, not only informally as persons, or through messages by text or email, but formally before this committee, whether they are individuals who support the bill unequivocally, or those who want to see adjustments made, or those who see the bill as fundamentally flawed, we owe it to Canadians to listen, to make informed decisions based on the testimony we hear.

Mr. Chairman, I think that's what Canadians expect of us, and I'm sad to say that we've failed in this duty. For that reason, among others, I will be voting against the bill.

Those are my comments.

November 3rd, 2016 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Hello, everyone.

I would like to call to order this meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Of course, since this will be our last meeting before Remembrance Day, I know that every member of this committee would like to salute our veterans, and all the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, on this very solemn occasion.

Today we're going to start our agenda with a clause-by-clause review of Bill C-16, and afterwards the committee will go in camera for other discussions.

Mr. Falk.

October 27th, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

I appreciate the question.

I certainly recognize the thoughtfulness of the questions that were asked around this table and the expression of support that was reflected in the House of Commons' vote at second reading. I hope it moves very quickly through the House of Commons into the Senate.

I have confidence in the honourable senators to have dialogue and debate around Bill C-16, as they have done on other pieces of legislation. I do hope there is a recognition of the need to have this legislation in place in terms of gender identity and gender expression.

As the Minister of Justice, I am very open, as I have been on previous pieces of legislation, to engage at committee or individually with the honourable senators to answer any questions they may have and to provide any background evidence and studies they would require in making their determination. I very much look forward to the swift passage of Bill C-16 into law.

October 27th, 2016 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

One of the purposes of bringing this legislation forward is to show Canadians, individuals among the trans population, that their rights are protected in law. Many of those individuals feel that they do not have the ability or that there isn't a safe place for them to freely express themselves. We need to move beyond that.

In terms of the significance of Bill C-16, I certainly would point to the many individuals I've met, including a very young lady by the name of Charlie who was present when we introduced this legislation. My interaction with her was incredibly emotional. She feels incredibly empowered that the Government of Canada has recognized that there is discrimination, and that the government is seeking in Parliament, I hope, to do everything we can to eliminate that discrimination so she can be proud of who she is and feel that her views and the way she feels about herself are welcomed, and that we can provide the space for her to be as successful as she wants to be.

That is where the substantive nature of this piece of legislation is reflected, in the eyes and the mouths of the individuals—

October 27th, 2016 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Okay, I accept that.

You indicated in your interview on Power & Politics that you really didn't think there would be a significant change. I'm wondering whether you are aware of any particular cases, and whether you can cite any, that were unable to be prosecuted because of our existing laws but would have seen successful prosecution had Bill C-16 been enacted.

October 27th, 2016 / noon
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

I've had the benefit of meeting with a myriad of stakeholders, advocates in terms of the trans population, in one-on-one conversations, which I take incredibly seriously, and reference the situation that the member speaks about in terms of discrimination of the individual in the law firm.

I've heard many stories in that regard. I've read testimony in the blues around previous iterations of this piece of legislation, and I've heard from the advocates who presented on behalf of the legislation, whether it be around committee tables like this one or in the House. There is a substantive body of testimony, of personal reflections and factual circumstances that, without equivocation, lends itself to ensuring that we pass Bill C-16 as fast as we can.

October 27th, 2016 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Well, first of all, I feel compelled to respond to some of the comments you made. If there are other groups that aren't recognized in the prohibited grounds, or an identifiable group, I would very much like to know what those groups are.

I would further say the reason there are protections in the Canadian Human Rights Act isn't dependent upon, in my view, the number of individuals who experience discrimination, whether that be large or lower. Human rights are human rights, and we need to ensure, whether it's a small group of people or a large group of people, that we provide the necessary protection for those individuals. That's why we've introduced Bill C-16. That's why years of advocacy in this regard have brought us to this place. The prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act are quite broad and are clearly articulated so as not to exclude anybody who is finding discrimination.

I would put the question back to you. You say there are many others who aren't included explicitly. I would very much like to know. Perhaps we can have a conversation about that off-line. I would be interested in your thoughts in that regard.

October 27th, 2016 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

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?

October 27th, 2016 / 11:45 a.m.
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Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada, Department of Justice

William F. Pentney

I think the minister has indicated a willingness and a commitment to look at section 13, but with Bill C-16, Parliament would have an opportunity more immediately to provide at least some protections in the criminal law.

October 27th, 2016 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

First of all, to echo comments from other members around the table, Mr. Garrison, I commend you for your persistent advocacy in this regard, which is probably one of the main reasons we're sitting around this table.

I share your belief that this is something that needs to be done on an urgent basis, which is not to say that having Bill C-16 become law means that's the end of the work that we have to do. I have the same sense of urgency for the work we need to do after, I hope, this bill comes into place.

There are discussions that we're going to need to continue to have on that urgent basis around how we are going to deal with individual circumstances, whether that be travel for trans people, how we accommodate the identification on forms, or how we accommodate individuals in correctional facilities. These are ongoing discussions that I am committed to having, ensuring that we engage with the appropriate departmental officials and engage with stakeholders to get feedback.

Certainly, in particular cases, whether that be somebody who is in a correctional facility, it's going to depend on the particular circumstances of the individual case. But we need to have those conversations and find where those accommodations have taken place and how we can successfully do that more broadly.

I am committed to ensuring that I engage with my colleagues in government as well as looking to what has already started to happen in the area of identification, whether that be immigration, a border crossing, or otherwise.

October 27th, 2016 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

In terms of the concerns that some have expressed in accessing bathrooms or going into...?

I find it troubling as well. I think it's the very fact that questions are raised about concerns in terms of somebody who clearly identifies one way or the other There's a creation of fear of that person going into one bathroom or the other. The fact that we're having this conversation is the very reason that we need to have Bill C-16 in place. I hope, as a society, we will overcome these negative stereotypes and recognize that individuals should be free to be themselves and when they are free to be themselves, our society benefits.

October 27th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

As the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, but specifically as minister, I feel and take great pride and responsibility to ensure that we live in a legal and political system that will protect us regardless of our race, regardless of our sexual orientation, regardless of our faith.

For me, in terms of my responsibility and looking at the substantive amount of work that had come before me in terms of presenting bills back to members of Parliament Siksay and Garrison, as well as member of Parliament Fry, and the trans population across the country, who have elevated this to the point where they have articulated where they felt discrimination, to do our part as legislators and my part as minister, this was pretty much a no-brainer and something that I'm very pleased to have been able to follow up from the many who have advocated this in the past and put forward Bill C-16. I very much hope that this bill goes through our parliamentary process and becomes law, so we can amend those statutes to provide for and eliminate discrimination as much as we can.