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



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


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.


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

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

October 27th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

I appreciate the question and I, even more, appreciate the opportunity to provide an answer.

I believe and am confident that Bill C-16 does something substantial in terms of amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to explicitly and in clear language add gender identity and gender expression as a prohibited ground. I want to acknowledge the decades of advocacy on behalf of the trans community to ensure that we have been able to get to this place wherein, as a Parliament, we have the opportunity to recognize that discrimination against trans individuals, individuals who have a different gender identity or gender expression, are now clearly protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Furthermore, to add them as an identifier to the identifiable groups under the Criminal Code and have gender identity and gender expression added as an aggravating factor in sentencing goes to the intent, which I am very proud of in terms of Canadian values and recognizing that as a country we are stronger in terms of our diversity and we need to ensure that we do as much as possible to eliminate and eradicate discrimination wherever it finds itself in our society.

October 27th, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
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Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

—but in Bill C-16 we are providing clarity with respect to the Canadian Human Rights Act and clarity with respect to the Criminal Code, as well as adding it as an aggravating factor in sentencing, to make the law clear, to ensure that we provide for protection against discrimination for individuals based on their gender identity and gender expression. This provides the necessary clarity and the ability for individuals to feel safe to be themselves.

October 27th, 2016 / 11:10 a.m.
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Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Thank you, Minister, for coming to committee twice in one week.

Mr. Pentney, thank you for coming as well and for the good work you do on our behalf. Mr. Pentney, I'd like to start with you.

In a Department of Justice backgrounder issued on May 17, 2016, the department, which I assume you are responsible for, stated that the Criminal Code also provides that a judge, when sentencing someone for having committed an offence, must consider any relevant aggravating circumstances, including whether the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disabilities, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor. It went on to say that this phrase is broad enough to include gender identity or expression.

That is a backgrounder from your department, sir.

I'm wondering how changing the Criminal Code as this bill is suggesting to do would impact criminal proceedings. What are, really, the palpable differences? Also, are there things that are covered in Bill C-16 that presently don't exist in either the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Criminal Code?

October 27th, 2016 / 11 a.m.
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Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Thank you.

I am certainly pleased to be here with my deputy minister and pleased for the opportunity to be able to present on Bill C-16 today. I look forward to answering any questions.

In my remarks today, I will outline the broad objectives of the bill, take you through some specific amendments, and then respond to three points that were raised during second reading debate.

Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, is an important step forward in protecting the equality, dignity, security, and freedom of transgender and gender-diverse Canadians.

Trans Canadians, like all Canadians, should have an equal opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have. Indeed, all Canadians should be free to be themselves, without fear of discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crime. Sadly, this is not yet the experience of many trans people.

As you are aware, trans and gender-diverse people face an elevated risk of violence, including physical and sexual assault, and verbal, physical, and sexual harassment. They also face significant obstacles in obtaining and advancing in employment, and not because of their lack of qualifications but because of discrimination.

Yet our human rights protections and criminal law do not explicitly protect this vulnerable group. With Bill C-16, Parliament has the opportunity to affirm in clear language that trans and gender-diverse people are entitled to equal protection from discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crime.

Canada is strengthened by its diversity. Diversity flourishes when our laws and institutions promote social inclusion and participation for all, which is fundamentally what this bill seeks to do. To this end, Bill C-16 proposes to make three amendments.

It would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add two prohibited grounds of discrimination: gender identity and gender expression. As a result of this amendment, it would be a discriminatory practice, in matters of employment and the provision of goods, services, facilities, and accommodation in the federal jurisdiction, to disadvantage people because of their gender identity or gender expression.

This bill also proposes to amend the Criminal Code. It would expand the list of identifiable groups that are protected from hate propaganda by adding gender identity or expression to the list.

Finally, it would make it clear that hatred on the basis of gender identity or expression should be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing for criminal offences.

It is not the first time that parliamentarians are studying this issue. Indeed, this House has already passed substantially the same bill twice before. Moreover, most provinces have already made similar amendments. I believe these amendments are overdue. Nevertheless, it is evident from the debate in the House that there are questions about why we need to enact these amendments and what they will do. I listened carefully to the debate and I acknowledged the perspectives of my fellow parliamentarians. I would like to address some of the questions today.

Some wondered whether the amendments are necessary. It was pointed out that trans people may already complain of discrimination on the ground of sex under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and that the hate crime sentencing provision is open-ended and would therefore already include gender identity and expression. Allow me to offer three responses.

First, Canadians should be able to turn to our fundamental laws, like the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, and see their rights and obligations spelled out clearly. Promoting access to justice means working on an ongoing basis to make our laws as clear and easy as possible for everyone to understand.

Trans people who feel they have been discriminated against should not have to become experts in legal interpretation to advocate for their basic rights. Employers and service providers should know explicitly what legal duties they have towards their employees and customers. Adding these grounds to the Canadian Human Rights Act as well as the Criminal Code would ensure they are clear for all to see.

Second, Canadians expect parliamentarians to speak on their behalf to the social issues of the day and to affirm their fundamental rights. With this bill, Parliament has the opportunity to affirm that all Canadians should be free and feel safe to be themselves. The House can stand with trans and gender-diverse people to affirm their equal rights.

It is more than a symbolic gesture; this is about embedding new language of respect and inclusion in two important laws that set basic norms about how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis. This is about the Government of Canada sending a clear message that all Canadians are protected by and have the benefit of the law.

The third reason will be of special interest to this committee in its role of studying and recommending improvements to Canada's justice system. This legislation would fill an important gap in the criminal law. The Criminal Code's hate propaganda offences currently extend to the ground of sex, but there is no mention of gender identity or expression. As you know, gender identity is not the same characteristic as sex. Since criminal prohibitions are interpreted narrowly, in order to ensure that the offence protects against hate propaganda which targets trans and gender-diverse individuals because of their gender identity and expression, it is important for Parliament to legislate explicitly on this point.

We also heard questions about why gender identity and expression are not defined and whether their meaning is too subjective. Again, let me offer some comments.

Gender identity and expression are now found in most provincial human rights codes. Commissions, tribunals, and courts are expected to elaborate the meaning of such grounds in a reasonable way, with reference to the purpose of the law. They clarify these grounds, and indeed all grounds, through application of real-life examples, allowing the law to respond to individual situations in line with its purpose.

This does not mean that grounds are completely open-ended or that people can claim protection on a whim. There are real limits to what any ground can mean. The Federal Court of Appeal has insisted that the grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act must be interpreted in ways that do not trivialize the Canadian Human Rights Act's important role in the legal system. By way of comparison, the ground of religion is also undefined in the act, yet one's religious beliefs are subjectively determined. As the Supreme Court of Canada has stated, legal protection depends on the religious beliefs being sincere, a requirement that tribunals and courts are used to assessing on an individual basis.

Finally, we've heard that there are diverse understandings of sex and gender in Canada. Some may ask whether these amendments would lead to criminal prosecution of people who express disapproval of diverse gender identities or expressions. The answer is no. As explained in the statement of potential charter impacts that I tabled at second reading, the amendments to the hate propaganda provisions respect freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression in a free and democratic society. The criminal prohibitions on hate propaganda impose a narrow limit on expression. This limit is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, given the important objective being pursued, namely, to target extreme and dangerous speech that one, advocates genocide; two, wilfully promotes hatred; or three, incites hatred in a public place likely to cause a breach of the peace against vulnerable groups. The target is speech that promotes unusually strong and deeply felt emotions of detestation or vilification, which is far from the expression of religious faith, dissenting views, or even opinion that some may find offensive.

The Canadian Human Rights Act is concerned with protecting for all persons, equal access to goods, services, and employment in the federally regulated sector. It is not concerned with regulating the expression of one's beliefs. Rather, the act prohibits discriminatory practices, including harassment when harassment is inflicted in the employment context or in the provision of goods, services, facilities, or accommodation available to the general public, commercial premises, or residential accommodation.

As interpreted by the courts and tribunals, harassment involves serious incidents of persistent treatment that accumulates to create a hostile environment in these contexts.

Many other topics have been raised in debate in the House; however, several of them concerned matters of provincial jurisdiction, and others referred to situations that are outside the scope of the bill, keeping in mind that the Canadian Human Rights Act applies only in the federal sector. This means that it applies to the federal government in its role as employer and service provider and to the federally regulated private sector, including crown corporations, interprovincial and international transportation companies, telecommunications, the postal service, and chartered banks.

To conclude, I encourage this committee to focus on the real subject matter of this bill. It is about equal opportunity for trans and gender-diverse persons in employment and in access to goods and services. It is about increasing their sense of security and freedom from the most extreme forms of hate speech, including calls for genocide and its promotion. It's about denouncing what we know are still all-too-frequent acts of violence and other crimes when they target persons out of bias, prejudice, or hatred based on an individual's gender identity or expression.

Surely we can all agree that these objectives are pressing and in urgent need of being addressed. Bill C-16 would make the amendments needed to pursue these crucial objectives.

Thank you for the opportunity. I look forward to questions.

October 27th, 2016 / 11 a.m.
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The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

It's a great pleasure to call this meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to order, as this committee proceeds to its study of Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

It is a pleasure to welcome Mr. Garrison to replace Mr. Rankin at today's meeting. Welcome, Mr. Garrison.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 1:25 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to address an important piece of legislation. I applaud in particular the Minister of Justice, who has introduced two substantial pieces of legislation in a relatively short time span. I admire the efforts and the work that she, through her department, has done in order to present Bill C-16 to the House. I understand that the legislation was part of the mandate letter that was provided to her by the Prime Minister. That speaks to the degree of importance that the Prime Minister, cabinet, and the government as a whole, any political party, place on the legislation.

I listened to the many speeches that have taken place today and I have found that all political parties support Bill C-16. We do not often get that sort of support and it is worthy of notice.

I would like to again highlight the effort put into this file by the Minister of Justice and her department. This did not just happen overnight. When legislation is brought forward a significant contribution is made by many different stakeholders from virtually every region of our country. It is important that we acknowledge the efforts of the many individuals who have allowed us to get to this point where we are now debating Bill C-16.

It is important to recognize that Ottawa played an important role, a strong leadership role with respect to the legislation. I will get back to that leadership role, but it is important that we recognize that there are other jurisdictions.

I asked the member for Richmond Hill if I could quote him specifically in his response to a question because it is pertinent to today's debate. He said, “many other provinces and territories across Canada had adopted legislation that sought to protect the rights of trans and gender diverse persons in Canada. Most Canadian provinces and territories now list gender identity, and some have included gender expression, among the prohibited grounds of discrimination under their human rights law.” He also said, “The human rights laws in the Northwest Territories, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, while the human rights laws in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, including Newfoundland and Labrador, prohibit discrimination based on both gender identity and gender expression.”

When members think of Bill C-16 and how they might vote, they need to recognize that Ottawa, albeit an important player, has a leadership role to play. It is also important to note that while most provinces have amended their human rights laws to provide explicit protection as noted above, gender identity and/or gender expression had previously been implicitly included in some jurisdictions under other explicitly enumerated grounds, such as sex, as a matter of policy, and/or as a result of court decisions.

It is important to recognize that while New Brunswick, Nunavut, and Yukon have not amended their legislation to explicitly include gender identity or gender expression in their laws, the New Brunswick and Yukon human rights commissions have published guidelines on human rights that indicate that gender identity discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.

It is important to recognize that across Canada we are moving toward a more modern and a more inclusive society. The legislation would align with Canadians' wishes and truly represent them.

As a representative of the great constituency of Winnipeg North, I believe that I represent all the people of Winnipeg North. I want the members of my constituency to feel comfortable knowing that I will represent their interests first and foremost. This is something I do in different ways. For example, in caucus discussions, we know that we can say whatever we want. We know that at times there are some limitations in the chamber regarding what a member might want to say. However, I want my constituents to understand that no matter what their background is, whether based on ethnicity, religion, or belief, when coming to talk to me, I will not discriminate in any way so that I can represent their interests, no matter what percentage of the population they might claim to be part of in my constituency. I say that because this debate should not be about one's faith or religion; it is a fundamental right we are debating.

Back in 1948, the United Nations brought forward a universal declaration about the importance of human rights. Since that day, there has been the intention and goodwill of politicians around the world to honour it by bringing forward ideas, resolutions, and legislation to try to embody what that declaration was proclaiming.

We often hear about the lack of studies and reports. The nice thing about Google is that it does not take much to get a sense of what might be out there. I would like to make reference to a report I was able to identify. I would encourage members who are having a difficult time with this issue to try to get a better understanding of what many individuals in our society are trying to come to grips with. Many are trying to make a difference by, for example, seeing legislation such as Bill C-16 pass.

It is a report by the Trans Pulse project team in Ontario. I would like to provide some selected comments from that report.

I will start on page 1, which highlights how effective this report was, and still is.

It states:

To date, the project has produced 14 academic research articles in peer-reviewed journals, 5 reports created at the request of government or community service agencies, and 8 e-bulletins to provide short summaries of key findings in easily accessible formats.

I would emphasize that this report originated in Canada's largest province, Ontario.

It posed this question: “Who are Trans People in Ontario?” I love the response. I believe it is appropriate for me to read the response to that question.

It states:

Trans people in Ontario report a full range of ages and occupations, and are geographically distributed across the province proportionally to the population.

This is something members have actually raised. This is not just an urban issue. It goes on:

They belong to all ethno-racial groups, and 7% identify as Aboriginal. Of course, trans people also form families: 44% are in a committed relationship and 24% are parents.

While they may not have had language for it at the time, 59% knew that their gender identity did not match their body before the age of 10, and 80% had this knowledge by the age of 14. Gender identity is often clear years before people socially transition to live in their core gender. While approximately 80% of Ontario trans people have socially transitioned to live their day-to-day lives in their core gender, most full-time, only 8% report that they had begun living in their core gender by age 14. It is import[ant] to note that there is a lot of sex and gender diversity within trans communities. About three-quarters of trans people indicate they need to transition medically, which may involve different combinations of hormones and/or surgery for different individuals. Though trans women have received greater media attention, there are about equal numbers of trans people on male-to-female and female-to-male spectrums in Ontario.

This is an important point.

About 1 in 5 trans people do not identify as male or female, or even as primarily masculine or feminine. These more gender-fluid people can identify as both male and female, neither male nor female, or as something else entirely (e.g. as another traditional gender recognized by Aboriginal or other cultural groups).

The report provides some extensive polling, which I thought was quite interesting. The report talks a lot about the discrimination and violence experienced by trans persons.

In everyday life, trans people experience the effects of living in a society in which stigma and discrimination against trans people are common. In addition to instances of discrimination and violence that would constitute human rights violations, trans Ontarians nearly universally report that they have experienced some type of “everyday transphobia”. For example, 96% had heard that trans people were not normal, 73% had been made fun of for being trans, and 78% reported their family had been hurt or embarrassed. These daily indignities can take their toll; 77% worried about growing old as a trans person, and 67% feared they would die young.

There are some interesting numbers the report releases, but let there be no doubt that it is common that there is discrimination, violence, and structural barriers for trans people.

Continuing with the report, on the issue of violence, it states:

Trans people are the targets of specifically directed violence; 20% had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans, and another 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed but not assaulted. Many did not report these assaults to the police; in fact, 24% reported having been harassed by police. Trans people also face violence in institutional settings such as prisons; 6% of Trans PULSE participants had been in prison or jail, and one-third of them reported experiencing violence due to their gender....

It continues:

The majority (57%) of trans Ontarians had avoided public washrooms due to these safety fears....

Of those who had experienced physical and/or sexual violence due to being trans, 97% report avoiding at least one type of public space....

The impact of discrimination and violence on social participation and health is something that is very prevalent.

Mental health and suicide are very serious issues. A graph of the proportion of trans Ontarians reporting past-year suicidality by past experiences of transphobic assault or harassment has very interesting numbers. It is going up.

We need to look at what Bill C-16 is proposing to do. Canada celebrates diversity and inclusion. All Canadians should feel safe being themselves. As promised, the government has introduced legislation to add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and to list it in the distinguishing characteristics of identifiable groups protected by the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.

Our government believes that all people can live according to their gender identity and can be protected from discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crimes. We are committed to ensuring that trans and gender-diverse Canadians are free from discrimination and are protected from hate propaganda and hate crimes. Bill C-16 would ensure that protection from discrimination based on an individual's gender, identity, or expression is included in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The Canadian Human Rights Act was proclaimed in Parliament back in 1977. In reading through it, I found something worth repeating, which is the actual purpose of the act. It states:

The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle 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 think all Canadians understand the importance of the Canadian Human Rights Act. There are agencies, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission, that investigate issues and pass them on to the Human Rights Tribunal. There is an apparatus, whether through legislation or our bureaucracy, to ensure that discrimination is marginalized in our country.

Today we have before us legislation that would give more strength to what Canadians have accepted overwhelmingly, the Canadian Human Rights Act. That is what the government is proposing to do, recognizing that transgender people are suffering discrimination far beyond what the average Canadian suffers. Incorporating it into the Canadian Human Rights Act is the right thing to do.

If members listened to the speeches this morning, this has crossed party lines. I appreciate the opinions of all, but I would emphasize that this should not be a debate about faith. It should be a debate about human rights. It should be about discrimination and the role parliamentarians can play in minimizing discrimination.

It goes back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights back in 1948 and the leadership role Canada can play. We have a Prime Minister who has mandated that the Minister of Justice make this legislation a priority so that it is passed during the first year of this government's mandate.

We recognize how important it is as parliamentarians to say that we will not stand for violence, bullying, and discrimination, When we are provided the opportunity to protect those rights and ensure there is a higher sense of equality, we will step up to the plate and support this legislation.

I appreciate and respect the opinions of all, but I look at this issue as a human rights issue first and foremost. We owe it to all our constituents, no matter where they come from or what their perspective might be, to represent them well. When we have legislation of this nature, which would ensure that sense of equality, we need to stand and be counted in support of the legislation.

I understand there is some reservation from opposition members. Let us attempt to address that by allowing the bill to go to committee and see if those points can be addressed, and then make that final decision on third reading. I encourage members of the House to pass this legislation at second reading, allow it to go to committee, and see what the members of the public and others have to say. How wonderful that would be in recognition of the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed many decades ago.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 1:10 p.m.
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Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep your last point in mind as I address my comments through you to the House.

I am also rising to speak to Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. It is a bit of an innocuous title to a bill that requires parliamentarians to reflect on some personal and fundamental values. It is also important to note that the bill will likely receive majority support, while we must acknowledge that some of my colleagues and many Canadians do have concerns about what the bill actually means.

I will be supporting the bill at second reading, and I hope my remarks will help shape a thoughtful dialogue, especially for those who are less comfortable, and also will address some of the specific concerns I have heard during the debate in the House today.

First, it is important to talk about the technical aspects of the bill. Bill C-16 would make three changes to the law. It would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression. This amendment would provide explicit protection to gender, transgender, and gender diverse persons. That is from discrimination in areas such as employment opportunities and access to goods and services.

The bill would also amend the Criminal Code in two ways. It would prohibit hate propaganda against groups that are identifiable based on gender identity or gender expression, and certainly an example is extremist literature that is especially targeting them.

Finally, it would amend the Criminal Code to clarify that sentencing for a criminal offence may be greater if the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate.

As stated by the minister, the objectives of the bill are to recognize and reduce vulnerability of trans and other gender diverse persons to the discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crimes and to affirm their equal status as Canadians.

I think the statistics are irrefutable that transgender people face high levels of discrimination and also a high risk of violent crime. Recent research by Egale Canada said 95% of transgendered students feel unsafe at school and nine out of 10 have been verbally harassed due to their gender expression.

I did some research as I was looking at my comments today, and I went to a document that the World Health Organization has put out. It is very interesting. It talks about gender identity versus sex, and it says we often tend to confuse and mix the two together. As a quick look at what it calls sex, typically females are XX and there are males who are XY, but babies are born with chromosome abnormalities—Turner syndrome, XXX females, hermaphroditism, and a whole host of issues—but clearly it says that is sex and it is determined by a range of chromosome complements, hormone balance, and phenotypic variants, which determine sex.

It puts out gender as being more of a social construct, and in western countries it has tended to be very binary in nature, whereas in other cultures it has been much more fluid. Certainly we look at sex and we predominantly have males and females, XX and XY, but we do look at there being a whole variant within sex. Having not a binary philosophy around how we look at gender, as many other cultures do, is something we should be looking at.

This is not an abstract discussion. I think everyone here knew people in high school who were much more comfortable with their circle of friends; and we just heard one of my colleagues talk about Terry, who had to run home from school to escape bullying and abuse. I think many of us had friends in high school whom we were aware of. Also, perhaps it was our mother's aunt, whom we loved as a child but perhaps wondered what made her seem a little different, and we could not quite put our finger on it.

We have talked a bit here about what the bill is. We have talked a bit about the WHO definition. I am going to focus some comments also on some arguments that have been put forward today against supporting the bill.

The first one is that transgendered people are already protected under the human rights code. The debate has been fairly comprehensive in that area and I have been convinced that there is not full protection. There are some loopholes in terms of our human rights code, and sex and sexual orientation do not completely cover off the protection that is necessary. It was certainly a valid argument. I have listened to both sides and I believe there are some gaps in terms of protection.

The other point is that this is a bit of a symbolic affirmation as well. Not only would it close a loophole, but it is important and symbolic. Here I would like to share a local example.

We had an editorial on our local radio that talked about whether we even needed pride parades anymore, that it is sort of over and done with, “Let's get on, everyone is accepted”. It was responded to by another local journalist who quite clearly articulated that if people thought homophobia and transphobia were over in Canada it was perhaps because they had never been queer. She then went on to talk about what it was like for her personally to move to a new community, to wonder if she was going to be accepted, and the challenges that she had in her everyday life.

The other thing we are hearing about is that perhaps there would be heterosexual predators who would take advantage of the bill and use it in terms of going after our young daughters and sons. I have been looking at recent examples of horrific crimes. Today we hear about someone in Nova Scotia, Klutzy the Clown. Last week, we heard about a teacher, a sports coach. We have heterosexual predators out there and our children must be protected from them, but I do not think that a trans person would use a single-occupancy restroom in order to perpetrate these crimes.

It is kind of interesting. I have thought about this at great length because I think that the people who have this concern are very concerned. We have a single washroom that we created in the park, and it was created for people with disabilities, for trans folks, and for others to access. It is a single washroom. The reaction that we got back because we had created a gender-neutral washroom was very stunning. On airplanes, there are gender-neutral washrooms.

This was a very interesting experience. My daughter went to university and she was staying in residence. I thought it was very strange that it was not only a co-ed floor but there were co-ed washrooms and showers at the university. I thought that was very strange and wondered how it was all going to work out. I asked her about it and she said that it was sort of strange at first but after the first week it was just normal in terms of that particular co-ed set-up. We perhaps worry about the bathroom issue in a way that we should not.

In conclusion, again I certainly know that we will be hearing more about this particular debate in committee and when we bring it back to the House. By supporting the bill in Parliament, we would send a collective, strong message and comfort to the many trans and gender diverse Canadians who have had a very difficult path in life. Again, I look forward to the continued debate.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 12:50 p.m.
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Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been quoted often as saying we are stronger because of our diversity. I could not agree more. What makes Canada great is our pluralism and inclusiveness. However, what deeply concerns me is the statement that was made and echoed by the Minister of Justice this morning, which is that we must go beyond tolerance of differences to acceptance.

The reason I do not agree with this thinking is because it literally removes what makes Canada the great democracy it is, where we all have the right to think differently and make different choices and express contrary views without fear of repercussion. What we must do is accept all people. What we must not accept is the loss of respect for differences, views, and choices. We must accept people while respecting various views and varying choices.

I forgot to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

Today, we are asked to consider extending these protections to include gender identity and gender expression. As elected officials, we have a duty to the Canadian public to exercise the best judgment we can to ensure that we continue to protect those already protected under the law, while considering the needs of those asking for additional considerations.

How does gender identity and expression differ from protection provisions already extended under the 1996 Canadian Human Rights Act to sexual orientation? Typically, a person's gender is consistent with the biological sex characteristics, resulting in an individual dressing and/or behaving in a way which is perceived by others as within generally accepted cultural gender norms. Gender, we are told today, is no longer based just on biological sex characteristics. Rather, it is based on what one feels he or she is or what one identifies with. Male, female, agender, genderqueer, trans man, trans woman, transgender, non-binary, even questioning, or unsure are some of the options. The vocabulary is continuing to evolve for those seeking new roles or identities for themselves.

Gender expression refers to the ways in which one may opt to manifest or express their masculinity or femininity. Sexual orientation can include heterosexual, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, queer, questioning, or unsure, same gender loving, or others. If options for identifying oneself extend to questioning and unsure, how do we protect that? How does an individual know if he or she falls in this category? How is an employer supposed to know if he or she falls in this category? What about lawmakers and enforcement services?

With respect to the other provisions under the law, we provide citizens, businesses, service providers, and lawmakers with clear definitions, as we should. Will a new law protect people who have committed to and changed their identification, as well as those who want to change or think they want to change, or perhaps they have been thinking for the past couple of weeks they want to change, or in the last hour? It is a very broad spectrum we are asked to consider today, from “I feel like a woman today" to someone who has completely committed to the process, changed him or herself, has gone through transformational surgery, and now wants protection from discrimination.

As a business owner, if a male employee has been going to the men's washroom for 10 years, suddenly decides to go to the women's washroom and people hear a woman scream, is it discrimination to ask him to leave? Is the man just opting to put his toe in the water, so to speak, and now has the right to, or would a pervert possibly be kicked out? Where does the onus of responsibility lie to determine what the true circumstances are? Is this not putting an inordinate amount of responsibility on our employers, businesses, and service providers? Clearly, the females in this instance have rights, too, or do they? As do the businesses or service operators, or do they?

As a small business owner in a small family community, we have respectfully indicated to customers that we could not provide them the services they requested. Fortunately, they understood. Our consultation with a lawyer affirmed that we had the right to determine who our clientele was as he also had the right to determine what cases he wanted to take. Where the challenge exists is this. Tools are being used widely to promote a loss of diversity, not a growth in diversity. To think differently is being attacked with hate language and terminology that says, “If you disagree with me, then you hate me”, and that, in turn, is impacting other people's freedoms and choices.

I have taught my children to know what their values are and to make good choices based on those values. I have also taught them to value everyone, regardless of how their values and choices may differ from their own.

In the community we lived in until six years ago, there are mosques, gurdwaras, temples, and churches. The church that my husband pastored had the Christmas story told in 13 different languages. There were 83 different people groups, and my children were the minority as white Caucasians in their school. They have friends of different faiths, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientation. They have relationships regardless of their differences. This is true diversity and true acceptance.

I greatly respect the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke and the way that he reached out to the gay community of refugees coming to Canada. At the first briefing by the Minister of Immigration, the member asked how the gay community here could connect with a Syrian gay community coming into Canada as they were routinely discriminated against, harmed, and murdered. I expressed my absolute support for his desire to help them make the transition to Canada a safe and positive one.

No one should be persecuted or discriminated against for their choices or beliefs. However, the same could be said of the Yazidis and Christians, who are one of the four most vulnerable groups identified by the United Nations, who also are not in the camps at all, because they will be murdered there, and who often do not make it there, because they had been thrown overboard and drowned before they reached safety.

The question has to be asked. What is to be done when values and beliefs of individuals and faiths collide in Canada? Do we support one and attack another?

This is what is happening, and I fear could happen on an even larger scale when claims are made to the Human Rights Commission. Coexistence is what makes diversity great, not an artificial inclusiveness that simply moves the markers and tosses that which does not agree out of the equation by defining a different view, belief, or right to share that perspective as hateful.

As we start down this road, are we prepared to extend rights to every incarnation and how many more are going to evolve? Should something as important as our human rights charter and Criminal Code be this fluid?

I had also hoped to provide a definite number respecting how many individuals were requiring gender identity and gender expression protection. Unfortunately, like its definition, there are no clear hard core numbers or studies readily available for reference.

The gender identity and gender expression population is estimated to range from 1% to 3%. Every population is important and should not be discriminated against. However, should the needs of a small and broadly-defined minority of 1% to 3% outweigh the concerns of the general population that equally has and share those rights?

As discussed, the labels for this population are continually morphing and evolving, and the numbers that identify with this population are somewhat dubious at best. In our zeal to want to be seen as fair and open-minded, we seem to have forgotten the faces of those whose equal rights also exist. If we are in fact prepared to pass this law and let everyone do whatever they want on any given day or whim, do we not have a responsibility to ensure that we are not now discriminating against the larger population's health, safety, and quality of life?

Proponents of the bill should or would have no issue, I would think, with a grown man coming into a women's locker room to shower, as the bill would allow a self-identifying or expressing man in this case to do so if he so chose. However, aside from those who are comfortable with it, there is a large percentage of the population that is not.

Women's rest rooms and locker rooms are traditionally family changing rooms. By passing the bill, are we then be saying that a person's need to express his or her gender or identity foreshadows the mother's need to also protect her child from seeing a naked man at, let us say, a YMCA children's swim class? Have we really gone this far in our society? Is this really where the majority of Canadians want to evolve or aspire to?

With incidents of violence increasing against women and children, and, yes, against men, and with incidents of sexual predators on the rise, child kidnappings and so forth, and we see it all the time in our news, is it prudent for responsible legislators to expand this umbrella so irresponsibly?

To ask the majority of Canadians to give up their own rights to privacy and to gender identity and expression, and bear the cost for the same, is asking too much. I am confident that a good portion of our society agrees with this.

For these reasons, I accept, embrace, and support the rights of all individuals to live without discrimination for their values, beliefs, and choices in Canada, and so I cannot support Bill C-16.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 12:50 p.m.
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Whitby Ontario


Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Richmond Hill for his eloquent and detailed explanation of why he supports Bill C-16.

At the end of his speech, he highlighted what was happening in Ontario and in Richmond Hill with respect to the legislation they adopted. Could he elaborate on what other provinces and territories have done to advance the cause for gender identity and gender expression through their legislation?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 12:40 p.m.
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Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take great pride in having the opportunity to participate in this debate and lend my support on such an important and much-awaited bill, Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

The bill proposes to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity or gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination. It also would amend the Criminal Code to add gender identity or expression to the definition of identifiable group for the purpose of the hate propaganda offences and to the list of aggravating circumstances for hate crime sentencing. Furthermore, it would allow longer sentences for criminal offenders motivated by hate based on gender identity or gender expression.

In simple words, the bill would recognize that trans individuals are equally deserving of protection from discrimination based on gender identity as are all Canadians protected from discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, and conviction of an offence for which a pardon has been granted.

I am also proud that it is a Liberal government proposing the bill, just as it was a Liberal government in 1996 that amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation in this list. It has been 20 years since that aspect of Canada's human rights act was amended. It is now 2016, and it is time that we modernize our laws to truly reflect our society and our diversity. Of course, I strongly acknowledge and commend my NDP colleagues for their leadership in the previous session in the promotion and raising awareness of these gaps in our legislation to the House.

As has previously, repeatedly been mentioned and is certainly a point worth reiterating, trans and gender diverse persons have been disproportionately impacted by discrimination and hate crimes. A survey conducted by Trans Pulse project in 2010 showed that out of 500 transgendered respondents in Ontario, 13% had been fired and 18% were refused employment based on transgendered status. Twenty per cent had been physically or sexually assaulted, but unfortunately not all of these assaults were reported to the police.

It does not stop there. Trans individuals also face daily bullying at home, in school, in the streets, in malls, and in many other places. According to a large-scale survey of LGBTQ across Canada conducted by Egale Canada, 68% of trans students reported being verbally harassed about their perceived gender identity; 49% of the trans students have experienced sexual harassment in school in the last year, as of 2011; and 90% of trans youth reported hearing trans-phobic comments daily directed at them, but what is sad is that 20% of these students reported hearing some of these comments from the teachers.

In passing the legislation we would not only show transgender and gender diverse individuals that they do deserve protection, that they are recognized by our government, and that our country's legislation does protect and represent all Canadians regardless of their gender identity or expression. As well, by enshrining trans and gender diverse individuals as a separate recognized group in our law, law enforcement agencies would be better able to carry out their duties.

Let me explain. As it stands, our law enforcement personnel are not as properly trained to understand and respond to crimes related to gender identity as they should be. Furthermore, because there is no separate recognition of trans and gender diverse persons in our legislation, it also means that we lack the appropriate data from our government to have a better understanding of the depth of the problem in our society. Without this understanding and without data, it will be difficult to appropriately address the issue.

Additionally, the impact of hate crimes and bullying does not end at the point at which the act has ended. The impact has far more severe ramifications on the mental health of the victims. In a survey conducted by Trans Pulse in Ontario in 2014, it was reported that of those who have experienced physical assault, 56% have seriously considered suicide and 29% have attempted suicide. In the same survey, 35% of those that have faced verbal abuse seriously considered suicide, compared to 8% who attempted suicide. What is concerning is that 28% of individuals have seriously considered and 4% attempted suicide even though they have not been subject to physical nor verbal abuse.

What this suggests is that mental health issues are rampant amongst this segment of the population in Canada. We must act now to address these issues. Today, we are taking the first step in introducing the legislation. However, in the future, further steps must be taken, which will be facilitated by the passing of the bill. These steps would include providing adequate training to our health care providers to assess and quickly react to possible mental health trigger warning signs, to identify the root causes of mental health issues, and to assist victims in finding appropriate recourse through the law.

Next steps would be promotional and advocacy campaigns that raise awareness of these issues, that provide adequate training to all stakeholders in question, and that show trans and gender diverse Canadians that they are included, respected, protected, and cared for.

I am proud to come from a riding that has already enshrined gender expression and gender identity in its policy. For instance, in 2014, Richmond Hill, through its employment accommodation procedure, aligned its employment policy with the Ontario Human Rights Code and included gender identity and gender expression under the definition of protected groups, whereby individuals from the trans and gender diverse population can seek recourse for employment discrimination through this policy.

Ontario has adopted such a bill into its legislation. Richmond Hill has adopted such a policy into its regulations. It is time for the federal government to follow suit. I look forward to being part of a society that is tolerant and inclusive, achieved by passing a bill that seeks to achieve just that.

I encourage all my colleagues to support the bill.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 12:35 p.m.
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Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, violence on any level is unacceptable. Bill C-16 would ensure that there are adequate protections for transgendered individuals in our legislation.

When our diverse communities know that they have grounds to stand on that are actually written in our Criminal Code and in our Canadian Human Rights Act, they are empowered to say, when they get to that door and are turned away or are not treated in a respectful way that pays attention to their injustice, that they have grounds to stand on. They can fight with others who are their allies to ensure that it never happens to anyone else in the future.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 12:35 p.m.
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Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns I have about the implementation of Bill C-16 is based on testimony we recently heard at the status of women committee in our study on violence against women. In this testimony, we heard that in one location, 40% of the women who showed up at the police station claiming to have been sexually assaulted were turned away at the door.

How will the government ensure that Bill C-16, if supported, will be rolled out in a way that will take reports of discrimination or violence against transgendered people seriously?