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.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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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Liberal

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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Liberal

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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Conservative

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?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 12:25 p.m.
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Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Richmond Hill today.

I am very honoured to stand here today to support Bill C-16, which aims to amend both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to add gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.

Canadians rightly expect their government, and their laws, to respect their fundamental values. It is something Canada does very well on so many fronts, but we all know that we can do better.

I am very pleased to be here today to talk about why I believe that this bill will do a great service for Canadians by bringing our current legislation more in line with some of the values we hold dear.

We, as Canadians, are fortunate to live in a country that embraces diversity. We see diversity as a strength and are rightly proud to celebrate those from all walks of life who contribute to the Canadian tapestry and our society.

We also know that diversity in our society did not happen by accident. The extension and protection of rights has been a work in progress for more than half a century. The two items we are here to discuss amending today, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate speech section of the Criminal Code, are fundamental to that work.

The changes proposed today are another step toward our goal of being a society free from bias and discrimination and in which every Canadian is valued and protected. The Canadian Human Rights Act, in conjunction with human rights legislation provincially and territorially, has played, and continues to play, a fundamental role in ensuring that Canadians, regardless of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other grounds, can participate fully and equally in all aspects of Canadian life.

Unfortunately, we know that trans and gender-diverse persons have been, and continue to be, disproportionately impacted by discrimination and hate crimes. This, quite simply, is unacceptable.

We can, and we must, do more to ensure that gender-diverse Canadians are free from discrimination and are protected from hate propaganda and hate crimes. Bill C-16 would be critical in addressing the real and dangerous discrimination faced by gender-diverse and transgender individuals.

I would first like to speak about the amendments this bill would make to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The act is crucial in ensuring that Canadians have equal opportunities to live, work, and carry out their daily lives without discrimination, but it is not working for everyone. In a 2010 survey of 500 transgender individuals in Ontario, 13% of respondents indicated that they had been fired, and 18% were refused employment based upon their transgender status.

Again, this is unacceptable.

By adding gender expression and gender identity to the list of prohibited discriminatory grounds, we would make sure that all Canadians, regardless of gender identity, would have equal opportunities to participate in every facet of Canadian life.

Inclusion of gender identity as prohibited grounds for discrimination would be much more than just words on paper. It would provide individuals who have complaints with access to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It would provide a fair and comprehensive process to ensure the protection of their rights and an opportunity for redress in cases where those rights were not respected.

It is my steadfast belief that when we extend and protect the rights of some Canadians, we do a great service not for just those individuals but for all Canadians.

Respect for human rights is so fundamental to who we are as Canadians that whenever we can act to do better to protect and enshrine rights in this country, we have a duty to do so.

Bill C-16 would also make important amendments to the Criminal Code to add gender expression and identity to the list of distinguishing characteristics of an identifiable group to ensure greater protection from hate speech and crimes motivated by hate.

The same survey I referenced earlier found that 20% of transgender individuals who responded had been physically and sexually assaulted, and far too many of these crimes were not reported to police.

Violence and hateful propaganda must never be tolerated in a fair and peaceful country like Canada, but when those crimes are motivated by hatred of specific or identifiable groups, it is incumbent upon us to do more to protect those targeted individuals and to hold the people accountable for their actions. The amendments to the Criminal Code proposed in this bill would provide increased protections for gender-diverse individuals and would permit longer sentences in cases where a crime was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate.

We are under no illusion that the changes in the bill will end all discrimination against transgender and diverse populations, but it is an important step, one that builds on the advocacy work that those in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies have done for many years. I am proud that the Government of Canada is now catching up. These changes would put in place fundamental protections needed to ensure a basic level of protection.

There is more we can do. We must ensure equity for gender-diverse Canadians, but it starts with ensuring their inclusion in the Criminal Code.

On a personal note, it is particularly important to me to speak today to the bill, because as a black person and as a woman, there have been periods in Canadian history when people who look like me were not viewed as persons. During Women's History Month, and particularly today, on Persons Day, it is important to recognize this. I am a generation removed from those fights, so I recognize that the privilege given to me to serve in the House of Commons requires me, it is my duty, to do all I can to help extend those rights to all.

Further, I have three children at home, and in everything I do I cannot help but think about how it will affect their lives. It is important to me that they know that they are growing up in a Canada where same-sex marriage is the law of the land. This particular bill is a further extension of the values we hold dear and the values my children, as young as they are, hold very dear.

I hope that 20 years from now, there will be a generation of children for whom the idea of discrimination based on gender identity, or any other discrimination, is unthinkable. Bill C-16 is critical in making that a reality.

I would like to commend my colleague, the hon. Minister of Justice, for her hard work on this file. Her obvious commitment to diversity and inclusion is an example to all of us in the chamber. I want to thank her for her leadership. I am proud to stand with her today in supporting this legislation, and I encourage all my colleagues in the House to do the same.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I rise today as well to speak to Bill C-16, a government bill that proposes to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

As the minister's summary of the bill reads:

This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.

My colleagues will recall that these essential elements of the bill descend from the last Parliament where they were essentially contained in a private member's Bill C-279. Members will also recall that the bill was passed on to the upper house, with 149 votes in favour and 137 votes against. However, the bill died on the red chamber's order paper.

I voted against Bill C-279, on March 20, 2013, and I will vote against the successor legislation, Bill C-16, as well. I am pleased to have this opportunity to explain why.

I am passionately in favour of the legal protection of all Canadians from discrimination in its many forms. I am passionately in favour of the legal protection of all Canadians from hate crimes. I am proud of the laws that have evolved over the years, and the reality that Canada is recognized around the world for our recognition of diversity and equality under the law.

I am proud that the current Canadian Human Rights Act defends the principle, when it states:

...that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

I am proud of the Criminal Code as written today, which defines that “...identifiable group means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability”.

As well, the Criminal Code provides in section 718.2, states:

A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

...a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender...[on] evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor...

When the original version of the bill was debated in the previous Parliament, the then parliamentary secretary for the minister of justice, Mr. Robert Goguen, eloquently explained the redundancy of the similar proposed amendments to include gender identity or expression. He reminded parliamentarians that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal had already accepted and considered a number of complaints brought by trans persons on the grounds of sex. In fact, Mr. Goguen argued that the ground of sex in any discrimination law was interpreted broadly, having evolved over the years, and was usually understood to cover discrimination complaints not based only on sex, but on pregnancy, childbirth, and transsexualism.

The examples of tribunal use of the existing grounds already in the act provided clear and consistent evidence that the existing Human Rights Act already recognized that discrimination on the basis of transsexualism was discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, as well as discrimination on the basis of disability.

The parliamentary secretary to the justice minister then said:

For similar reasons, we may wish to ask ourselves whether it is necessary to add these grounds to the sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code. The section in question lists a number of deemed aggravating circumstances on sentencing, including evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability or any other similar factor. Again, the list includes sex, and it also refers to any other similar factor. Consequently, judges may already be able to impose longer sentences for hate crimes against transsexual persons in appropriate circumstances.

I think it is clear, for all of the reasons cited today, that the amendments to both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code are unnecessary.

Let me stress again that I am passionately in favour of the legal protection of all Canadians from hate crimes. I am proud of the laws that have evolved over the years, and the reality that Canada is recognized around the world for our recognition of diversity equality. I am proud of the work done by fellow colleagues in the House to respect, protect, and improve the lot of trans persons in Canadian society.

I believe, firmly and sympathetically, that trans persons facing discrimination in federally regulated work places and in accessing federally regulated services are already protected by the current act and the code. I also firmly believe that the amendments proposed in Bill C-16 are redundant and unnecessary, and I will respectfully oppose this bill.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / noon
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Thornhill.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-16, which I believe is an important legislative measure to prevent all forms of discrimination against all Canadians, regardless of their colour, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression, and that includes transgendered Canadians.

Over the years, a great deal of progress has been made in terms of social acceptance and our mentality has changed. What seemed unimaginable 20 years ago is now a normal part of our everyday lives.

We are less focused on individual characteristics and more focused on who we are as a society. Society is made up of different people and different personalities.

I am going to give a simple analogy to describe social progress. Social progress works the same way as a three-legged race. If people walk in step and agree to work together, the team makes progress.

Every member of the House is different, has their own story and their own path. Every one of us has dealt with different situations and we all react differently. Our differences should never stop progress, but instead allow it to take flight.

Justice is extremely important to me. That is why I think it is important to have an open and respectful discussion on this. My mindset is to live and let live. My personal experience forced me to be open to realities other than my own, which led me to be open to differences. At first we are confronted by and conflicted about the unfamiliar, but over time we learn, try to understand, and do not judge.

As my father used to say, never judge anyone until you have walked in their shoes. He was right. We were elected by secret ballot. We do not know the identity of those who voted for us. That is another reason for us to govern for all Canadians by ensuring that respect and equality prevail.

Canada, our country, my country, has always been and continues to be a leader when it comes to progress and individual rights. I could not be prouder of my country, Canada, when it comes to social progress. Canada leads the world in terms of fostering social acceptance and reducing crime and hate speech on its own soil.

Women won the right to vote 100 years ago under the Conservative government of Robert Borden; people from all origins have been welcomed to our country every year for centuries; and gay marriage was legalized over 10 years ago. It has always been a priority to protect minorities to make it easier for them to be included in society. We must continue the trend and protect people of all gender identities, so that they can be an important part of our society and contribute to it without enduring prejudice or disparaging and intolerant remarks.

In 1982, the Constitution Act guaranteed a number of rights, including democratic rights, equality rights, legal rights, and especially the fundamental freedom of opinion and expression. Some will say that freedom of expression should be taken for everything it means. I agree, but let us go over the meaning of each of those words.

The word “expression” amounts to saying or writing what we really think and feel. The word “freedom” is about the absence of submissiveness and the ability to do as we wish.

However, freedom does not mean the absence of barriers, obstacles, or limits. Freedom of expression, like all the freedoms we enjoy, must include lines in the sand that must not be crossed. For instance, we all have the right to drive, but that does not give us the right to speed and put the lives of others at risk. We also have the right to smoke, but we cannot do so in restaurants, because it jeopardizes the health of those around us. The same is true of freedom.

Basically, we are free to do as we please, as long as it does not harm other people around us. I recognize, however, that it is hard to set limits around freedom, because it cannot be measured; it is not black and white. That it why I am so glad we are having this kind of debate in the House today.

I will be voting for this bill in the name of equality and respect for the individual rights of all people. As a Conservative, I represent people who advocate for maintaining law and order. I sincerely believe that in a world where people respect one another, society can make better progress.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11:45 a.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, Tuesday May 17 was an important day. It was the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It was a day to recognize the efforts of everyone who has fought for equality, freedom, and respect for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, non-binary, and two-spirited persons. It was a day to celebrate the achievements of advocates and their friends and supporters in making Canada a more inclusive place in which to live. It was a day to look forward to a time when all societies embrace their diversity and draw strength and vibrancy from it.

May 17 was also the day on which the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-16 to the House of Commons. The legislation proposes to 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 expression.

The legislation 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 that list. Finally, it would make it explicit that hatred on the basis of gender identity or expression should be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing for a criminal offence. These are very important amendments.

The Canadian Human Rights Act advances the principle that all individuals should have an equal opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have, without being hindered by discrimination. All Canadians should be able to turn to the act and see their rights and obligations spelled out clearly. However, it is not evident from the current words of the act that trans and gender diverse persons have a right to equal treatment.

It is true that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has interpreted the act to prohibit discrimination against trans persons in some cases, but these interpretations are not easily accessible to the trans community, employers, or service providers who need to know whom the act protects. Moreover, these decisions concern particular individuals in particular situations. The full scope of protection for trans and gender diverse persons is not clear, particularly in relation to gender expression.

Gender expression refers to the ways in which people express their gender through choices such as clothing, personal appearance, name, use of pronouns, and other forms of expression. Adding this ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act would offer clear protection against discrimination by employers and service providers who would deny Canadians their dignity simply because they express their gender differently.

Trans people who have been discriminated against should not have to become expert in statutory interpretation or criminal law to advocate for their basic rights. It is not enough to hope that employers and service providers will look beyond the words of the act. As the bill proposes, Parliament should add these grounds to the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as the Criminal Code, so they would be in the statute book for all to see.

Make no mistake, there is no doubt that trans or gender diverse persons face an elevated risk of violence at the hands of others. The Trans Pulse project studied the experiences of approximately 500 transgendered Ontarians. That study concluded the following:

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....

In 2011, a study by Egale Canada indicated very high levels of verbal, physical, and sexual harassment against transgendered persons.

Transgendered Canadians are often discriminated against by their own family members. No group of people should be exposed to that kind of daily threat. Given the high levels of violence and threats of violence against trans people, it is clear that our laws require measures to specifically denounce the violence and discrimination inflicted on the individuals because of hatred of their gender identity or gender expression.

Our duty as parliamentarians goes beyond simply maintaining the good order set out in legislation. Canadians expect us to speak on their behalf, recognize their qualities and vulnerabilities, as well as affirm and protect their basic rights and their dignity.

This bill is not only an opportunity for us to reinforce our support for transgendered Canadians, but also an opportunity for the House to send a clear message to all Canadians that they can now feel safe and free to be themselves.

On May 17, when I stood beside the Minister of Justice to announce this legislation, we were joined by people who were well aware of the need for this bill.

They, and we, saw in this bill a real sign of acceptance and unity. This bill says to every transgender and gender-diverse person that they do not need to choose between being safe and being who they are. This bill says to young people in all parts of this country who are struggling to understand themselves, who are realizing that they are a bit different from their peers, that it is okay to be different and that they are special, that they are unique, and that they belong.

This bill sends a clear signal to our transgender and gender-diverse community members that the government will not stand for discrimination and that we stand with them, shoulder to shoulder. For any members of this House who may be considering voting no on this important legislation, I must ask why. This bill is about equality. It is about respect for diversity. Even if they cannot fully understand the lives of our transgender community, surely they can understand that no group of people should live under such threat of violence in our country.

I appeal to each and every one of my colleagues in the House to support this important issue.

I stand with all trans and gender-diverse persons, and I call on this House to affirm their equal status in Canada, and I will fight every day to ensure they are protected and free to live their lives safely and free from fear. I do so as a member of this House who is a proud, openly gay man. I was able to earn a place in this House because of the hard work of those who went before me who stood to be counted, people who stood up to discrimination, who fought for individual rights, who stood for inclusivity and acceptance, who were bullied, and against whom the laws discriminated in the past.

Today, I and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the trans community to say, “No more”, and that we will continue to fight and stand up for those who still need our protection.

To conclude, the proposed changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code's sentencing provisions would help to create a better and safer Canada that is inclusive of all forms of diversity. I urge all members of this House to support the passage of this important bill.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11:30 a.m.
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Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Status of Women

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

I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

The bill is designed to support and facilitate the inclusion of transgender and other gender diverse people in Canadian society. Diversity and inclusion are values that are important to us as Canadians, yet we have heard repeatedly from trans and gender diverse Canadians that they still do not feel safe or fully included in Canadian society. Social science research also shows that many transgender and other gender diverse Canadians are not yet able to fully participate in our society. They face negative stereotypes, harassment, discrimination, and sometimes violence.

We know that discrimination and violence have significant impacts on social participation and an individual's sense of safety in the public sphere. Research conducted by the Trans Pulse survey found that approximately two-thirds of trans people in Ontario had avoided public spaces or situations because they feared being harassed or being perceived or outed as trans. The survey also indicated that the majority of trans Ontarians had avoided public washrooms because of these fears. Trans Ontarians also avoided travelling abroad, going to the gym, shopping at the mall, and eating out in restaurants, all commonplace everyday activities and pleasures that many of us are able to enjoy comfortably. However, for many trans people, these activities can be fearful because of their previous experiences of harassment and discrimination.

The research also shows that transgender or other gender diverse people face significant obstacles in obtaining employment. This is not due to a lack of qualifications. The Trans Pulse survey results I mentioned earlier showed that 44% have a post-secondary degree, but trans people are significantly underemployed, with many having been fired or turned down for a job because they are trans. Others felt that they had to turn down a job that they were offered because of a lack of a trans-positive or safe work environment.

It is clear that too many transgender and gender diverse people are being deprived of the opportunity to contribute to and flourish in our society. This is important not just for trans people but for us all. When a person loses an opportunity to work or is too fearful to go out shopping or eat in a restaurant, we all lose a potential contribution to the workplace, to the economy, and to our collective social life. Discrimination is a matter of concern to us all. It both undermines the freedom of those individuals to make the life they are able and wish to have, and it deprives us all of their participation in our society.

The bill would be just the beginning but is an important beginning. It is another step toward greater acceptance and inclusion. By adding the grounds of gender identity and gender expression to the prohibited grounds of discrimination listed in sections 2 and 3 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, we would protect the freedom to live openly.

The amendments proposed by the bill would make it clear that discrimination in employment against trans people is unacceptable and a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. An employer cannot refuse to hire or promote a qualified individual simply because that person is trans or gender diverse. These amendments will make it clear that federally regulated employers and service providers will need to provide accommodation for transgender and other gender diverse individuals when required and treat them in a manner that corresponds with their lived gender. Explicit recognition will also serve to promote understanding and awareness about trans people and their rights.

I now want to address one of the amendments that the bill proposes to make to the Criminal Code, which is to expand the hate propaganda offences in the Criminal Code to protect those who are targeted because of their gender identity or gender expression. To put this proposal in context, it is useful to give some of the history of these offences.

There are three crimes of hate propaganda. They were created in 1970. These are now found in sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code. These offences are advocating or promoting genocide against an identifiable group, inciting hatred against an identifiable group in a public place that is likely to lead to a breach of the peace, and willfully promoting hatred, other than in private conversation, against an identifiable group.

As we can see, a key element for all of these offences is the term “identifiable group”. When the hate propaganda offences were first created and for many years afterward, the definition of identifiable group was very limited in scope. It was defined in the Criminal Code to mean a section of the public that was identifiable on the basis of race, colour, religion, and ethnic origin.

In 2001, the then member of Parliament for Burnaby—Douglas introduced in the House Bill C-415, later reinstated as Bill C-250, and entitled “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda)”. This bill proposed to add sexual orientation to the definition of identifiable group in the Criminal Code. The member quoted in support of his bill a statement made by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1990 case of R. v. Keegstra, which upheld the constitutionality of the hate propaganda offence of wilfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group. The Supreme Court said:

The harms caused by [hate propaganda] run directly counter to the values central to a free and democratic society, and in restricting the promotion of hatred Parliament is therefore seeking to bolster the notion of mutual respect necessary in a nation which venerates the equality of all persons.

In 2004, Bill C-250 became law. As a result, the definition of identifiable group was expanded to include sexual orientation as an identifiable group for the crimes of hate propaganda.

I will now fast-track to 2014, when Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, received royal assent. One section of that bill amended the definition of identifiable group for the hate propaganda offences by adding more groups to that definition, specifically the criteria of national origin, sex, age, and mental or physical disability. As we have seen, the definition of identifiable group has been expanded considerably since 1970. This expansion reflects a commitment to equality and the desire of Canadians to protect more and more vulnerable groups in our society from the serious harms to human dignity that flow from the type of vicious hate speech prohibited by these Criminal Code provisions.

Bill C-16 proposes to add two new terms to the definition of identifiable group: gender identity and gender expression. Such an expansion is eminently justifiable on two grounds.

First, this expansion would extend to those in our society who are identifiable on the basis of gender identity and gender expression the same protections already afforded to other groups in Canadian society, such as those identifiable on the basis of their sex and sexual orientation. This would help to promote equality before the law and throughout Canadian society for trans people.

Second, this expansion would explicitly recognize that those who are identifiable on the basis of their gender identity and gender expression are in need of protection by the criminal law. For example, the Trans Pulse survey I mentioned earlier indicates that trans people are the targets of specifically directed violence; 20% had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans, and another 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed but not assaulted.

Here in Canada, we criminalize hate propaganda, in part because it undermines the dignity and respect of the targeted group. It undermines their sense of belonging and inclusion in society. Adding gender identity and gender expression to the list would send a clear message that hate propaganda against trans and other gender diverse individuals is not acceptable.

I encourage all members of the House to support this bill.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I definitely support the need to eliminate discrimination against transgendered people. I also share the member's frustration with the Liberal government, and its tendency to talk a good story and then not take any actions.

I wonder if the member could say what actions she would like to see once Bill C-16 is enacted to make sure that it is most effective in eliminating this discrimination.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, here is a boy, and here is a girl. Easy, right? Not so fast. Let us just say that it is a bit more complicated than that. Sex assignment is not always clear-cut. Genetically, a person with two X chromosomes is a woman, and a person with an X chromosome and a Y chromosome is a man. However, some people have just a single X chromosome, and others have three. Others have two or three X chromosomes and one Y chromosome, while still others might have two Y chromosomes and one X chromosome. Clearly, this is anything but simple.

The bill before us today, Bill C-16, makes no mention of genetics. However, it does address an equally complex subject, that of gender identity and gender expression.

As far back as the 1950s, we began to understand that a person cannot be defined merely by his or her physical sexual characteristics and to distinguish between “sex” and “gender”. In 1994, United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the following in a briefing:

The word gender has acquired the new and useful connotation of cultural or attitudinal characteristics (as opposed to physical characteristics) distinctive to the sexes. That is to say, gender is to sex as feminine is to female and masculine is to male.

I think it bears repeating, so once again, the word “gender” has acquired the new and useful connotation of cultural or attitudinal characteristics as opposed to physical characteristics, distinctive to the sexes. That is to say, gender is to sex as feminine is to female and masculine is to male.

Justice Scalia clearly states that “sex” and “gender” are two different things.

Transgendered individuals are people whose sexual identity does not correspond to the physical sexual characteristics with which they were born. They literally do not feel comfortable in their own skin, in the body nature gave them. They feel feminine, but have a male body, or they feel masculine, but have a female body.

With that in mind, it is easy to imagine the discrimination, prejudice, harassment, and violence these individuals are often subjected to. A shy teen, a small man, and a kid with above-average intelligence are often harassed. Now imagine someone who is transgendered.

Statistics are an excellent way to illustrate the discrimination transgendered people are subjected to. In Ontario, for example, 71% of transgendered individuals earn less than $30,000 a year. My colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke provided some statistics earlier on poverty rates among transgendered people, and those figures were far more grim than what I just mentioned.

According to Egale Canada, 90% of of transgendered students reported being bullied on a daily or weekly basis. That is a lot. In addition, a few months ago, a medical clinic in Montreal that performs gender-affirming surgery was targeted by arson.

The prejudice and violence are very real. That is why, over the past several years, the NDP has been introducing bills in the House of Commons of Canada to stand up for the rights of transgendered Canadians and protect them from discrimination.

The main purpose of these bills was to add protections to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code based on gender identity and gender expression. That is what Bill Siksay, the former NDP member for Burnaby—Douglas in British Columbia, did in 2005. Because he thought this cause was so important, he introduced the bill twice in the House of Commons, in 2006-07 and 2008-09.

This issue is so important to the NDP that my colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who sits beside me, took up the torch and almost succeeded in having the bill passed in Parliament. The Green Party, the Bloc Québécois, and many Liberal and Conservative members voted in favour of it.

However, the unelected and unaccountable Senate decided to let the bill die on the Order Paper, even though it had been passed by members who were duly elected by Canadians.

As a result, after over 10 years of debate, these people, who are too often the victims of harassment and violence, still do not have any protection. The NDP is therefore pleased to see the government introduce Bill C-16. We have been asking for this for a long time. However, I am worried that this is just smoke and mirrors.

Since I am an optimist, I want to believe that the government really intends to protect this vulnerable segment of the population. After all, the last time, all of the Liberal members who were present for the vote voted in favour of Bill C-279, which was introduced by my colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke.

However, this time, the context is different. Today, the Liberals form the government and hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons. They can therefore ensure that Bill C-16 is passed at second and third reading. I challenge them to do so.

The House has passed this bill twice already and the government can ensure that it passes quickly through all stages of the legislative process. Then there would be one remaining important stage, which, in my political party, we would be happy to do without. However, since the Senate still exists, we will have to work with it. I challenge the Liberals to talk to their Senate colleagues, those the Prime Minister kicked out of the Liberal caucus, but who still feel like Liberals, and to convince them that the changes that Bill C-16 makes to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code are just and important to transgendered people.

As far as my Conservative colleagues are concerned, during the March 2013 vote, 18 of them, including some cabinet ministers, supported a similar bill introduced by my NDP colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. Other members among their ranks, including their leader, recently said that they would support Bill C-16. I hope that many others will join them to ensure that this bill is finally passed.

I would hope that, as with the Liberals, these Conservative members who see the merits of this cause will work to ensure that their Senate colleagues do not allow this bill to die on the benches of the other place yet again. I think it would be a national disgrace if this bill is not passed.

Bill C-16 would add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in section 2 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It would also amend the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as distinguishing characteristics protected under section 318, and as an aggravating circumstance to be taken into consideration under section 718.2, hate crimes, at the time of sentencing.

Since 1970, 948 transgendered people have been murdered around the world. This number is probably much higher, but most countries, including Canada, do not note the status of transgender in files involving violence.

Nevertheless, the evidence is clear: transgender people are victims of discrimination, prejudice, harassment, and violence. Therefore, it would be disgraceful to let down transgender Canadians once again. Trans and non-binary gender Canadians have been waiting for far too long to have legal rights in Canada.

Let us work together for this humanitarian cause and ensure that Bill C-16 passes quickly in the House of Commons and in committee, and just as quickly in the Senate, so that it becomes a law that Canadians can be proud of.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question and I know her great sincerity in addressing this issue before the House. The simple answer is of course I do. It is not the total solution. Passing laws never solves everything, but passing a law like Bill C-16 is an expression of our collective will as Canadians to do better and our collective will to make sure that we are an inclusive society that leaves no one behind.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree with the member for St. Albert—Edmonton that Bill C-16 does not actually add anything to the legal framework, but it does not take anything away either. One concern I have is that even with the existing laws that we have in the provinces and federally, we continue to see discrimination and persecution of transgendered people. Does the member believe that implementing Bill C-16 will really fix this problem?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-16, and I am pleased this time to be supporting a government bill to guarantee the same rights and protection to transgender Canadians that the rest of us already enjoy.

I thank the Minister of Justice for adopting my original private member's bill as a government bill, and for inviting me along to her press conference. I also want to thank her for reaching out to the trans community before the bill's introduction and consulting with those who are at the heart of this debate.

Yet, I cannot help but be disappointed to be still standing here today more than five years after I introduced my private member's bill, Bill C-279. I know many of us continue to feel frustrated at the delays in seeing this bill become law. It is an important bill in that it would fill the largest remaining gap in Canadian human rights legislation.

Over the past five years, I have had the privilege of having my name associated with the legislation, but I want to make it clear that the progress that has been made is a result not of my efforts but of those from the trans community who have stepped forward to demand that they be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other Canadians.

Over the past five years, I have learned much, and it does bear restating that gay men have not always been the best friends of our trans brothers and sisters. I learned a great deal from a first nation sister, a trans woman who travelled a very rocky road but is now a successful small business owner in Vancouver. I learned much from a trans man who became a distinguished therapist now working with others facing transition issues. I learned from a trans woman who had to rebuild her career as a concert pianist after transitioning. I learned from a friend who now holds the first chair in transgender studies at UVic, home of the world's only transgender archives and the first transgender studies program. I learned a great deal from my friend and political ally who is a tireless community activist in Toronto. I learned from many others, including students, consultants, office workers, factory workers, sex workers, and street kids.

While this proposed legislation has been languishing before the federal Parliament, some progress has still been made. While I would like to think the debate here provokes that progress elsewhere, it is clear that we have lost the chance in this Parliament to be a leader on the question of equal rights. In the meantime, seven provinces have adopted corresponding provincial human rights legislation: Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia in 2012; Newfoundland and P.E.I. in 2013; Saskatchewan in 2014; and B.C. and Quebec, this year, 2016.

The issue of trans rights is not a partisan issue, thank goodness. Amendments to protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity were proposed by NDP governments in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, a Liberal government in P.E.I., and Conservative governments in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland. Those amendments passed with all-party support in Ontario and British Columbia.

Nor are trans rights an issue restricted to the Canadian context. Now, more than 18 countries have explicit protections of the kind proposed in Bill C-16, and the list may surprise members. Argentina has been a world leader in the protection of the rights of transgender citizens, but the list also includes Uruguay, Bolivia, Spain, France, Ireland, Estonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Israel, Cypress, Nepal, Australia, and New Zealand, among others.

In the United States, 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, provide explicit protections for transgender residents, but unfortunately some states also specifically allow discrimination against the trans community, most recently with new legislation in North Carolina.

In Canada, some public institutions and private companies have chosen to act without waiting for legislation. The Canadian Labour Congress has produced guides for transition in the workplace for use by all of its affiliates to ease transitions in unionized workplaces. Others have also moved forward, including the big banks, like the Toronto-Dominion Bank and the Royal Bank.

I will now return to Parliament. The bill was first introduced by former NDP MP Bill Siksay in 2005, again in 2007, and again in 2009. In the spring of 2010, on his third attempt, Bill actually saw his bill pass by the House, only to see it die in the Senate when an election was called.

My bill, Bill C-279, was passed by the House in March 2013, and before the 2015 election, it had passed through all stages in the Senate, bar one.

Therefore, I urge the House today to deal with the legislation as quickly as possible. I am confident the bill will pass second reading for the third time today, and I am hopeful it will return to the House quickly for final approval.

This will be possible if the justice committee agrees that it is unlikely to learn new things about the bill in yet another set of hearings. Between 2013 and 2015, three separate sets of parliamentary hearings were held, with 17 witnesses appearing before the House justice committee, and 18 witnesses before two different Senate committees.

In fact, if we judge by previous experience, new hearings in the House and the other place would only risk providing a platform for trans phobia. This is especially true when it comes to the most significant red herring concerning transgender rights: the question of bathrooms and change rooms, which we heard raised here earlier today.

I am hesitant to even mention this issue, but it continues to surface, even after it has been shown to have no basis in fact. I frankly believe its persistence is a sign of the very trans phobia we are trying to address in this bill. We all know that in the real world, the only ones at risk in bathrooms are trans people, who are almost always perceived to be in the wrong place.

We need to pass Bill C-16 as expeditiously as possible if we are to avoid allowing opponents of the bill to use media sensationalism to promote hatred against the trans community for their own political purposes. We have only to look south of the border to states like North Carolina to be reminded that this risk is very real.

The time to add gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code is long past due.

While some have argued on technical grounds that the bill is unnecessary, we have heard clearly from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that it is needed, both to fill technical gaps and also for the purpose of denunciation. Passing Bill C-16 will say clearly that discrimination and violence against the trans community is not a part of our Canadian values.

In reality, of course, the proof that the legislation is needed is the ongoing discrimination suffered by transgender and gender-variant Canadians. We do not have comprehensive statistics on the trans community in Canada, partially precisely because of their exclusion from human rights legislation. However, the one study done some time ago in Ontario, which the minister referenced in her speech earlier this morning, demonstrates what we can all see if we choose to look.

Unemployment rates for trans Canadians are more than double the average and the poverty rate for trans Canadians is among the highest of any group, with just over half of the transgender community earning less than $15,000 per year, despite high levels of education. When it comes to marginalization and homelessness, again good statistics are missing, but we know that among homeless youth, up to 40% identify as LGBTQ and many of those as gender variant.

When it comes to violence, we know the stories, even if, again, official statistics are not often collected. Police on the street will tell us who who are the most vulnerable to violence, and that is the trans community, and within the trans community, those who are also visible minorities or aboriginal.

In the United States, we know that so far this year 20 trans women have been murdered, 80% of them black. The Trans Day of Remembrance reports that worldwide 269 trans people have been murdered over the past year, including one death in Canada, that of a young Somali trans woman in Toronto.

The need to act is urgent. While most provinces have done so, there are significant areas of federal responsibility, whether that is in providing better protection against hate crimes; or addressing the dangerous federal corrections policy that places inmates in the wrong institutions and, thus, at great risk of violence; or ending discriminatory and humiliating Transport Canada screening processes; or making appropriate identity documents like passports easier to obtain. In fact, in most of these areas, there is no need for the federal government to wait for a bill to do the right thing. Nothing prevents government agencies from doing the right thing when it comes to trans rights, but we have seen these initiatives stall at the federal level. Passing this bill will ensure that stalling ends.

Over the past year, there could have been much more done to address the ongoing epidemic of hate crimes against trans Canadians and, in particular, against those most marginalized in our society, like aboriginal people and sex workers. Over the past year, there should have been more progress in changing discriminatory government policies.

Right now, some of the most innovative work is being done by school boards and at the community level. I want to recognize the work done by organizations like Gender Creative Kids in Montreal and the Montreal Children's Hospital's child development program, a gender-variance program, and the work of organizations like PFLAG.

Finally, I want to recognize the many courageous parents who are standing by their trans kids and fighting for the supports they need to succeed in this country.

Bill C-16 calls for us to act to provide the same rights and protections to transgender and gender-variant Canadians that the rest of us already enjoy, no more, no less. I am asking that we join together to do so expeditiously. P.E.I. passed its legislation in three weeks and British Columbia in a single day. There could never be a better time for the passage of inclusive legislation of which all Canadians can be proud, no better time than now.

As I asked in closing the debate in the House of Commons on Bill C-279, some three years ago, if not now, then when?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to clarify what I think I heard my colleague say. I do not believe I said that the large majority of faith groups or immigrant groups were opposed to transgender people. They are certainly not. We are welcoming of them as persons. We simply may disagree with the points of Bill C-16 when it comes to the subjectivity of the term “gender expression and gender identity”. Certainly, I will stand in this place, and I hope all my colleagues would agree with me, and oppose any form of discrimination that is based simply on gender identity or sexual identity. However, we do not necessarily endorse all the implications that the bill may bring forward down the road.