Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We did hear today from both the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal. Those are the two entities in our system that have dealt the most with complaints from those in the transgendered community.
I sat as an administrative law judge or tribunal member on the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for five years. I was an appointee of this government in that role. I dealt with at least one case with a transgendered complainant, which we were able to mediate through the course of about a 16-hour day. Obviously, if it was settled, it was dealt with to the satisfaction of both sides on that.
So there is no doubt that this jurisdiction is there and it is used in the present form of the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, I have to disagree with my colleague, Mr. Seeback, that we haven't heard enough about this. I think those two witnesses who deal with these matters on a continuing basis were very clear in their evidence. The commission representative said more than once that it would be a clarification of the law to have the term explicit in the law, as opposed to searching within the present grounds to make it fit.
Also, the acting chair of the tribunal made the point that in the cases the tribunal has heard to this date, where they were actually at a hearing as opposed to a mediation, the issue as to whether the transgendered complainant would fit within a category was not contentious. However, I know from having been a tribunal member that just because a tribunal has already applied a case to a certain ground, it does not make it definitive.
I would give the example of the Johnstone case, on which I was the tribunal member, and I won't get into the details because it's still before the courts, ever being appealed. However, the point I'm making is that in that case, the ground that was at issue was family status. And even though there had been many tribunal decisions defining “family status” because it didn't have a definition within the act, it kept coming up over and over again, both before the tribunal and the courts, as to whether family status in fact included, in that case, a young mother with young children, as opposed to your association with another in a family. These are some of the vagaries, of course, of common law, and those who practise in the civil code sometimes will say, well, that's why we codify things.
The point I'm making here is that just because the law as it is now has been applied to transgendered complainants does not mean that further clarity or explicitness would not be helpful, and it does not mean that we should ignore the opportunity to make it more explicit. As far as definitions go, we haven't got there yet, but there is another amendment that will be brought forward before us, which does define “gender identity”, and that is the point.
In my first speech on this matter in the House, I said I could not support the bill in the form it was originally brought, for two reasons.
One, “gender identity” and “gender expression” were both there, and I felt that “gender expression” was less understood by the Canadian public and it was open to further and other interpretations far more than “gender identity”.
Secondly, being a lawyer, I like the idea of having legislation be clear, and a definition was needed. Those amendments have been brought forward. They meet those concerns I had at the beginning. Therefore, I will be supporting this amendment and any others that are before us, because I've read through them and I think they achieve the goal that my concerns addressed.