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Evidence of meeting #53 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was tribunal.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ian Fine  Acting Secretary General, Secretary General's Office, Canadian Human Rights Commission
Susheel Gupta  Acting Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
Diane Watts  Researcher, REAL Women of Canada

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

If you wish to make a motion, it has to be in writing, and we'll vote at the end of the bill.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Okay.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Just so everybody understands, there was no request, for anyone here, from Justice, which frequently occurs when we do clause-by-clause. So the clerk...we've decided that we will invite someone from Justice to be here at the next meeting.

Mr. Seeback.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks for letting us know there will be someone from Justice here when we reconvene. I think it's overly optimistic to think we'll get through clause-by-clause in the next 15 minutes, before the bells ring for our votes tonight.

I don't want to belabour the point, but Ms. Findlay was talking about a case and people trying to figure out how to fit in to family status. Family status wasn't defined, and therefore people had to spend time trying to work their cases within previous decisions. That's the trouble, for me, with the statements I've heard that gender expression is going to be somehow covered under gender identity and gender expression isn't covered. When something is going to be read in, either by a tribunal or a court, and it's read in without a definition, that gives me some pause, and I think it will give others some pause. I look forward to hearing from members of the justice department on their thoughts about that taking place.

Thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Ms. Glover.

November 27th, 2012 / 5 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the committee for allowing me to take part in this very important discussion today. I am very much in favour of the suggestions put forward by Mr. Garrison. And with all due respect to my colleagues sitting next to me, I believe it's important that we do pursue the suggestions made by Mr. Garrison.

I would point out that one of the amendments clearly does provide a definition. To ignore the fact that there are packaged amendments in front of us and to state there is no definition I think is unfair. I would suggest that members take a look at the package that has been provided by Mr. Garrison so they can be well informed of the intent of those amendments. I know we're going to get to them in clause-by-clause, but in my opinion they are well done. They set out what gender identity is, which reflects specifically on what is felt by a person who is transgendered. It has nothing to do with the behaviour exhibited, which is gender expression and has been removed.

I make that as a first point. I must add that I am a proud Métis woman and a real Canadian woman. I have had discussions with many aboriginal people. I spent 19 years with the Winnipeg Police Service, seeing horrific acts of violence against these marginalized individuals, from trying to cut the testicles off a pre-operative transsexual, to the most severe of beatings. I can assure this committee that none of us on any side of this table want to see those things occur.

To give hope and opportunity to transgendered people through a bill like this, to give them hope in knowing they will have clarity every single time they report, every single time they want to go before a commission or a tribunal, that gender identity means they can be a transgender individual and not have to rely on sex, which to most people means plumbing, or disability, which is not what many of them feel, I think is imperative. I think it's imperative that this move forward. I think it's imperative that we, as Canadians and parliamentarians, embrace the notion that we are inviting other Canadians to feel the sense of belonging that this bill will give them.

When people say it's symbolic only, I disagree wholeheartedly. I want transgendered individuals to feel they can go to a police service, that they can go to a court, knowing full well that gender identity is in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. I agree with the Canadian Bar Association when they say it will also provide clarity and public acknowledgment. I agree with Mr. Fine, who asks that there be a leaning towards more explicit language, which is what this bill will do. And I agree with all of the two-spirited people I spoke with at Safe Night off Winnipeg Streets recently who said this is an important bill.

They commend Mr. Garrison. I commend Mr. Garrison. Aboriginal people are typically the most marginalized in my province. They are the ones who, unfortunately, have a high rate of assaults, etc. When you are an aboriginal person who is also transgendered or two-spirited...they suffer tremendous violence. I want them to be protected, so I will be supporting the amendments. I have considered them fully, and I will be supporting them because I believe in what Mr. Garrison is doing. I believe in all of the folks who are sitting in this gallery, and I believe they need this.

I thank you, Mr. Garrison.

I thank you for allowing me to be here, Mr. Chair. I will leave it at that and hope the committee will do this in a timely fashion.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Ms. Findlay.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

I just wanted to add something on this issue of first nations people. I've dealt extensively with first nations people in many iterations over a long legal career. The case before the tribunal, which I referred to, involved a first nations transgendered person who was a prisoner in our federal system. At the time of the alleged discrimination the person was pre-operative, and at the time we actually held our mediation sessions the person was post-operative, male to female. She was very grateful for an opportunity to bring her issues forward before a neutral tribunal that would be applying human rights jurisprudence to her particular issues. To somehow exclude her, to exclude first nations people from the very protections that we are trying to afford here in this bill and in the act generally, I think would do a grave injustice to first nations people. I think that person would be quite horrified to think that they were somehow less protected under the laws of Canada than any of the rest of us are.

I simply offer that quick example of how I would not support any exclusion of first nations people from something that would seek to protect them.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Mr. Rathgeber.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I agree with the very lucid argument of my colleague, Mr. Seeback, regarding the confusion that's caused by definitions or lack thereof, and I find myself in the unique position of disagreeing with Ms. Glover, in that perhaps amendment NDP-1 causes more confusion than clarity. I agree with her when she describes the despicable act of having transgendered persons having their testicles removed or being subject to violent assaults, but I remind all members of this committee that those things are illegal. They're assault, probably assault causing bodily harm, possibly aggravated assault. The provisions of the Criminal Code allow for an aggravating factor based on any bias, and enumerate some of them, and then have a final catch-all of any other similar factor.

As members of the committee know, I feel there's some redundancy here, which is why I require some clarity.

I have a question for Mr. Garrison, if he's prepared to answer it. In his attempt to remove gender expression from his bill, does he think it's covered in his proposed definition of gender identity, which is contained in his second amendment? Or is he confident that it's protected under the current tribunal jurisprudence, which it clearly is in my view. We've heard emphatically from witnesses that transsexualism is discrimination based on sex or gender. Is he satisfied leaving it as a matter of Canadian Human Rights Tribunal arbitration written judgments, or does he believe that it's covered in his next section?

I'm more confused by all of it, because the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal used a different word. They didn't say “gender identity”. They stated that transsexualism is discrimination based on sex or gender. I don't know if that's the same as gender identity or gender expression or both.

I put that out to Mr. Garrison to answer if he chooses to, because I am more confused now than I was when we started this process.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Mr. Bruinooge.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Since it seems we're going to go into a few topics here, perhaps I'll address some of the things suggested by my colleagues in relation to exemptions in transition periods for first nations people. Clearly, the last time we made a specific change to the Canadian Human Rights Act, there was a three-year transition period for first nations people. That is what I suggested earlier.

I think in part due to the fact, it seems to me, that there hasn't been specific consultation with first nations leaders on this bill—the AFN seemed unaware of the bill, the content of the bill, and the fact that it had a significant impact on them—I think it is a good idea to give them time to transition to something that is demonstrably going to impact them, relative to government departments, which, one might argue, are perhaps more able to manage the changes that this legislative body puts forward. First nations communities typically don't have the same degree of bureaucracies that can prepare their governance structures for these substantive changes. That was my suggestion.

Just to clarify with both Ms. Glover and Ms. Findlay in relation to that, I guess from my perspective I just feel that, regardless of the merits of the bill—which they obviously believe in—nonetheless, we as legislators talk about including first nations people and leaders in debates on legislation that will impact them, and I don't feel that we can set that aside in a particular circumstance where there is some cross-party support. I guess that's my point.

I would like to perhaps hear from Mr. Garrison about the discussions that he has had with the AFN in relation to this bill and how he has been able to incorporate their input and get their consultation on it.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

Mr. Seeback.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

I have two things. To pick up on Mr. Rathgeber's comment, and Ms. Glover's as well, I certainly do know that gender identity is being defined in this legislation. The definition is right here in the amendment. I've read it.

What I end up with is that we heard from the commission that gender identity and gender expression are already covered. They've already applied that both of those things are covered under the existing legislation. We're now modifying the legislation to explicitly include gender identity, with a definition of gender identity. Does that now mean that gender expression is not going to be covered? Or does that mean that gender expression is covered explicitly, despite gender identity being defined in the legislation? Or does it mean that gender expression is still going to be covered implicitly, despite the fact that gender identity has now been explicitly put into the legislation?

That's where I'm trying to understand to see if we are actually creating a worse patchwork. If somebody is saying that they've been discriminated against on the basis of gender identity, they're now not going to have to prove or take the time to prove that they've been discriminated against, because it's already there. They don't have to fit it in under “sex”. But for somebody who is saying that it's based on gender expression, that person is now going to have to go through that whole process and prove that somehow it fits under discrimination based on sex.

I need a flow chart to try to figure out where it's all going.

5:10 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

I guess that's where I'm trying to figure out where it all fits in, which is why I look forward to hearing from some officials from the Department of Justice.

Finally, on the point that was raised by Mr. Bruinooge, I was happy to share my time with him today because he raised this issue with me today and I hadn't contemplated it. As well, I don't think anybody on this committee actually contemplated it.

It's one of the things that's raised.... I have the privilege of sitting on the aboriginal affairs committee, and the issue of consultation is raised by members on the opposite side with every piece of legislation that comes before that committee, as to whether or not there was enough consultation, as in, “Did that constitute consultation?”, or, “You did not consult”. Those are the issues that come up continuously at our committee, so I think it's an issue that we need to look at here at this committee as well.

Those are my comments.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

The bells are ringing. We will meet again on Thursday with the minister to do supplementary estimates (B).

The meeting is adjourned.