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.