House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trans.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very open speech and for sharing with us the values and experiences that led her to take the position that she has.

As members said earlier in the debate, this will not be the first time that the House of Commons has passed a similar bill. Unfortunately, these bills keep getting blocked by the Senate.

What steps will my colleague take to convince as many of her colleagues as possible and the Conservatives in the Senate to vote in favour of this bill?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my NDP colleague for her question.

I think it is important to respect my colleagues. We can have different ideas, but we must respect one another.

I hope that the Senate will be as open as we are in the House of Commons. I know that some people will vote against this bill and that is okay because we live in a democratic society.

However, I hope that they will take into consideration the number one priority in developing a bill such as this, and that is justice for all. I think that is very important because everyone in Canada should be equal before the law, regardless of their sexual orientation, or whether they are transgendered, heterosexual, black, white, or Asian.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, there was a time not so long ago when I myself was discriminated against by our own government and our country.

Since we will be called upon to vote on this bill, what can we do as MPs to ensure that people feel a genuine sense of belonging to the country and that they feel at home here?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I would have a hard time answering that in one sentence.

I will talk about what I have learned. I used to be very intolerant, but certain experiences have made me realize that people need to be taught about difference. Our differences do not make us better or worse than others; they simply make us different.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

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

12:20 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his work on human rights, and for his comments on the bill.

As an openly gay member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre and having watched the marriage debate with great personal interest, without the leadership of the House and of civil society, I might still be waiting for the legal opportunity to marry the person who I most love in this world.

The bill before us today is not talking about redundancies. It is helping people see themselves as protected by the full extent of the law. While the hon. member may think the amendments are redundant, transgender people certainly do not consider themselves to be redundant.

Therefore, my question to the hon. member is this. Where is the harm in extending these words in the code and in the act?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I respect the point of view and the circumstances over which my hon. colleague has prevailed. I am delighted that the laws of Canada have evolved and come to respect equality fully across the sexes and sexual orientation.

I am not a lawyer, but by my simple reading of the Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, I see therein many grounds on which the Canadian government and the Human Rights Tribunal would find discrimination unacceptable, not only with respect to sex, which is a general ground, but with respect to race and religion.

With respect to race and religion, we know that some religions face greater discrimination, disrespect and hate than others, but there has been no move to include specificity for those religions or other races. The Human Rights Tribunal and the courts of Canada have proven time and again that the sex and sexual orientation grounds in the Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code cover all of those possible grounds for discrimination and hate.

I believe these improvements to the law, these amendments, are redundant and unnecessary.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Thornhill for the seriousness and respect with which he approaches all issues in the House, even though we quite often find ourselves on opposite sides.

With respect, I would submit that he is missing the point with the redundancy argument, and that is that while some cases have indeed succeeded by arguing that the discrimination transgender people face is like sex discrimination or like a disability, what the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission both said is that there is a distinct possibility of cases failing because they are not like sex discrimination or they are not like a disability. It is easy for most of us to see that discrimination against, for instance, a trans woman is not the same as discrimination against a woman. There are many aspects in which they will be different.

What we heard from both of those organizations is that yes, while some cases have succeeded, there is a gap, and in the future, these cases might fail.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must say that there is mutual respect for my colleague's contribution to the House, to human rights, and to this particular issue.

What we see here and have seen in the past, and have certainly seen with regard to the enforcement of the existing provisions in both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, is that very often both police services and the courts need to be better educated to be able to identify and discriminate, in a positive sense, between the offences that are covered in generality. When I argue on the grounds of redundancy and specificity, I am arguing that we could create for what is already a significant piece of both Criminal Code legislation and Canadian Human Rights Act content a much more ponderous set of regulations and laws to protect all Canadians.

I would suggest that while society itself needs to be better informed, broadly, the courts and human rights tribunals themselves have to recognize exactly the points you recognized regarding discrimination and hate against trans persons.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am sure the member meant the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, not the Speaker. I am sure that everyone understood that.

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

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

12:35 p.m.

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

12:35 p.m.

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

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke and Bill Siksay, who led this fight many years before. Bill Siksay taught me a lot because it was in the same sex marriage debate that Bill Siksay's speech on giving young queer kids a sense of hope really struck home. It made me realize the importance of standing up to vote.

When I said I would vote for those rights, I was targeted. The diocese in the region I represent told me that I would be denied communion in the church that I worked in, that I helped the kids in, that I ran the choir in. My children stopped going to church because of the attacks from the pulpit. A press release was sent out by the diocese to have me defeated in the next election if I did not change my vote.

However, I believed that the vote and standing up for individual rights was important. I never talk about that time at all, but I tell it here because what made me come through that period so strongly were the so many religious people who said that they believed in gender and gay equality and believed in caring for each other, the priests who stopped their cars on the streets and hugged me, the nuns who called me, the ordinary lay people who said that we could be better than being fearful. I went back to my riding after that period expecting this supposed blowback but it was not there. People told me I had done the right thing because when we stand on conscience we always stand on solid ground.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what kind of message she thinks the bill will send to the next generation of young people who need to be affirmed. That is the role of what we are doing in Parliament. We are standing up and saying these young people are valued, they are loved, and they have a place in the heart of Canadian society. What does my colleague think about the symbolism of what we are doing?

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, I first want to say that I empathize with my colleague on some of the stories that he related. When I think about my own children and in delivering the speech and standing before the House and supporting the bill, I think about myself as a mom and the message I want to send about inclusion and valuing people. We are all just people and when we start to say that some things are unacceptable for some people and some things are acceptable for others, that is absolute nonsense.

Today we take a step forward to make sure that these rights and protections are in legislation. That sends a message to our young people that when it is time to fight for those who oftentimes cannot fight for themselves, we need to step up. If I do not step up, I will be doing a disservice to my own children but to many other generations of children to follow.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2016 / 12:40 p.m.

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

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to applaud my colleague for his speech. This is a very important day here in the House of Commons.

I wonder if the member could perhaps add some personal flavour to his speech, and tell us of trans folks that he knows and some of the struggles they have gone through.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know a lot of members of our society who are in that process of self-identifying or being labelled as transgender. I became familiar with that at the early stage of my upbringing because of some of my friends. I also had friends during high school and university who had struggled with that.

However, let me share something that really brings the whole point of why we are doing this. There are two serious points. One is the point of alignment. The other is to ensure that those who are unsure about what stage they are in the process feel protected if they come out and ask for help. From an alignment point of view, this brings the alignment at all levels. I talked about my riding of Richmond Hill and how proud I am. I talked about Ontario. It is time for the federal government to join that alignment.

Because this is about transgender, because it is about a spectrum that individuals find themselves in and need to go through the process to become comfortable with it, we need to provide an environment in which individuals feel that comfort and protection.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

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

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank and commend my colleague on leading the issue of youth and mental health. I am sure I will have the pleasure of working with her very closely on the file and on this bill as well.

In my speech I sought to highlight the fact that 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.

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.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

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.

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1 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in listening to the member, one of the thoughts that came to my mind is to recognize that Ottawa has certain jurisdictional responsibility. We are addressing that in the legislation we are proposing today.

There are provincial entities that have already accepted gender laws of a similar nature and have moved forward on them, and we are talking about more than one provincial or territorial jurisdiction.

I wonder if the member could provide some comment with respect to the fact that, as Canadian values understand and appreciate the whole idea of zero tolerance toward discrimination and acts of bullying and so forth, some provinces seem to have responded. We have seen members from all political parties talk relatively positively about the legislation.

Does she not feel that maybe there is the opportunity for Canada, the national government, to move forward on what is in fact a very important issue, upon which other jurisdictions have already acted, at least in part?

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, quite honestly, I use a lot of what I would consider common sense to guide me in trying to discern what is the appropriate response here. To my children, I say, “Just because your friend jumped off the bridge, do you need to do that too?”

The reality is that there is a lot of angst across Canada in a lot of areas, not with accepting people, but with being put in positions where they have no choice but to change the dynamics of acceptance for other people who are recognized in the charter when really we do not need to, because these people, all of us, should be protected under that charter against discrimination—and we are.

As far as bullying goes, I have an autistic grandson in school. Believe me, what is happening nowadays in schools to prevent bullying is huge, in my mind.

I've seen a precious young gal in my life come home, crying, in tears, asking me to pick her up because the girls she had been friends with all of her life until grade 6 now said she had to lose weight and style up to continue to be part of their group.

This is an issue that transcends just the question of homosexuality and gender identification. These are all issues that actually impact all Canadians. That is why I feel our Charter of Rights and Freedoms needs to reflect that people who have a different view from mine have every right to live and have those freedoms in our country right alongside me.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my hon. colleague that she does not have to worry about going to the bathroom. That is under provincial jurisdiction. Nobody is going to take that right away from her.

I want to assure her that this bill is not about allowing people to do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want, as she claims.

This is about protecting a very vulnerable segment of society.

She tells me it is just 3% and if we are protecting that 3%, what about the rest of the population; are we not somehow being mean to the majority? I have heard that false argument from the religious community for the last 20 years, that everything is okay with the majority and the minority can just get along.

I remember what it was like for the minority when I was in grade 9 and my friend Terry had to run home every single day. We did not have a word for trans then, but we knew what happened to them. Hey, but the majority, the football players, the jocks, the pretty girls, they all thought it was okay.

What we are talking about is simple legislation to make sure that those kinds of acts of violence are not allowed, that denying people jobs because they are trans is not allowed. My colleague is a landlord and she might not like a trans couple renting at her place, but it is not her place to tell them that they cannot rent there, in the same way as if she does not like a black couple renting, or a gay couple. That it is not her right, as the majority does not supersede their right to live their lives.

This is a fairly simple piece of legislation, but when I hear my hon. colleague, it sounds like western civilization is coming to an end. Western civilization was not all that great for a lot of people who were bullied and victimized year after year after year. When I hear her talk about sexual predators coming into the washrooms, I have to say that we saw sexual predators loose in our schools and our churches for decades because nobody was going to challenge them.

I would like to ask why my hon. colleague is afraid of that 3% just being protected from harassment.

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I agree with you that they should be protected. That is not the argument here at all. There is no way that those individuals should not be protected the way everyone else is under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the concern is that their being entrenched in that charter gives an unfair advantage in hate literature.

You talked about playing both directions, sir. I agree with you that homosexuality is not a new thing. There are Christian churches that are gay communities, and I respect that. That is not the issue. What we are talking about here is ensuring that everybody's rights and freedoms are protected.