May 17, 2016

Federal transgender rights bill a progressive step forward: CUPE BC

BURNABY—Federal legislation introduced today that bans discrimination based on gender identity or expression is a significant win for transgender Canadians and a progressive step forward for human rights everywhere, says the B.C. Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Tabled in the House of Commons this morning—on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT)—Bill C-16 adds gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The legislation also adds gender identity to the list of distinguishing characteristics of an ‘identifiable group’ protected by hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.

“This legislation is a tremendous victory for transgender people, who have had to endure all forms of discrimination in housing, employment, and society in general,” said CUPE BC President Paul Faoro.

“With this bill, the Trudeau Liberals have shown they are willing to listen to the facts and not allow social conservatives to drown out the voices of those who have continued to suffer from hate speech and other forms of bigotry.”

Faoro added that today’s historic announcement by the federal government follows the lead of New Democratic Party MPs who have been trying for years to get similar legislation passed.

The first bill to add gender identity to human rights legislation was tabled by former NDP MP Bill Siksay in 2004. Siksay introduced the bill in 2006, 2007 and 2009. His Bill C-389, introduced in 2010, passed a year later but Parliament was dissolved for an election soon afterward. After Siksay’s retirement, NDP MP Randall Garrison introduced Bill C-279, which passed the House in 2013 by a vote of 149-137. But that legislation then stalled in the Senate.

“This is one International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia we can truly celebrate,” said Faoro.

“Today’s announcement should be seen as a tribute to the efforts of the transgender community, their activists and their supporters over so many years to achieve full equality as Canadians. While many LGBTTI people continue to face various forms of discrimination and violence, this legislation is a significant step forward.”

COPE 491