Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Last updated: 1 year ago

Bill C-389 looks to protect trans people

VICTORIA—Canadians may soon see legal protection for trans and gender-variant individuals.

Bill C-389, which is expected to go through its third reading in the House of Commons in December, would add gender identity and gender expression to the definition of an “iden­tifiable group” in the Crimi­nal Code’s hate provisions. It would also add gender identity and gender expression to pro­hibited grounds of discrimina­tion in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

“[The bill would give]…ex­plicit legal protections, rather than ones that are implicit,” said Meris Colby, UVic Pride’s repre­sentative to trans groups.

First-year UVic student Katie Fukada showed her support by signing an online petition that sent her MP an email in support of Bill C-389.

“I feel like this bill is really important. I wanted to make sure that my rights and the rights of people that I care about very much are protected,” she said. “Everybody has a right to safety and I think this bill would just help enshrine that.”

Fukuda didn’t, however, ex­pect a response from LaVar Payne, a Conservative MP rep­resenting her home riding of Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Although she didn’t expect Payne to be in support of Bill C-389, Fukuda said the response she got was shocking.

The letter from Payne said that for gender identity and ex­pression to be considered for addition to the criminal code, “We need enough evidence to conclude that there are enough cases of hate propaganda against transgender people.”

“That was really what both­ered me the most,” said Fuku­da. “He literally says that he doesn’t see there being instanc­es of transphobia and I’m like, ‘Can you take a look around?’ So I found that to be really hurtful and really ignorant.”

Payne’s response also men­tioned broadening identifiable groups in the criminal code “will further infringe on Ca­nadians’ right to free speech.”

Payne could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Victoria NDP MP Denise Savoie, however, said the sug­gestion Bill C-389 would limit free speech is “ridiculous.”

“[The bill] doesn’t eliminate any existing right that’s held within our constitution,” said Savoie. “It simply gives people who are…marginalized and who do face prejudice and often violence…a certain protection that doesn’t exist now. So I would just say that seems like hogwash to me and an excuse for not sup­porting the bill.”

O’Connor echoed that trans and gender-variant people do face discrimination and cited a recent study that highlights the effects of that discrimination.

“[The study was] basically say­ing trans people have a 25 per cent higher chance of attempt­ing suicide, and they’re signif­icantly underemployed com­pared to the general population and generally discriminated against in health care because few people understand their problems. There’s a lot of soci­etal momentum to work against and there’s really no indicators right now that it is something anyone cares about beside queer groups,” said O’Connor.

Colby is hopeful that Bill C-389 reaching its third read­ing in Parliament will help bring attention to trans issues.

“I think it’s just gaining a lot of momentum right now. There’s a lot more publicity now that it’s reached this point,” said Colby. “It’s the third attempt so it’s fi­nally gotten far enough through that people are paying atten­tion to it.”