Proposed bill sent back to House of Commons
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
A provision to the Canadian Human Rights Act known as Bill C-279 has been amended and sent back for debate in the House of Commons. The bill, which covers issues of transgender-inclusiveness, likely won’t pass until after the next federal election.
The Canadian Human Rights Act is a statute currently part of the Canadian legal code, allowing equal opportunity to all citizens of Canada. Currently, the full text of the bill allows for claims of discrimination based on nationality, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, marital and family status, pardoned or suspended conviction, and age.
Introduced by NDP MP Randall Garrison, Bill C-279 is informally known as the “Gender Identity Bill.” The proposed amendment has been introduced in the House of Commons to add the phrases of “gender identity” and “gender expression” into the Human Rights Act. This proposal would also add the phrases to the Criminal Code of Canada in the section of determining hate towards those groups as a motivation for sentencing. The bill would protect the rights of all individuals in Canada from discrimination on the basis of their sexual identity and gender, particularly affecting transgendered or otherwise non-gender-binary citizens both civilly and criminally.
Although the act has been passed in favour by Parliament, it was vetoed by the Senate due to proposed amendments that must go back to Parliament for further study. The bill was originally passed by Parliament on March 20, 2013, with unanimous support from Green, NDP, Liberal, and Bloc Quebecois MPs. Although the majority of Conservative MPs voted against the bill, 18 of them voted in favour. Bill C-279 has since been delayed and amended by the Senate, particularly the Conservative majority section.
Conservative Senator Don Plett has introduced an amendment that would prevent transgendered people from entering designated single-sex areas, such as washrooms, under the basis that this could allow “biological males” to enter designated female-only facilities.
Other politicians have criticized Plett’s stance on the issue, including Garrison himself, who the Globe and Mail reported said the amendment, “is contradictory to the whole purpose of the bill and illustrates the transphobia the bill is designed to fight.”
The House will be breaking for the summer before being dissolved in preparation for the upcoming federal election (likely) on October 19. The bill is unlikely to be debated and passed again for injunction until Parliament is back in session, delaying its process for another year.
Although the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code protect all Canadians on a federal level, each province has a separate law in its own code that may amend or add rights to certain groups. Six provinces—Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan—have introduced acts protecting sex and gender identity in their codes since the bill was originally suggested in Parliament.