Today is International Transgender Day of Remembrance
And instead of just asking you to stop and think about the 180 more people who were murdered because they were transgender this past year, instead of reminding you of the role cis people should play in ending discrimination, fear, hate, and violence against trans people, I’m going to ask you to do something a bit more concrete.
If you can vote in Canada, you need to know about Bill C-389. It’s a private member’s bill introduced by Bill Siksay (NDP MP for Burnaby—Douglas) last March. If passed, it will amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Criminal Code to explicitly make discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression illegal and to extend the definition of hate crimes to include violence motivated by transphobia.
The bill has just come back from committee and should come up for third reading in December. If it passes third reading, it then has to go through the Senate in order to become law. We can’t do much about our unelected Senate right now, but you can contact your Member of Parliament and tell them that you support this bill.
Here are links to information (include the full text of the bill) from LEGISinfo and OpenParliament. Contacting your MP is simple: this site can find your MP’s contact information for you based on your postal code and send a form letter to the MP expressing support for the bill (with an option to include a message of your own.) You can also look up your MP’s contact information yourself at the Parliament of Canada’s website.
I am, apparently, totally clueless, because I was shocked that there is any opposition to this bill. And it’s clear to me that the opposition to it is motivated by transphobia cloaked as bureaucratic efficiency. Consider this excerpt from a speech by Daniel Petit, Conservative MP for Charlesbourd—Haute-Saint-Charles, during debate at the bill’s second reading:
I would first like to talk about the uselessness of this bill. During the first hour of debate on this bill, some members stated that transgender Canadians have specific problems related to employment and in the lodging and services sectors. However, these members played down the fact that transsexuals are already protected against discrimination based on sex under the Canada Human Rights Act, a federal law.
As hon. members no doubt already know, federal and provincial human rights tribunals already protect transsexuals against discrimination in employment and services.
The validity of this protection against any discrimination on the prohibited ground of sex—or gender—has been upheld by the courts. But even though transsexuals are already protected against discrimination by Canada’s tribunals and courts of law, that is not enough for the member for Burnaby—Douglas.
He is insisting that we include transgender individuals explicitly in the anti-discrimination legislation and the Criminal Code. As he said in the first hour of debate, transgender Canadians cannot feel part of society if they are not protected by human rights legislation. In fact, they should say they are protected, because the courts have upheld the validity of discrimination complaints filed by transsexuals.
The member is proposing to amend legislation that currently protects transsexuals against discrimination. What he really seems to be proposing is therefore rather symbolic.
On what do we base our decision to symbolically add one minority group instead of another?
This bill proposes changes to the law, not just symbolic debate or measures. And changes to the law have real, not symbolic, repercussions.
For example, guaranteeing additional protection for one minority group can have unwanted social and legal consequences for another group. We must know the exact repercussions of legislative amendments and we were not given this information by the member who sponsored the bill.
First of all, while the courts may have upheld “discrimination complaints filed by transsexuals”, neither the Charter nor the Criminal Code actually recognizes trans rights, mentioning only sex as grounds for protection. And this is just not right. This is failing to acknowledge even the existence of the trans community, let alone failing to protect them from very real discrimination and violence.
And second, this bluster about “unwanted social and legal consequences” for other groups that might come at the expense of explicitly protecting trans rights reeks of transphobia. Really? You’re going to be more concerned about vague “other groups” that might have unspecified “consequences” than you are about whether crimes driven by transphobia are prosecuted as hate crimes? Really?
I’m not sure what level of support the bill currently has in Parliament—from the OpenParliament database, there seem to be far more speeches in support of than against it. It also seems that the NDP and Bloc support it; all the statements against it were by Conservative MPs but there’s no statement of official policy; there is some Liberal support but again, I don’t know if they’re unified on this matter. So I encourage you not only to contact your MP to express your support for this bill, but also to explicitly ask your MP what his or her stance is. (And if you get a clueless response, I’d love to hear about it—especially if you write back to explain how they’ve been clueless.)
Folks, pass on the word and send a letter yourself. It’s not even remotely hard to do and it’s so, so necessary to get this legislation passed.