In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Clarification regarding amendments to Bill C-279

Posted 2/27/2015 by Grant Mitchell


Over the past two years, my Senate Liberal colleagues and I have worked alongside the transgender community to pass Bill C-279 so that it can become law. The bill – known as the gender identity bill - would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination, as well as protect gender identity in the Criminal Code. I have also had the pleasure of working with Randall Garrison, the NDP MP who initiated this bill.

On February 25, a Conservative-dominated committee introduced amendments to the bill that would limit that protection so that members of the transgender community would not be protected in single-gender spaces, including bathrooms, correctional facilities or shelters.

This is deeply troubling for the transgender community and for all of us. Bill C-279, along with human rights legislation and the Criminal Code, are designed specifically to avoid discrimination, but the clause is itself inherently discriminatory. To be clear, Senate Liberals will do everything we can to defeat this amendment at third reading and then pass the bill without it.

As Amanda Ryan of Gender Mosaic Canada has noted, “it’s insulting” that the amendment does not take into consideration that “a transwoman is a woman”, despite their biological makeup at birth.

Following the committee meeting, there was speculation in social media and by other parties that Senate Liberals had voted in favour of the offensive Conservative amendment. This is patently false. Every Senate Liberal in attendance at the meeting voted against that specific amendment.

Just for the record, it is our understanding that the confusion arose because there was a Conservative sitting among Senate liberals, as is often the case in Senate committees; therefore some people assumed it was a Liberal Senator voting in favour of the amendment.

Despite this setback, I remain hopeful that that the legislation can still be passed as it was intended. Even if we can’t remove the amendment regarding bathrooms, because of the other technical amendments the bill will still have to go back to the House of Commons before it can become law. Surely, when it reaches the House of Commons, members of parliament will do their utmost to prioritize the legislation so that it can move as fast as possible to a vote, at which time the offensive amendment could also be removed.

This debate has come a long way over the past few years. And, while I am very disappointed that an amendment of this nature was introduced, the bill is much more than a discussion about bathrooms. Protecting transgender Canadians from violence and enshrining that protection into Canadian law will be a big step forward for the transgender community. I now urge all members of the House of Commons to strike down the bathroom amendment so that the legislation can pass as it was intended to be.



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