Mercedes Allen

Amendments Submitted to Canadian Trans Human Rights Bill C-279

Filed By Mercedes Allen | February 08, 2013 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Canada, gender expression, gender identity, human rights abuses, transgender, transsexual

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for CanadaRainbowAvatar.jpgiPolitics is reporting that sponsor Randall Garrison has submitted a package of amendments to the trans human rights bill C-279 (h/t Jill Page):

"Garrison's amendments target some of the more contentious elements of the bill by removing the term "gender expression" and giving a definition of "gender identity," which forms the basis of the bill. The legislation seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to protect and prevent discrimination of transgender people."

There's no word on whether Speaker Andrew Scheer will accept the amendments, and in fact, we may not know until the bill is reintroduced at report stage, which is tentatively scheduled to happen on February 27th. If passed at that time, the bill would then move on to Third Reading, two more hours of debate and a final vote.

During the committee process, a number of Conservatives successfully filibustered the proceedings, to ensure that the bill would proceed without amendments. Bill sponsor Randall Garrison (NDP, Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca) believes that two amendments are necessary in order to get the Conservative votes needed to pass the bill. Those amendments (as mentioned above) are to remove the term "gender expression" and to add a definition of the term "gender identity," based on the one found in the Yogyakarta Principles. There's no indication whether the package being reported by iPolitics contains anything different, but it's considered likely that it's limited to these two. It's expected that with those amendments, the bill may have a narrow chance at passage.

If these two changes are accepted, then the resulting bill would merely clarify inclusion for the people who are already most certain to be read into the legislation currently, and leave the situation vague for those who are most uncertain about inclusion:

... transitioning people are mostly considered read into existing legislation already, although there is some feeling of precariousness to that, and it takes some effort to demonstrate inclusion in each case (which was one of the reasons the acting CHRC secretary general, Ian Fine, agreed that explicit inclusion would be helpful). Because of this... Canadian trans people have the luxury of taking the time to pass a comprehensive trans human rights bill, without anyone falling through the cracks in the meantime -- and I believe that this is far preferable to trying to fix a flawed or abbreviated bill later. For that matter, the more discussion that happens about trans people, the more that hearts and minds can be (and are) changed... so taking longer to pass a bill is not all bad.

It's also worth pointing out that Bill C-279 applies to federal contractors and federal institutions. It would provide an important signal to provinces, employers and Canadians in general as well, but it doesn't of itself provide total protection to everyone across Canada. There are a lot of emotions wrapped up in this bill, as though all our lives depend on it, and maybe we need a reality check on that. It's important, but not to the level of the emotional involvement people currently have with it. This is another reason why... we can afford to be pragmatic and seek something comprehensive.

I've written previously about why I oppose these amendments, but at the same time would not actively oppose an amended bill:

In theory, if gender expression is dropped, it could in fact still work the way that Randall Garrison and many others believe -- that gender expression would be read into the legislation, anyway. It's not an ideal situation, and I could not in good conscience actively support that bill.

But I don't think I'd stand in its way, either.

I don't like incrementalist approaches, given that we've been on the short end of that stick enough times to recognize the harm of them. I will not participate in an incrementalist effort that could potentially exclude some trans people.

... But I've also watched the divisions and rifts that have happened in other places where trans-inclusive initiatives fall apart. It can get very bitter very quickly, and in a way that will never help us develop the infrastructure that trans people (as a movement) need. I don't want to be responsible for something similar, especially if I can't be certain any actual harm would happen.

Others have suggested that they would actively oppose the bill if gender expression is dropped:

Newfoundland trans activist Jennifer McCreath has created a website to voice her opposition to federal trans rights Bill C-279, saying that if "gender expression" is not included, the bill should be thrown out completely.

... "If you're going to do it, do it right. If you're going to offer human rights and protection, make sure it's absolute," she says. "I don't see any value in building a weak foundation."

So now it's a waiting game to see whether the amendments will be made. Which is unfortunate, as this time would be better spent actively lobbying for an inclusive bill.


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