Due to parliamentary rules that few Canadians understand, the Senate is threatening to kill an NDP MP’s democratically-passed Transgender Rights private member’s bill when it’s amended in the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee next week.
This is a travesty on a number of levels.
First, the transgendered and transsexual community, very vulnerable to discrimination in our society, has been waiting for protections such as these at the federal level for decades. An equivalent bill protecting gays and lesbians was passed in Ottawa almost 20 years ago.
Secondly, the bill was passed by a vote of 149 to 137 in the House of Commons in March 2013 with unanimous opposition support, plus 18 Conservative MPs. Now unelected Conservative senators appointed by Stephen Harper (who voted against the bill in the House) may end up killing the bill by trying to amend it in yet unspecified ways.
That would force the bill to return to the House of Commons for another vote, something apparently unlikely to happen in time before this October’s federal election, which would kill the bill altogether. A similar bill would have to be introduced again in the next parliament.
Bill C-279, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity), would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity or gender expression and it would amend the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as a recognized group when offences are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate.
Conservative Senator Don Plett, a former Conservative Party president, who is threatening the bill with amendments, has raised the tired, old attack that protecting trans people from discrimination will somehow allow sexual predators a new legal defence when entering public women’s washrooms.
It’s the same old bigoted stuff inspired by fictional stories of yesteryear when transsexuals and homosexuals were considered nothing more than perverts hiding in dark places trying to rape little children.
“If my five-year-old granddaughter doesn’t want to be in a bathroom with a biological male. … What is her option? She doesn’t want to be there. What’s her option?” said Sen. Plett in October in the Committee meeting.
Maybe her option is to understand and accept that transsexual people, who are no threat to her, exist in this world and have a right to use public restrooms too?
But Senator Grant Mitchell, who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate (as the NDP, which initiated the bill, has no Senators), has disagreed: “First, there is no evidence of there ever being a problem in this regard. It’s purely hypothetical. What I know for sure is that you cannot diminish the rights of one group of people on the possibility or in the anticipation of the criminal intentions of another group of people. To draw that further is to say that if that were the case, then white males wouldn’t be allowed to go into corner stores because corner stores have been robbed by white males. The problem that you mention is purely hypothetical, literally almost purely hypothetical.”
Randall Garrison, the NDP MP who introduced the bill in the House of Commons, who also appeared before the committee last fall, told committee members: “Discrimination is discrimination, and that’s what we’re seeking to correct in this bill. Some people have been excluded from the protections that all other people enjoy,” Mr. Garrison said.
It’s time to start agitating to get this bill finally passed. We can’t wait any longer for it.
Here is Senator Plett’s contact information:
Telephone: 613-992-0180 or 1-800-267-7362
Follow Matt Guerin on twitter: @mattfguerin