Commons approves transgender protection bill
Canadians who have changed or are in the process of changing their sex are one step closer to legal protection, after a bill to protect them from discrimination passed third reading in the House of Commons.
The private member's bill introduced by NDP MP Bill Siksay was passed Wednesday night in a vote that split along party lines.
While the Conservatives largely opposed the law, a nearly-unanimous vote from opposition MPs was enough to ensure its passage by a margin of eight votes. Only seven Liberals voted against it and five members abstained.
A total of six members of the government, including cabinet ministers Lisa Raitt, John Baird, Lawrence Cannon and James Moore voted for the bill. One minister abstained.
Activist Enza Anderson told CTV's Question Period that the bill was "a great victory for the trans community."
"This bill is very important, because it . . . gives teeth to other human rights legislation that (provinces) have enacted from coast to coast," she said.
"Trans women and trans men constantly face discrimination at all levels: of job opportunities; of housing; of just being out in a social setting. I've heard of trans women who've gone to use the women's bathroom and simply were arrested."
"I think this is going to be a wonderful add to the Canadian Bill of Rights."
But Charles McVety, president of the Canadian Family Action Committee, said the bill makes major changes to criminal law without much consideration of the possible consequences.
"For the record, I'm for the protection of the human rights of anyone struggling with transgendered issues," he told Question Period. "But the Criminal Code of Canada has been changed and unfortunately there's not been sufficient study to look at the impact on society of changing such a vital part of the law."
Although the bill amends both the Human Rights Act and hate crimes provisions in the Criminal Code to make discrimination on the grounds of gender expression or gender identity a crime, it does not explicitly define what those terms mean.
He said the current wording of the bill allows anyone with an "innate feeling of being of the opposite gender" to use washrooms or showers of that gender.
"And that is dangerous when they enshrine that in law," he said. "I have a 13-year-old daughter and I don't think that the law should allow someone to come into the local shower at the pool and shower with my daughter: that would be outrageous."
"This bill only lasted 15 or 20 minutes at the committee stage. It was rushed through; it was presented with little or no debate and therein lies the problem."
Siksay has dismissed such allegations as ridiculous and alarmist.
Bill C-389 now moves to the Conservative-dominated Senate, where Siksay must find a sponsor to champion his bill through the Upper House. So far, he hasn't found a volunteer.