[personal profile] tyresias
Mr. Bill Siksay ( Burnaby —Douglas, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to conclude the second reading debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression).

This bill would add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the hate crimes and sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada. This would ensure full human rights protection in areas of federal jurisdiction for transsexual and transgender Canadians.

The bill had its first hour of debate on May 10 and its second hour tonight. I would like to express my appreciation to all those who participated in the debate for their thoughtful comments, and I do mean everyone. Everyone who participated in the debate did so respectfully. I know that folks in the transgender and transsexual communities appreciate the participation of all members who chose to speak, just as they appreciate the 12 seconders of the bill.

Two concerns were raised in the debate that I would like to address.

The first was that the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” were not defined in the bill. This is true, but it is also entirely consistent with the Canadian Human Rights Act which does not define other listed prohibited grounds of discrimination. That is no accident. It was deliberate. These terms are widely used here in Canada and around the world, and Canada , including the current government, has supported international agreements and statements where they are used. They are accepted terms, defined both in practice and in jurisprudence.

The second concern was that explicit coverage in the Canadian Human Rights Act and in the hate crimes and sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code was redundant, given the fact that decisions had already been made supporting the full human rights of transsexuals and transgender Canadians and the fact that the provisions of the Criminal Code were open-ended. This, too, is true, but a strong argument can be made for the importance of adding to the existing list.

Those who are subject to discrimination and prejudice in our society need to see themselves clearly in our laws. This confirms their place in our society. It confirms that they are valued members of our society. Without explicit recognition, the lives and struggles of transgender and transsexual people remain invisible and their issues remain unaddressed.

Accessing these protections through a convoluted process using other possibly related categories, usually the categories of sex and disability, diminishes the protection and limits our understanding of the causes and effects of the particular discrimination. A right that has to be explained is not a particularly effective right.

Clarity is also helpful in terms of public education. The clearer the law, the easier it is to explain who is protected and why.

Both these issues could be fully explored at the standing committee should the bill pass second reading. Needless to say that while I believe they are reasonable issues to raise during this first round of debate, I know that they would be completely and satisfactorily answered in any study of the bill by the standing committee, and I look forward to that opportunity.

This has been a historic debate. For the first time, this House has considered the situation of transsexual and transgender Canadians, the prejudice and discrimination and violence they face as they live their lives, and one of the most important remedies to those circumstances. There can be no doubt that trans Canadians face significant challenges and that they do not yet enjoy full equality in our society. Progress is being made. Some jurisdictions have acted to explicitly protect the human rights of trans Canadians. Some employers have acted to prevent discrimination. Some landlords, some health care providers, many unions, institutions, organizations and religious groups have acted. Many families have come to know and love their trans children, siblings, and parents in ways they would never have imagined.

However, there is more to be done. This bill would ensure full and explicit human rights protection in all areas of federal jurisdiction.

A word to members of the transgender and transsexual community: no matter what ultimately happens with this bill, they should know that there are many in this place and thousands--no, millions--across Canada who love them and know them as they are, who recognize their experience, their gifts and their full humanity. We stand in solidarity with them until our goals of justice and equality are achieved.
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