The chair of the Senate committee on human rights is no longer confident about the approval of a pending bill to protect transgender people.
“I’m not optimistic anymore,” Mobina Jaffer told the Straight in a phone interview on July 30. “I’m very, very crushed.”
Although Bill C-279 got through her committee with enough Conservatives supporting the private member’s measure sponsored by NDP MP Randall Garrison, it may be different when Parliament returns in the fall, according to the Liberal senator from B.C.
“I can’t tell you that when it comes back to us that we will approve it,” Jaffer said. “And this is a bill that we should approve; it’s unacceptable not to.”
Garrison’s bill aims to include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. It also seeks to amend the Criminal Code to forbid the promotion of hatred against transgender people.
The Senate broke for summer recess last June without passing Bill C-279 on third and final reading. Conservative senator Nancy Ruth has proposed an amendment. If Ruth’s revision is adopted, the measure will have to go back to the House of Commons.
Bill C-279 passed in the House last March by a 149-137 vote. Eighteen Conservative MPs supported the measure on third reading. “I’m not sure it will get through the House anymore,” Jaffer said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper voted against the proposed legislation. He can prorogue Parliament before the fall session. This would mean that the Senate would have to begin consideration of the bill anew, starting from first and second readings.
But senators pass measures on first, second, and third readings in one day if they want to, according to Garrison, and the Esquimalt–Juan de Fuca MP remains optimistic about the prospects of the legislation.
“There’s no reason for the unelected Senate to block the bill,” Garrison told the Straight by phone. “And nothing came up in the [Senate] committee that would suggest there was any reason for them to block the bill.”