A new campaign organized by the Vancouver Pride Society is hoping to advocate for the interests of transgender and gender-variant people across Canada.
The Trans Equality Now (TEN) campaign, which was launched this morning at an event in Vancouver’s Davie Village, will lobby the B.C. and federal governments to pass pro-equality legislation, while educating the general public on issues affecting trans people.
“We’re going to focus on long-term education and pushing politicians to do the right thing,” said Bry Leckie, a member of the Vancouver Pride Society who will coordinate the TEN campaign.
The group's lobbying efforts will concentrate on getting provincial and federal laws to include language that specifically offers protections for transgendered and gender-variant people.
Existing legislation disallows discrimination based on sexual orientation, but does not explicitly mention gender identity. This language leaves a gap through which transgender and gender-variant people sometimes fall.
But Leckie hopes that the Trans Equality Now campaign will change that.
“We’re looking to have the provincial and federal governments amend human rights legislations and the criminal code to explicitly prohibit discrimination against trans and gender-variant people,” she said.
On the federal level, Bill C-279—proposed by NDP MP Randall Garrison—was meant to add such provisions, but a drastic amendment announced by Conservative Senator Don Plett earlier this year essentially gutted the bill.
B.C. also lacks legislation that specifically protects transgender people.
The lack of such protections often leads to discriminatory practices that affect trans people on a daily basis, according to Leckie. This discrimination tends to lead to physical and emotional violence.
“I think because in Canada trans and gender-variant people aren’t explicitly protected, and there hasn’t been a lot of focus on us, a lot of people wrongly think that it’s not that big of a deal if they harass a trans person,” Leckie said.
According to a nationwide survey cited by Amnesty International Canada, 74 percent of transgender youth experience verbal harassment in school, while 37 percent reported experiencing physical violence.
Transgendered people also suffer high-rates of depression, homelessness, and suicide.
In the face of those statistics, the TEN campaign has created a pledge, in which signatories express their support for the passing of new provincial and federal legislation.
Anyone wanting to participate in the 2015 Pride Parade will have to sign the pledge.
Among those who signed the pledge during the campaign’s launch was Vancouver’s deputy mayor Andrea Reimer, who is the mother of a transgender child.
“I’m very proud today, as deputy mayor, as a mother of a trans child, and as a member of my community to be signing on to this pledge,” said a visibly emotional Reimer.
According to the deputy mayor, Vancouver has made some positive changes to its school and parks systems in order to accommodate its transgendered citizens. But the city’s small jurisdiction limits the amount of progress it can achieve.
“Without the action by the provincial and federal government we can’t even provide a basic foundation of human rights for trans people,” Reimer told the Straight after the event. “We can’t extend those rights into the workplace, into housing, healthcare, nor any other places that trans people are finding so difficult to access.”
Other signatories of the pledge included MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert of Vancouver-West End and Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who represents the Vancouver Centre riding in the House of Commons.
For Leckie, this type of support will help give transgender and gender-variant people a political voice. She hopes the pledge will show governments just how many people want pieces of essential equality legislation to be enacted.
“We want to show that this isn’t a minor issue, it’s not a fringe issue anymore, it’s something people care about, and something Canadians stand for,” Leckie said. “We stand for human rights and equality, and it’s something that needs to be taken care of now.”