B.C. NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert brings back transgender rights bill

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      A B.C. NDP MLA is hoping that the third time will be the charm for his transgender rights legislation.

      Vancouver-West End's Spencer Chandra Herbert plans to reintroduce today (July 20) a bill to enshrine protection for transgender people in the Human Rights Code.

      Chandra Herbert’s legislation would add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the prohibited grounds for discrimination in the code.

      However, it appears the B.C. Liberal government's position remains that the code does not need to be amended as called for by transgender rights activists.

      On July 15, Chandra Herbert asked Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton "why her government refuses to extend explicit human rights protections to transgender British Columbians".

      In the legislature, Anton responded: "The issue of gender identity and the human rights code of British Columbia is crystal-clear. Our human rights code protects all persons, no matter what their gender identity is, which I think is the issue at question. It is crystal-clear. The law is crystal-clear. They are protected. We can be proud of that in British Columbia — that our courts have been so clear about that, that we are so clear about that. The protections are there in the human rights code."

      According to Hansard, Chandra Herbert followed up by saying: "Well, if the minister happened to actually read the human rights code, she would see that gender identity and expression are not actually written in the B.C.'s human rights code. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland have all acted. They've all explicitly protected gender identity and expression in their human rights code because transgender people face hatred, discrimination and outrageous levels of violence.

      "This government almost stands alone in refusing to support transgender British Columbians. Why will this government not act when people across this nation are standing up against hatred, raising the rainbow flag of inclusion and standing up for their transgender citizens? Why do the B.C. Liberals refuse to do the same?"

      Anton answered: "I do acknowledge what the member opposite is saying in terms of the difficulties some people face. That needs to be addressed in a number of ways, and our government is committed to addressing it in a number of ways. I know the Minister of Education frequently talks about anti-bullying initiatives in schools.

      "Our government is committed to recognizing and celebrating the diversity of British Columbians. There is no question that that absolutely encompasses transgender people. There is no question that the rights of transgender people are protected in our human rights code. It is crystal-clear. Our government fully supports that, fully endorses that.

      "I recognize, as I said a moment ago, that transgender people do face difficulties, but one of them is not the human rights code of British Columbia."



      Barry William Teske

      Jul 20, 2015 at 6:22pm

      " some people "

      Might as well just say 'it ', right "Justice Minister"?

      Morgane Oger

      Jul 20, 2015 at 11:05pm

      Vancouver Rape Relief is a registered charity operating a publicly-funded women's shelter in Vancouver. over 80% of it's funding is from the province.

      This charity successfully fought for it's legal right to discriminate against a transgender women on the basis of her gender identity in spite of the BC Human Rights Tribunal finding that it had discriminated against this woman.

      The final finding was that the charity was within its rights, as a women's shelter, to decide for itself what a woman was.

      This is in my eyes the only example we need of how Ms Anton's claims are erroneous. The BC Human Rights Code only goes so far in protecting transgender persons in BC - mostly because gender identity is not explicitly enumerated in it along with the other enumerated classifications.

      The BC government can not simultaneously fund a program which openly discriminates against transgender persons while claiming that transgender persons are protected from discrimination in BC by its own laws.

      It is high time we add gender identity to the BC Human Rights Code.