As promised, the federal Liberal government introduced legislation today (May 17) that would provide human rights and legal protection to transgender people.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, MP for Vancouver Granville and a member of the We Wai Kai Nation, introduced Bill C-16 on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
The bill would update the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include the terms gender identity and gender expression.
"I'm proud to say that moments ago, I introduced legislation, Bill C-16...that would ensure that Canadians will be free to identify themselves and to express their gender as they wish while being protected against discrimination and hate because as Canadians, we should feel free and safe to be ourselves," Wilson-Raybould said.
Previous bills for transgender rights have not passed into law.
Here is Wilson-Raybould's speech:
Good morning everyone.
Welcome and thank you for being here. I wanted to first start off by acknowledging the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. I am extremely pleased to be here today with all of you and standing with members and advocates of the transgender community, Parliamentary Secretaries Blair and Casey and joined by my colleague Randy Boissonnault who is going to provide some remarks en français. I want to acknowledge Randall Garrison, a colleague of ours and before that Bill Siksay before him whose efforts helped bring us to where we are today.
Of course today is International Day against homophobia and transphobia. On May 17th every year at events around the world people are celebrating advances in human rights that have been made by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. It is indeed a special day. In fact I am pretty sure that this is the first time the transgender flag has been displayed in this foyer.
Today we are in the words of the organizers of this international day proud of our differences and united in our diversities. Yet we must also acknowledge more needs to be done to end discrimination and violence against the LGBT2S community globally. Diversity and inclusion have long been among the values that Canadians embrace and Canadians expect their government to reflect these values.
Indeed our Canadian Human Rights Act has long recognized the right to be protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Canada was among the first countries in the world to recognize same sex marriage. Today the tradition continues. I am proud to say that moments ago I introduced legislation Bill C16, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code that would ensure that Canadians will be free to identify themselves and to express their gender as they wish while being protected against discrimination and hate because as Canadians we should feel free and safe to be ourselves.
No-one should be refused a job, disadvantaged in the workplace, be unable to access services or be the target of harassment and violence because of their gender identity or gender expression. Once passed this legislation would update the Canada Human Rights Act to protect persons from being discriminated against because of their gender identity or their gender expression.
We also intend to update the Criminal Code so that those who are targeted because of their gender identity or gender expression are protected against hate propaganda and hate crimes.
The government is proposing these changes because the law must be clear and explicit. Transgender and other trans diverse persons have the right to live free from discrimination, hate propaganda and hate crime. Our laws must reflect the rich diversity and inclusiveness which are among our greatest strengths as Canadians. They must reflect the values that we as Canadians all embrace—inclusion, honesty, empathy, compassion and generosity of spirit.
We believe this legislation would ensure that everyone can live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose because Canada is only made stronger through inclusiveness. As young Charlie who is somewhere behind me –
As young Charlie told me just the other day, “I know that the law won’t change the daily reality of bullying but it may stop those heartless humans who can’t accept me for who I am from doing worse than just calling me names.” Charlie told me this law is one important step that offers our family and my friends here today one simple thing—hope. Charlie is wise beyond her years.
We can’t go back to the days when it was okay to discriminate against someone because of their race, sex, religion or ethnic origin. Let’s work to make this true for gender identity and gender expression. Today is an incredible day to celebrate the amazing young people like Charlie and all those who have advocated for the recognition of gender identity and gender expression and ensuring we uphold human rights that we hold so dear in this country.