A private member’s bill seeking human-rights protection for transgender and transsexual Canadians passed second reading in the House of Commons on June 8.
The third time might be the charm for Bill Siksay, the NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas, who has tabled similar bills twice before, none of which have made it this far in the legislative process.
“This is a big, historic step,” Siksay told the Straight in a phone interview from Ottawa. “It’s an indication that there is interest and support for this.”
Bill C-389 seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination.
Siksay, the NDP’s critic for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues, said there wasn’t any “outright” opposition to the bill, which was supported by Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Québécois MPs.
“Their [Conservatives’] concerns during the debate were thoughtful, and they need to be and can be addressed,” he said.
According to Siksay, the Conservatives believe the bill is redundant and that trans people are already protected under the grounds of sex and disability in the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, he believes this protection needs to be very explicit in the law.
“There needs to be no question that there is a direct appeal to the grounds of gender identity and expression,” Siksay said, adding that his proposed amendments to the act are necessary to show transgender and transsexual Canadians that they are a “valued part of Canadian society”.
Another apprehension raised by the Conservatives is that gender identity and expression aren’t defined in the legislation. Siksay noted that the human rights act has never defined the various grounds of discrimination.
Siksay said that although his bill has a long way to go, he wants all Canadians to recognize the tremendous difficulties that transgender and transsexual people face each day.
“It’s very apparent the challenges that trans Canadians face in their daily lives,” he said. “If you look at statistics on violent crimes in Canada and around the world, you will see a higher representation of trans folks who are victims of these crimes, and often it’s over the top compared to what others face.”
The bill will now be considered by the Commons standing committee on justice and human rights.