Amnesty International welcomes Canadian government move to protect transgender rights
Amnesty International welcomes Bill C-16, tabled today by the government of Canada to enshrine the equality rights of transgender individuals in Canadian law and protect them from hate crimes. The important move will uphold the human rights of individuals who are vulnerable to significantly heightened levels of discrimination and violence, in Canada and worldwide.
Bill C-16 will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, bringing federal law into line with human rights legislation in eight provinces and territories. It will also add gender identity and gender expression to hate crimes sentencing provisions in the Canadian Criminal Code, providing transgender individuals with stronger protection from being deliberately targeted for acts of violence.
“This Bill is a long and sorely-needed advance in protecting the rights of one of the most vulnerable sectors of Canadian society and as such strengthens the protection of rights more broadly in the country,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English Branch. “These reforms will make it clear that it is never okay to discriminate against someone or target them for violence because of how they identify or express their gender. This goes to the very heart of what it is to have human rights in the first place.”
Amnesty International appeals to all Members of Parliament to add their support to this Bill so that it will be adopted quickly by the House of Commons and similarly urges Senators to assure it is smoothly passed by the Senate and can enter into force as soon as possible.
“Transgender individuals across Canada have been waiting for federal government action to defend their rights for many years, a crucial step forward that was consistently thwarted by previous sessions of Parliament,” said Béatrice Vaugrante, Director of Amnesty International Canada’s francophone branch. “This is the first time that the government itself has led the way and it is incumbent upon all parliamentarians to ensure that these crucial reforms are adopted without delay.”
Bill C-16 comes after 7 attempts to advance these reforms through private members legislation over the past 11 years, including most recently Bill C-279 which had been sponsored by Randall Garrison MP and had made it as far as the final steps in the Senate in June 2015 before the most recent election. The Bill had been amended in Committee by Senators from the former government and, if passed, would have excluded equality protections in washrooms, changing rooms and other similar settings, adding a troubling element of discrimination to a law that was supposed to address discrimination.
The Liberal Party promised the changes as part of its recent election platform, a commitment that was included the mandate letter for Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould.
The need for this legislation was brought sharply into focus earlier this month with an act of suspected arson on May 2nd against the Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie in Montreal, one of the only medical clinics in Canada to perform gender reassignment surgery.
Passage of the Bill will require further action by the federal government to amend and revise other laws and policies in a number of different areas which directly or indirectly discriminate against transgender individuals.
Amnesty International now looks to the federal government to press the governments of British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to follow suit and similarly amend their provincial and territorial human rights laws. There will be tremendous opportunities now also for Canada to bring this commitment to upholding the rights of transgender individuals to the world stage. Around the world transgender individuals experience extremely high levels of violence, discrimination and other serious human rights abuses. Most governments fail to take action to defend their rights and very few states have laws in place to guarantee them equality and protection.
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