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Human rights groups applaud House of Commons support for transgender rights bill

    November 18, 2016

    November 18, 2016 – The Trans Equality Canada coalition applauds the government and all parties in the House of Commons for quickly passing Bill C-16, an important step towards enshrining the equal rights of transgender individuals in Canadian law and providing protection from hate crimes. We especially commend MP Randall Garrison and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould for their leadership in this initiative.

    As we approach the International Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, this legislation is an important step towards upholding the human rights of individuals who are vulnerable to significantly heightened levels of discrimination and violence.

    Bill C-16 will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. 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.

    Amanda Ryan, President of Gender Mosaic said, “Gender Mosaic and our members have waited a long time for the trans discrimination protections that Bill C-16 will provide. It is time that federal law reflected attitudes of the Canadian public. It is overdue. Let’s get this done.”

    “Bill C-16 represents a significant step forward for the federal government in protecting the rights of transgender individuals,” said Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. “We expect the Senate to recognize the importance of this bill and to act in a way that respects the human rights of all individuals.”

    The Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) David J. Cape said, “Transgender people are an integral part of our families, our communities, and our country. Like any at-risk minority, transgender Canadians deserve the full protection of the law, particularly given that hate crimes against transgender people tend to be physically aggressive.”

    “The passage of Bill C-16 stands to make Canadian human rights history, providing long-awaited equality and protection to transgender individuals across the country. We look to the Senate to make sure that C-16 becomes law without any further delays,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Moving forward this will position Canada to assert leadership in addressing a pressing global human rights concern.”

    Members of Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of Bill C-16 today; the bill will now be sent to the Senate. We urge all Senators to support this legislation and to ensure that it is passed quickly and without amendment, so that it enters into force as soon as possible.

    Background:

    Bill C-16 comes after seven previous attempts to advance these reforms through private members’ legislation over the past 11 years, including Bill C-279 which was sponsored by MP Randall Garrison and which made it as far as the final steps in the Senate in 2015 before the federal election was called.

    Passage of Bill C-16 will pave the way for additional policy and legislative changes that will positively impact the rights of transgender individuals, for example, making it easier to obtain identification documents that are aligned with a person’s gender identity.

    Since Bill C-16 was introduced in May 2016, British Columbia and Quebec have passed legislation amending their respective human rights codes to explicitly protect gender identity and/or gender expression, joining Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. As Bill C-16 moves to the Senate, we look to New Brunswick, Nunavut, and the Yukon to similarly amend their provincial and territorial laws.

    Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals face high rates of violence, in Canada and around the world. In Ontario, the Trans Pulse Project found that 20% of transgender people had been physically or sexually assaulted as a result of their gender identity or expression, and a further 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed. In its annual Trans Day of Remembrance update, the Trans Murder Monitoring Project reports that at least 295 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have been murdered worldwide since October 1, 2015. These numbers are likely much higher; violence against transgender individuals is particularly difficult to track due to inconsistent reporting. 

    #TransEqualityCanada

    Contacts:

    Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, Amnesty International, 416-363-9933 ext 332, bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

    Martin Sampson, Media Relations, CIJA, 613-219-3500, msampson@cija.ca