Disappointing Senate decision exposes transgender people to threats and violence
Ottawa, February 26, 2015 – Trans Equality Rights in Canada, a civil society-based coalition advocating for the rights of transgender people in Canada, is disappointed that Canada’s Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs amended Bill C-279 on Gender Identity yesterday, exempting it from applying to public spaces including bathrooms and locker rooms.
“Human rights are not conditional,” said Helen Kennedy of Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. “The human rights of transgender people must be protected in all spaces including public bathrooms and locker rooms. The amendment to Bill C-279 fuels discrimination against transgender individuals by making it seem like people have something to fear by sharing a bathroom with a transgender person, which of course they don’t.”
“As a transgender person I have been waiting a long time for federal human rights protections,” said Amanda Ryan of Gender Mosaic. “Bathrooms are dangerous for me. I fear what people will do to me if they realize I am transgender. Bill C-279 was meant to protect me from hate crimes, but in amending it, the Senate is putting me at risk. It will force me to use the men’s bathroom, and a transgender woman in the men’s room is a recipe for violence.”
Bill C-279 is needed to help combat widespread discrimination and violence against transgender people in Canada. According to a nationwide survey, 74% of transgender youth experience verbal harassment in school and 37% reported experiencing physical violence. As many as two-thirds of transgender people suffer from depression, and 77% of transgender individuals in Ontario report considering suicide; 43% have attempted suicide at least once.
“We appealed to all Senators to support Bill C-279 without any amendments,” said Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada. “The original Bill is what was needed. If Senators passed the bill in Committee with no amendments, we would be well on our way to having life-saving human rights protections in place in a matter of weeks.”
“We believe that vulnerable minorities are entitled to basic human rights and should have the full protection of the law; this Bill as amended falls short of providing that protection,” said Richard Marceau of The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
As the Senate moves toward third reading of the Bill, the Coalition calls on all Senators to reject the amendments that would exclude transgender people from public places and from accessing critical support services.
More Information on Gender Identity Legislation in Canada
- Six provinces and one territory have already passed legislation to protect transgender people in Canada: Manitoba (2012), Newfoundland and Labrador (2013), Northwest Territories (2004), Nova Scotia (2012), Ontario (2012), Prince Edward Island (2013), and Saskatchewan (2014).
- Bill C-279 on Gender Identity is a private member’s bill introduced by NDP Member of Parliament Randall Garrison to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Criminal Code to legally recognize and protect the human rights of transgender people in Canada. The Bill requires courts to recognize and penalize hate crimes against transgender people, just as they do for hate crimes motivated by religion, race, and sexual orientation.
- The House of Commons passed Bill C-279 in 2013, with support from members of each political party, having already passed a similar version of the Bill (C-389) in 2011, just before the federal election was called.
About Trans Equality Rights in Canada
Amnesty International, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, and Gender Mosaic are four of the many members of the Trans Equality Rights in Canada NGO coalition. Visit www.transequalitycanada.com.
To schedule an interview with Amnesty International or other members of the coalition please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, at tel. 416-363-9933 ext. 332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.