BRIEF TO THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS REGARDING BILL C-279, AN ACT TO AMEND THE CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACT AND CRIMINAL CODE (GENDER IDENTITY)
SUMMARY OF BILL C-279 AND AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S POSITION ON THE PROPOSED LAW
Bill C-279, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code (Gender Identity) was a private member’s bill introduced in September 2011. The purpose of the Bill was to protect transgender persons from discrimination and hate crimes by including gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and by including violence against transgender persons as a hate crime under Canada’s Criminal Code.
Amnesty International has consistently called on States to fully extend human rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, and our submissions expressed our unreserved support for it to be passed. In May 2010, we also provided a brief urging the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament from all parties to support Bill C-279’s predecessor, Bill C-389. To learn more about our work in support of Bill C-389, click here.
The Bill was a welcome and extremely important step to bringing Canadian law into conformity with Canada’s international human rights obligations towards transgendered persons, existing provincial and territorial legislation, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Amnesty International’s legal brief to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs highlights our work with respect to human rights violations related to sexual orientation and gender identity; emphasizes the ongoing and pervasive discrimination and violence on the basis of gender identity in North America; sets out the international human rights standards of non-discrimination and for the specific protection of transgender persons; outlines existing provincial and territorial legislation protecting individuals against discrimination on the basis of gender identity; and emphasizes the need for recognition of such protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
STATUS OF BILL
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs amended Bill C-279, exempting it from applying to public spaces including bathrooms and locker rooms. The Bill was sent back to the House of Commons for consideration.
See the Trans Equality Rights in Canada news release, “Disappointing Senate decision exposes transgender people to threats” (25 February 2015)
In May 2016, the newly elected federal government tabled Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. A welcome development and culmination of over 11 years of efforts to secure legal protection for transgender persons in Canada, Bill C-16 enshrines equality rights of transgender individuals and protects them from hate crimes. Bill C-16 was passed and became law on 15 June 2017, a long-awaited step applauded by Amnesty International and its Trans Equality Canada Coalition partners. See Trans Equality Canada's Joint Press Release celebrating the passage of the law.
Amnesty International’s Brief to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in Support of Bill C-279 (October 2014)
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ Report on Bill C-279, with Amendments
Text of Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (First Reading)
"Human rights protections extended to trans people" (15 June 2017)
“Human rights groups applaud House of Commons support for transgender rights bill” (18 November 2016)
“Disappointing Senate decision exposes transgender people to threats and violence” (25 February 2015)
“Canada: Speak out in support of transgender rights!” (13 November 2014)
“Shame, Pride, and LGBTI Rights” (24 June 2014)