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New Brunswick Senators Support Bill C-279


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  • Express your concern for the human rights of trans Canadians; and
  • Urge the Senate to pass Bill C-279 as drafted and without delay.

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The Senate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
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Please support Bill C-279, but vote against Committee amendment

  • I’m writing to you in support of Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity). I urge you to support the Bill, but to vote against a dangerous amendment introduced in Committee.

    The intent of Bill C-279 is to recognize the equal human rights of transgender people, and to protect them from violence, harassment, discrimination and hate crime—experiences that are all too common among trans people in Canada. Sadly, one of the amendments proposed in Committee would achieve precisely the opposite, and would in all likelihood put trans communities at greater risk of harm.

    We know that the need for services like emergency shelter and crisis counselling is disproportionately high within trans communities. Among trans youth nationally, 49% have been sexually harassed—because they are trans—within the past year alone. Over a third (37%) have been physically harassed or assaulted because of their gender expression. And all too often, trans youth in Canada must turn to the streets, rejected by their families because of who they are. These youth are over 8 times more likely than their peers to report a suicide attempt, and nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression.

    And yet, the proposed amendment, adding a new sub-section 15(1)(f.1) to the Canadian Human Rights Act, would allow providers of potentially life-saving services to turn people away simply because they are trans. It would allow the operator of a shelter for victims of abuse to say to someone, with impunity, “I will not put a roof over your head because you are trans.” It would allow the provider of crisis counselling services to say to a trans person who has been the victim of sexual assault, “Because you are trans, I will not help you deal with the trauma of this dehumanizing experience.” Such an action would be unconscionable, yet this amendment would make it perfectly legal.

    The potential harm from this amendment isn’t limited to trans communities. The exemptions it provides apply to all grounds in the CHRA, not just gender identity. The Canadian Bar Association has warned that the “unintended negative consequences” of this amendment are, as yet, completely unknown, but may well infringe the rights of persons with disabilities, racialized persons, or persons from particular religious groups, in addition to trans persons.

    Aside from presenting a serious risk of harm, this amendment is completely unnecessary. Former Chief Commissioner for Human Rights in Ontario, Barbara Hall, has written that, in the over 15 years that Ontarians have had the legal right to access sex-segregated facilities, such as washrooms and change rooms, that align with their gender identity, “We have never seen a documented case of a heterosexual man gaining access to a woman’s change room by posing as transgender. In fact, in washrooms and change rooms, and in society at large, transgender persons are more at risk than anyone else of being harassed, abused, assaulted, or even killed.”

    This Bill passed through the House of Commons with support from all parties over two years ago. In June 2013, it was awaiting third reading in the Senate as Parliament prorogued. The time has long passed to bring this critical piece of legislation through its final stages in the Senate. Please take action today to support Bill C-279 as originally intended, without the dangerous amendment that would exclude trans people from public places and from accessing critical support services.
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