Update on Bill C-389

I’ve been mostly offline, so have not been able to update folks on the progress of NDP MP Bill Siksay’s Bill C-389 the way I’d hoped.  However, second reading took place as announced.  From Xtra:

NDP MP Bill Siksay, the bill’s author, began debate by lamenting the fact that there were no openly trans people in Parliament, and therefore the debate would leave important things left unsaid, or that other issues would be said awkwardly for lack of personal experience. He also defined the terms “gender identity,” “gender expression,” and “transsexual,” so that the bill could be put into its proper context. He spoke at length about the need for the bill given that trans people are currently left without explicit human rights protections, that they faced increased violence and discrimination, and that the only jurisdiction in Canada with explicit protection for these kinds of protections was the Northwest Territories.

There is support for the bill from several parties, including at least a couple Conservative MPs.  From the Liberals:

For the Liberals, Rob Oliphant … spoke about how this debate touched him on three levels – on a personal level, as he had friends who had transitioned; on a pastoral level, as he had addressed the issue in his former career as a United Church Minister, and had congregants in a small-c conservative congregation come up to him to talk about how it affected their lives, either through family or co-workers; and on a professional level, as he had once served on a human rights organisation, and that they felt a need for clarity in the laws. Oliphant also said that Canada should take a leadership role on the issue of protecting gender expression, and that the issue has been raised in the Liberal caucus, where he believes that consensus has been reached.

The way the Parliamentary process works, a bill is read into Parliament once (which occurred for Bill C-389 in May of last year), be selected by a draw among all Private Members Bills (anything not introduced by the governing party as an enactment of policy) to come up for second reading (which happened on May 10th), and in a few weeks time, will come up for a second hour of debate.  The improbable part (getting to second reading) has passed, and it’s imperative that people contact their Member of Parliament to express their support for the bill now.  If you’re in a Conservative riding, where the only likely reluctance is, it’s doubly important.

Bill C-389 facts:  The Bill adds “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of protected classes in the hate crimes section of the Criminal Code of Canada, and also to the Canada Human Rights Act, which protects against discrimination in housing and employment.  Currently, explicit protections only exist in the Northwest Territories and the City of Toronto.  Implicit protections have been interpreted in the court and human rights processes, but they’re always subject to interpretation (i.e. a 2009 case in the US where implicit protections weren’t enough to cause a person’s gender identity to be given more weight than a company dress code).

From a Trans Health Lobby Group press release:

… Susan Gapka, Trans Health Lobby Group Chair announced, “This is a historic day for trans people in Canada. We applaude Bill Siksay and the NDP for introducing this bill and the Liberals and Bloc for their support on C-389.” Susan believes that when people learn more about trans
people and the challenges we face in every day life, they too will be compelled to support this bill.

The Rainbow Health Network encourages Canadian residents to contact their MPs to encourage speedy adoption of C-389.

Trans people often experience ‘Transphobia’, a form of discrimination directed against them based upon fear, ignorance and hatred. An example of this is ‘trans bashing’ and involves physical and/or
sexual violence directed against trans people.

Gender Identity would protect trans people (a term that includes, but is not limited to, transsexual and transgender persons). Gender Identity refers not to biological sex nor sexual orientation, but the inner sense of being male or female.

Gender expression is a personal characteristic, such as behaviour, appearance, or presentation by which a person expresses their gender identity and through which others perceive and understand a person’s gender….

Incidentally, in Ontario today, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo re-introduced Toby’s Act, to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include “gender identity.”


6 thoughts on “Update on Bill C-389”

  1. Just to make you and your readers aware: the second hour of debate is scheduled for June 8 at 5:30 PM Eastern, and the vote at second reading will be held the following day. Now’s the time to contact your MPs — even Conservative ones — to ensure that they will be PRESENT and voting in favour of the bill.

    1. It’s still in a holding pattern. It will need to go before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which hasn’t scheduled anything yet, as everyone has been away until September (I don’t know if that means that staff will be back next Monday or exactly when things will be put on the calendar). Hopefully hearings will be scheduled soon.

      Given Daniel Petit’s speech during second reading, I expect opposition on two fronts: claiming that transsexuals are already covered so gender identity is redundant (which is sort of true at the moment, because existing precedents are in our favour, but can also be reinterpreted or overturned), and that gender expression is not clearly enough defined (which is also false, but could give them an excuse to write in all sorts of qualifications similar to the UK Equality Bill or try to drop it entirely).

      I expect REAL Women of Canada and Canada Family Action Coalition to speak in opposition. I don’t know who all is speaking in support of C-389, but the Trans Equality Society of Alberta has requested to participate, and I would think that Egale and the Rainbow Health Network would also want to be involved.

      This is apparently going to be the difficult hurdle. There is enough support among MPs for C-389 to pass third reading in its present form (provided that is what comes out of the Standing Committee), and the only other unknown is Senate ratification.

      If people want to support Bill C-389 and have the means, what they can do now is to request to participate in hearings, or submit a brief outlining why full inclusion is important. It’s best to keep the emotions in check, but telling their own stories can have a positive effect.

      You’re welcome to repost any or all of the above if you like (and thanks for following things!). 🙂 I’ll be returning to Bill C-389 soon too.

      From the Bill C-389 blog: “The Committee may hear from witnesses, will study the bill clause by clause and suggest amendments. The Committee will then report back to Parliament at what is called Report Stage. At this point there may be further debate and further amendments to the bill, and, any amendments proposed will be voted on. The bill then proceeds to Third Reading at which point the House debates the final form of the bill and votes on it. Once the bill has passed the Third Reading stage in the House of Commons, the bill goes to the Senate where it must pass through the same stages.”

    1. We’re still waiting on word when the Standing Committee will be hearing discussion on C-389. Currently, they’re examining Bill S-9 and C-22. As far as I can tell, witnesses haven’t been contacted yet; certainly, we’ve heard nothing yet. There should be word in the next couple weeks.

      There is also a possibility that the Standing Committee may opt not to review it, in which case it will be sent back to Parliament for third reading and final vote.

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