As Canada’s trans rights Bill C-389 comes up for its first hour of discussion today, there is one curious aspect about this process that almost went unnoticed until Dale Smith at Xtra remarked on it on Friday. Bill C-389 proposes to add trans people to both the Canada Human Rights Act (employment, housing and services) and to the protections against hate crimes in the Criminal Code of Canada. But in a bizarre idiosyncracy of Canadian law, if the categories of gender identity and gender expression are included in the Criminal Code, they will have achieved this landmark before the category of sex. Sexual orientation is already included in Section 318(4).
“First of all, there’s nothing wrong with the bill,” says Conservative senator Nancy Ruth. “The bill’s fine. But there is an issue for me, in that other women are not included in Section 318(4) of the Criminal Code, and women have tried for decades – at least 20 or 30 years that I can remember – to get themselves into 318(4).”
It’s unfathomable that in the Canada of December 2010, women haven’t been included. And yet, 21 years ago yesterday, Canada experienced one of the most heinous hate crimes against women in western civilization in modern memory when Marc Lepine stormed into a classroom at Ecole Polytechnique, singled out the women and opened fire, murdering 14 students.
Monica Roberts reprises her Ecole Polytechnique – We Remember at TransGriot. She notes that: [Update with a correction: Monica was reposting an article from Womanist Musings: http://www.womanist-musings.com/2010/12/today-i-remember-women-of-ecole.html Apologies for the error.]
To ensure that there was no confusion as to why he felt the need to enter École Polytechnique and massacre 14 women, Marc Lépine left behind a detailed three page letter in which he blamed feminists for being “so opportunistic they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men through the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can”. He considered himself to be “rational” and therefore, he felt his rage against feminists was justified. He went on to state in his suicide note, “why persevere to exist if it is only to please the government. Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men.” Lépine was so angry at the perceived loss of unearned male privilege, due to the advances of feminism, his letter also included a list of nineteen other women that he also wished to see dead…
Bloc Quebecois MP Nicole Demers has proposed a private members bill, C-531, which proposes to add women to Section 318(4) of the Criminal Code of Canada. Whether via C-531 or another means (i.e. it’s unlikely now that this bill will come up for three readings before Parliament dissolves), this absolutely should not be forgotten. As rumours of an election grow, we need to press each party to pledge to correct this glaring oversight by proposing inclusion via a government bill, if they take / retain power.
Which isn’t to say that Bill C-389 should wait:
“It is a conceptual confusion to suggest that if people are protected from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression that somehow gives trans women ‘more rights’ than non-trans women,” [Vancouver lawyer and specialist in queer and feminist issues barbara] findlay says. “It gives all people, whatever their gender identity or gender expression, the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender non-conformity. “Among other things, it protects lesbian women who look ‘too butch,’ and it would protect gay men who are ‘too femme,’” findlay says. “It would also protect trans people who don’t ‘look like’ the gender that they identify with. The addition of protection on the basis of gender identity and gender expression protects all of us who might be targeted for hatred or discrimination on that basis. It does not give any group ‘more rights’ than anyone else.”
“The second hour won’t be scheduled until after Tuesday, but is likely to happen in late February or early March. There will be a final vote on the bill after the second hour of debate. There is still time to lobby MPs to support… the bill.”
- Text of Bill C-389
- A Facebook Fact Sheet
- Members of Parliament list
- PSAC’s web form for contacting MPs
- A printable letter you can send to your MP postage-free. Paper still tends to be more effective than email in many cases.
- A Trifold brochure you can use to spread awareness about the bill