C-279 Committee Roundup: The Necessity of Inclusion
On Tuesday November 27th, the Standing Committee for Justice and Human Rights (JUST) met for a second of three meetings to examine the trans human rights bill, C-279. I’ll be discussing the filibuster that occurred in the third, shortly. However, it’s worth paying attention to the discussion on the bill’s necessity in the second meeting, as it was one of the Conservatives’ key arguments for opposing the bill.
In the first hour, it heard from representatives from the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT), and a representative from R.E.A.L. Women of Canada, Diane Watts. Which, if you were listening to the webcast, was something like listening to Peter Mansbridge, Pamela Wallin, and then this person:
Watts made news because rather than speaking much about trans people and human rights issues, she mostly ranted at length about pedophiles. Then, when she was cut off and told her remarks were offensive, the floor was turned over to a member of the committee, Robert Goguen, who bade her to continue in the same vein for another five minutes.
A lot was said about Watts testimony, although the coverage glossed over some things. R.E.A.L.’s “lead researcher” tried to frighten the committee about inclusion leading to the correctional system having “to provide treatment for those inmates,” even though Canada already has a ruling on that in Kavanaugh v. Canada (2001). Committee members referred to it several times in that meeting, in fact. Watts also cited the American College of Pediatricians, which is an organization founded by reparative therapists and has been repudiated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is the actual recognized authority in ACP’s field.
But the overlooked testimony of the CHRC and CHRT representatives is far more significant.
The Conservative Party argument against Bill C-279 has long been that they believed the bill was not necessary, and that the terms were not defined. And yet, after the second meeting of the Standing Committee for Justice and Human Rights to discuss the bill, some of the opponents of trans human rights inclusion switched tactics by dropping the argument about necessity, and focused emphatically on defining the terms narrowly, such as by tying them to a diagnosis. The use of the “not necessary” argument came to an end. So what happened during the meeting?
The anti-gay spin machine LifeSiteNews has deliberately distorted the testimony of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Canadian Human Rights Tribunal folks in order to validate the idea that clear human rights inclusion is unnecessary. But it only works if you cherry-pick little snippets from Canadian Human Rights Commission acting secretary general, Ian Fine, and Canadian Human Rights Tribunal acting chairperson and chief executive officer, Susheel Gupta, out of context:
Fine, responding to Goguen, admitted that “strictly speaking, I suppose the legislation isn’t necessary…”
Gupta was more adamant about not taking a position either way, but here are full quotes from Ian Fine from the transcript. See if you come to the same conclusion that LSN did:
“To answer your question, as I said at the outset, we currently accept complaints—and have forever—from transgendered individuals under the ground of sex, and sometimes under the ground of disability, and we will continue to do so. To answer your question, strictly speaking, I suppose the legislation isn’t necessary, but we see other reasons why it would be important to include these two grounds under our act, and we do support them.
“For one thing, it would provide the clarity that I think we believe is missing at this point, because as much as it’s true that the commission and tribunals and courts do accept transgender issues as falling under the ground of sex, parties still debate that issue before those very tribunals and courts and question whether or not transgender issues fall under sex. In one case I know of, an issue was raised as to whether or not you could even raise the issue under sex and instead should raise it under disability.
“There continue to be these debates, so for clarity reasons, we believe it would be a good thing to add these two grounds. Also, as I said at the outset, it would be a recognition of the discrimination that this group faces: the sometimes hostile and violent acts that this group faces in our society. So it would recognize the vulnerability of this group, of these individuals.
“It is true that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal certainly has held that these matters fall within the existing prohibited grounds. There’s no doubt about that. Other courts and tribunals across the land have done so. As I have said, we receive complaints on transgender issues under the ground of sex and sometimes disability.
“But the reality is that even though the courts have accepted that and we accept that, parties still go before those tribunals and courts and raise arguments about whether or not they are included. So clearly there are some Canadians who aren’t in agreement with that notion, who are still fighting about it, who feel that the protection is not explicit or shouldn’t be covered by one of the other grounds.
“We’re simply suggesting to add these grounds to provide more clarity to all Canadians, to make it explicit, and then there’s no doubt.”
Spin attempts to the contrary, Conservatives can’t justifiably call clear trans human rights inclusion unnecessary, anymore.