Canada: Human rights protections extended to trans people

The Trans Equality Canada Coalition, a loose coalition of human rights groups and individual activists advocating in support of Bill C-16, applauds the passing today of a law that is an important step toward protecting transgender individuals from violence and discrimination. Bill C-16, which was adopted overwhelmingly by the Senate today, amends the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code of Canada to explicitly prohibit discrimination and violence on the grounds of gender identity or expression.
The amendment to the Criminal Code makes trans people an “identifiable group” protected from the crimes of advocating genocide and inciting or willfully promoting hatred, and allows courts to consider bias, prejudice, or hate based on gender identity or expression in the sentencing of hate crimes.
The amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act brings areas of federal jurisdiction into line with areas of provincial jurisdiction, as all provinces and territories now include trans people in the non-discrimination clauses of their human rights legislation.
“This law has been a long time coming. In that time the public has learned who we are and understands us better. We can now move forward to protect trans people from discrimination and that is what this law is all about: discrimination protection for trans people. This law paves the way for the creation of trans-inclusive policies where none existed before, promote greater understanding of trans people, and ultimately have trans people seen as just people. Because that is who we are. People! This is a great time to be trans.” – Amanda Ryan, President, Gender Mosaic
“Adding gender identity and gender expression as protected grounds to human rights legislation marks a significant step toward recognizing transgender and gender diverse communities as worthy of dignity and respect. I’m grateful to everyone through the decades who fought tirelessly to get us to this historic moment.” – Helen Kennedy, Executive Director, Egale Canada Human Rights Trust
“Bill C-16 is a crucial step forward in ensuring that the rights of trans people are respected in all areas of Canadian society. Trans activists have fought long and hard to make this day a reality. Today we celebrate, and tomorrow we continue our work toward a world where freedom from violence and discrimination is a reality for all trans and gender non-conforming people.” – Alexander Xavier, LGBTI Coordinator, Amnesty International Canada
“We applaud the passage of this historic bill to protect one of Canada’s most vulnerable communities. We especially commend MP Randall Garrison, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Senator Grant Mitchell for their leadership in this cross-party initiative. Transgender people are an indivisible part of our communities and our country. Like any at-risk minority, transgender Canadians deserve the full protection of the law, especially since hate crimes against transgender people tend to be physically aggressive.” – David J. Cape, Chair, Canadian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
Bill C-16 comes after seven previous attempts to advance these reforms through private members’ legislation over the past 12 years, including Bill C-279 which was sponsored by MP Randall Garrison and which made it as far as the final steps in the Senate in 2015 before the federal election was called. When the first of these private members’ bills was introduced in May 2005, only the Northwest Territories explicitly included trans people in its human rights legislation; since then, the remaining 12 provinces and territories have all moved to include protections from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or expression, concluding with the passage of Bill 5 in the Yukon on June 13, 2017.
Passage of Bill C-16 will positively impact the lives of trans people, from the simple act of being counted in the census to feeling safe in public bathrooms; it also paves the way for future policy and legislative changes, for example, making it easier to obtain identification documents that align with their gender identity.
Trans and gender non-conforming individuals face high rates of violence, in Canada and around the world. In Ontario, the Trans Pulse Project found that 20% of trans people had been physically or sexually assaulted as a result of their gender identity or expression, and a further 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed. In its Trans Day of Visibility 2017 update, the Trans Murder Monitoring Project reports that at least 2,343 trans and gender non-conforming individuals have been murdered worldwide since 2008, including 317 in 2016. These numbers are likely much higher; violence against trans individuals is particularly difficult to track due to inconsistent reporting.
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Sue Montgomery, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada, at 613-744-7667 ext 236 or or Helen Kennedy, Executive Director, Egale at 416-964-7887 ext 7000.