REVISED: TESA condemns federal trans-exclusionary amendment to Bill C-279
**NOTE: An earlier version of this media release incorrectly identified the amendment's supporters as being five Conservative and one Liberal Senator. The amendment was supported exclusively by Conservative Senators.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE--February 26, 2015--ALBERTA, CANADA
The Trans Equality Society of Alberta (TESA) condemns the discriminatory amendments to trans* rights' Bill C-279 brought this week by Senator Don Plett at a meeting of the Canadian Senate standing committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
"Bill C-279 has been poisoned," says TESA president Jan Buterman. "If the now-amended bill were to pass into law, Canada would officially institute national segregation of trans* citizens."
Bill C-279 was tabled in parliament to add the phrase "gender identity" to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. Experts have testified that trans* people are already covered by existing legislation and the Charter, but that clarifying protections for trans* people would be helpful.
On Wednesday, the Senate standing committee voted to add an amendment to the bill that would enshrine exclusion of trans* people from places such as federal washrooms or change rooms, a move that explicitly denies trans* equality. By calling for complete segregation of trans women--trans men were ignored as harmless, in his opinion--from gendered spaces, Senator Plett is engaging in the very sort of discrimination the bill was originally intended to prevent.
The bill's sponsor in the Senate, Senator Grant Mitchell (Liberal), said, “The very act that is designed to prohibit discrimination is being amended to allow discrimination.”
**Distressingly, a majority of the senators on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee voted in favour of this amendment, with six Conservative senators voting for, four Liberal senators against. Senator Mobina Jaffer (Liberal) stated, "This is discriminatory. We are trying to take away the discrimination and then we are putting back the discrimination."**
Amendments were expected from Conservative senators as a means of delaying the bill by returning it to Parliament, a process that would slow the bill's passage enough to be killed completely by the upcoming federal election.
"TESA did not expect the nature of those amendments," says Buterman. "Who would expect a committee charged with studying Canada's laws and our constitution to attempt to enshrine overtly discriminatory practises into federal law? Who would expect that any jurisdiction in North America would seriously propose to insist some people may not use government facilities?"
During discussions, other committee members pointed out that at the provincial level--where five [sic] provinces already have trans protections in place--there has never been an incident of the type so feared by Senator Plett. In the absence of evidence of such threats, an amendment serves no purpose other than to further segregation of an already vulnerable population. This position was affirmed by Senator Jaffer who stated, "Assuming that the transgender person is a threat, I have great difficulty with this."
Senator Plett did not explain how--if enacted--this amendment was to be enforced. Other than prisons, where individuals can be forced to completely disrobe, it's unclear as to just how inspections for an individual's birth sex is to be accomplished. Despite Senator Mitchell also trying to clarify that this amendment would force fully-transitioned trans men--potentially with large muscles, full beards, deep voices, and male clothing--into using women's spaces, ultimately Senators Plett, Batters, Manning, Dagenais, McInnis, and McIntyre voted in favour of adopting the amendment.
"TESA is concerned that such legislation would increase vigilante actions against trans and gender-non-conforming persons, as this is exactly the scenario that has led to high profile, violent incidents against trans* persons in the past," says Buterman. "Declaring some Canadians to be less-than other Canadians cannot possibly serve our nation well. All Canadians share equality rights, so for senators to attempt to enshrine segregation in our laws must be rejected as incompatible with that equality."
For further information, please see:
TESA -- Including the term Gender Identity in Canadian Statutes: Bill C-279
TESA -- Human Rights Across Canada
CAN -- Charter of Rights and Freedoms
CAN -- Canadian Human Rights Act
CAN -- Criminal Code
CHRC -- Protect rights of transgender people: testimony of Ian Fine, Canadian Human Rights Commission to Senate standing committee on Justice and Human Rights regarding Bill C-279 (2012, November 22)
CHRC -- Chief commissioner speaks on the inclusion of Gender Identity as a ground of discrimination: testimony of David Langtry, Canadian Human Rights Commission to Senate standing committee on Justice and Human Rights regarding Bill C-279 (2013, June 3)
ARTICLE -- 15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth (Brinker & Maza, 2014)
ARTICLE -- An inconvenient booth: mistaking symbol for both map and territory (Buterman, 2013)
More information about TESA can be found at www.tesaonline.org
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