More for the record: On ITDoV2015 – Senators Plett battles with Senate Human Rights Committee chair Jaffer over C-279

Here is the expert on C-279 from the transcript of the debate of 31 March 2015, International Trans Day of Visibility,  at the Senate of the Canadian Parliament:

Key Participants (in order of speaking):

  1. Senator Don Plett, Senator for Manitoba, appointed by PM Harper (parliamentary profile, political web page) – Manitoba explicitly protectstransgender persons in its human rights code. Note that before being appointed Senator, Don Plett was the president of the Reform Conservative Party of Canada.
  2. Senator Grant Mitchell, Senator for Alberta, appointed by PM Chretien (parliamentary profile, political web page) – Alberta human rights law coming into effect in summer 2015 explicitly protects transgender persons in its human rights code.. Until then, Alberta law implicitly protects transgender persons.
  3. Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer, Senator for British Columbia, appointed by PM Chretien (parliamentary profile, political web page) – British Columbia implicitly protects transgender persons in its human rights code since a human rights tribunal ruling in 1999 over access to gendered facilities.
    Note that Senator Jaffer is also the chair of the Senate standing committee for human rights

Canadian Human Rights Act
Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Twenty-Fourth Report of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Runciman, seconded by the Honourable Senator Batters, for the adoption of the twenty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity), with amendments), presented in the Senate on February 26, 2015;

And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dyck, that the twenty-fourth Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be not now adopted, but that it be amended by deleting amendment No. 3.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: There is an adjournment from Senator Plett on Bill C-279. I ask that, once I have spoken, the adjournment be back in Senator Plett’s name.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, I am speaking today at report stage of Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity).

I would like to begin by thanking my colleagues and all the witnesses for their dedication and hard work. I would also like to take this opportunity to talk about one amendment in particular that was adopted in committee. It reads as follows:

That Bill C-279 be amended, on page 2, by adding after line 14 the following:

“2.1 Subsection 15(1) of the Act is amended by striking out “or” after paragraph (f) and by adding the following after that paragraph:

(f.1) in the circumstances described in section 5 or 6 in respect of any service, facility, accommodation or premises that is restricted to one sex only — such as a correctional facility, crisis counselling facility, shelter for victims of abuse, washroom facility, shower facility or clothing changing room — the practice is undertaken for the purpose of protecting individuals in a vulnerable situation; or”.

In light of the arguments made by the various witnesses who appeared before our committee, I find that this amendment is very discriminatory and that it makes the pith and substance of the bill very problematic.

This amendment makes me very uneasy. It suggests that a transgender person is a threat to public safety, which is not so. On one hand we are saying that we are upholding gender identity, but on the other hand we are saying that transgender persons cannot use certain facilities because we perceive them as aggressors when we say that others are in a vulnerable situation.

There is therefore a presumption that these people are engaging in offending behaviour, and that is just another of the many difficulties they must face.

By way of illustration, I would like to quote a Vancouver poet, Ivan E. Coyote, who wrote a poem entitled The Facilities, which was inspired by a conversation he had with a young girl about how difficult it is for a transgender person to access public washrooms.

[English]

I can hold my pee for hours. Nearly all day. It’s a skill I developed out of necessity, after years of navigating public washrooms. I hold it for as long as I can, until I can get myself to the theatre or the green room or my hotel room, or home. Using a public washroom is a very last resort for me. I try to use the wheelchair-accessible, gender-neutral facilities whenever possible, always after a thorough search of the area to make sure no one in an actual wheelchair or with mobility issues is en route. I always hold my breath a little on the way out though, hoping there isn’t an angry person leaning on crutches waiting there when I exit. Sometimes I rehearse a little speech as I pee quickly and wash my hands, just to be prepared. I would say something like, I apologize for inconveniencing you by using the washroom that is accessible to disabled people, but we live in a world that is not able to make room enough for trans people to pee in safety, and after many years of tribulation in women’s washrooms, I have taken to using the only place provided for people of all genders.

[Translation]

I only read a very small part of the poem. However, I strongly encourage you to take the time to read it.

To continue, I would like to read an email I received from a mother who explained the difficult situation of her daughter, who is transgender. This is what she said:

[English]

The bathroom amendment to Bill C-279 [has] the trans community, including the network of parents with trans children, absolutely terrified that our children will become the victims, having to go to the bathroom in the room reserved for the gender to which they do not belong.

Gender and sex are not the same thing. It sounds so basic, but the majority of people I talk to about this are simply unaware of this factual reality. As a society, we have been so indoctrinated with the simple but erroneous idea that there are just two sexes in this world: male and female.

So what is the motivation behind this amendment? Fear — fear of the unknown, of change, of something that is different.

As transgender people become more visible in the world, fear can arise. Supposedly this bill is designed to protect women — sisters, daughters, mothers, wives. From what? I don’t believe there has been one single incident that was brought to court.

So. . . to my daughter. When she came out, she had to endure puberty as a male, so change is slow.

Presenting as a woman out in public was terrifying for her, particularly if she had to pee. The worst time was at Kennedy subway station in Toronto. She had to pee, had no choice, was loudly told to use the men’s room by a cleaner.

Imagine how frightening that was for her — a subway station and forced to use the bathroom that did not align with her gender.

I must say that things are much better now. University of Toronto has done a lot to make gender neutral bathrooms.

I sincerely hope that this bill does not pass and trans women and trans men remain safe in Canada’s bathrooms.

Honourable senators, I find this letter very concerning. As a mother and a grandmother, I cannot imagine the pain and feelings that trans people and their families have to go through.

I would like to share with you Nina’s letter:

Senator Jaffer, I’m writing to tell you my story as a member of the Canadian armed forces with 35 years’ service.

As far back as I can remember, I dreamed about what it would be like if I was a girl. As a small, skinny kid, I was frequently bullied. I frequently wore secretly my sister and mother’s clothes. Occasionally, my parents caught me. I am so lucky my parents never punished me as they thought I would grow out of it.

While still in high school, I joined the Canadian Forces in the Air Reserves. During my military career, I have been an aircraft technician for more than 30 years.

On the night that Saddam Hussein fired the scud missile that landed a few miles north of the Doha airport, I was changing a fuel quantity probe of a CF-18 in the dark with a flashlight, while the fuel ran out over the wing.

During my 35 years of service to Canada, I had many experiences, both good and bad.

I have served my country Canada faithfully. I never turned my back when the CF needed me and was always the first to volunteer. I continued to wear female clothing every chance I could.

Living in barracks was very hard, keeping my stash of clothes hidden.

In 2009, at age 47, feeling safe, I came out to my family and the CF as transgender. I have lived full time since August 2009. The CF was supportive and worked to help me transition in the workplace.

Having no more need to be secretive, I can finally be who I always was. I have a much happier life.

Unfortunately, this amendment assumes that I have done this just so I can use a female washroom and molest children.

What will this amendment mean for me as a 35-year member of the Canadian Armed Forces? Will this mean I have to use the male bathroom again? What about the shower room in a barracks?

(1540)

Finally, I would like to share with you one more letter I received, which stated:

The problem is that one controversial amendment makes C-279 of no actual force, effect or usefulness, because it affords the heads of all federal agencies absolute discretionary power when it comes to dictating what facilities should be used, and by whom.

From my perspective, to equate a transgender person with a sexual predator is despicable. By suggesting that women need protection from sexual predators and disallowing transgender from washrooms-change rooms, you are implying gender variance is pathological. There is absolutely no evidence to support this. It is the same argument offered by previous generations to justify excluding gays and lesbians.

I write today to tell you there are a great many moms of transgender kids out there, who consider this an issue of diversity, not pathology. I hasten to add that though I worry about the safety of women too, I also know that women will be victimized by sexual predators everywhere, until we, as a society, change the way we teach our boys, pay our girls, and respond to mental illness.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, I hope that these letters have made you think about the impact of this amendment. Today, we have the opportunity and the duty to remedy this situation.

[English]

In British Columbia, we have the Gender Identity and Expression Human Rights Recognition Act. I would like to share with you the summary of the act because it makes it clear that it’s the government’s duty to protect the rights of trans people. It states:

This Bill supports the ongoing evolution of the term sex in Human Rights legislation by formally recognizing that the term is intended to include protection for Gender Identity and Gender Expression.

This Bill affirms the rights of transsexuals, transgenderists, intersexed persons, cross-dressers, and other groups who routinely suffer discrimination based on the expression of their gender or the gender identity they experience.

This Bill reaffirms the government of British Columbia’s broad and inclusive approach to protecting the rights and dignity of all people.

Ontario has also a policy on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression under the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, people are protected from discrimination and harassment because of gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing facilities and services, contracts, and membership in unions, trade or professional associations.

Barbara Hall, OHRC Chief Commissioner, said:

It has been a long struggle to have these rights clearly protected in the Code. Adding these grounds makes it clear that trans people are entitled to the same legal protections as other groups under the Code. The challenge now is to send a message across Ontario that discriminating against or harassing people because of their gender identity or gender expression is against the law. This Policy provides the tools to do this.

Let me repeat what OHRC Chief Commissioner stated:

The challenge now is to send a message across Ontario that discriminating against or harassing people because of their gender identity or gender expression is against the law.

Honourable senators, unfortunately, this amendment does the exact opposite. It sounds out a message saying that it’s okay to discriminate against trans people. It’s okay if they’re being attacked or harassed because they’re in a public facility where they feel they belong.

Finally, Saskatchewan’s position is quite similar to B.C.’s and Ontario’s positions. In a news release on the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, 2014, the Saskatchewan government stated:

Hatred and violence directed to any individual, group or organization is a direct affront to democracy in Canada. Violence towards members of the transgender community must be denounced without equivocation.

Transgender Canadians deserve every benefit, consideration and accommodation afforded to them through citizenship. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission recognizes that the rights of transgender people are, far too often, attacked through acts of discrimination and violence. The commission has a legislated responsibility to address these wrongs when called upon. To be clear, complaints from transgender people are accepted and pursued to the fullest extent and with a broad and encompassing interpretation of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.

[Translation]

These provinces are well ahead of the federal government.

[English]

Honourable senators, let me remind you of one important point: Being transsexual, transgender or gender-nonconforming is a matter of diversity, not pathology. Thus, transsexual, transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals are not inherently disordered. I would like to conclude my speech by reminding all honourable senators that as senators one of our first duties is to protect all Canadians against discrimination, not to create or encourage discrimination against any group of Canadians.

Therefore, honourable senators, I encourage you to vote against the so-called “bathroom amendment.”

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I spoke to the original motion on the report but I haven’t spoken to the actual amendment that I moved at the end of my comments at that time, if I could take a few moments now.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, I have a question for Senator Jaffer if she would take a question.

Could you explain to this chamber where any transgender person does not have the right, under the amendment I am proposing, to enter the bathroom of his or her choice? That is indeed not what the amendment says at all. There has never been a legislated right for any person not to enter a bathroom —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is Senator Jaffer asking for more time?

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, may I have five more minutes?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Plett: As I was saying, there is no legislated right — never has been. Where does my amendment prevent somebody from entering the bathroom of their choice? My amendment says, in fact, that if I believe I’m transgender and I want to enter your bathroom, I am allowed to do that. You are allowed to say that you feel uncomfortable and to ask the management, I guess in this case it might be the Clerk: “I’m not comfortable with Senator Plett in my bathroom, so could you ask him to leave until I’m done?” You have that right.

If my amendment doesn’t pass, you don’t have that right. If you did and the Clerk asked me to leave, I could bring him before the Human Rights Commission. But I still have the right to go into that bathroom. That hasn’t changed. Could you tell me where you have read in my amendment that I am disallowing, with that amendment, anybody from entering the bathroom of their choice?

Senator Jaffer: Senator Plett, thank you for your question. I guess for you and me, because we don’t have to use each other’s bathrooms, it is just speculative. I’m not going to speculate about whether I will let you use my bathroom because that situation will not arise because we both do not have the challenges that this bill addresses. The best answer I can give you is in the stories I read of the people who feel that the amendment introduced by you will threaten their quality of life. What I have already read answers your question that they do not feel comfortable with this amendment. That’s the best answer I can give you.

Senator Plett: That didn’t come anywhere near to answering the question because the same would apply if it wasn’t you or I. The same would apply if it was a transgender individual. That transgender individual has the right to walk into that bathroom. Since you used an illustration, let me use one as well.

I will read a short paragraph of the story of a woman in British Columbia who had known her now ex-husband for some 25 years. She’s 45 years old and has two children. She says here:

— my ex went to see the therapist at the local “gender clinic.” After two one-hour sessions that occurred over a few weeks, my husband was given a letter by the therapist that stated he was transgender. With that letter, he was able to immediately get his driver’s licence changed in British Columbia to state that he was female. He had not at that point taken any hormones, or any other medical procedures, or started to transition in any other way.

(1550)

Now, this is her again saying:

So to reiterate, after TWO HOURS with a therapist, he was able to change his driver’s licence to female. This allowed him to legally enter any female sex segregated facility. My ex-husband is a smaller man but very “swarthy” in appearance and “well endowed” —

— and, again, these are her words — :

— to put it delicately. He looks and sounds very masculine. I can imagine that his presence in a bathroom would be very disconcerting to other women. In fact it was, when he entered the women’s washroom at my daughter’s gymnastics club and the other girls were understandably uncomfortable with his presence here. The mothers in that case would have no recourse to ask him to leave, and that’s unacceptable.

The amendment doesn’t prevent him or her from going there, but it allows people who are uncomfortable with a situation — and in all of my speeches, which I am sure you have read or listened to most of them, have I ever suggested that the transgender individual was a threat? I have never suggested that. I have said others might take advantage of that. But do you believe that this quite well-endowed individual should be entering his daughter’s gymnastics class bathroom?

Now, the last question that I will ask and I will put these together: You called this the bathroom bill. Over and over again, I have said that this is not the bathroom bill. When Senator Mitchell brought his amendment forward, he called it the bathroom bill. You have suggested it is the bathroom bill. The transgender community is tweeting the world telling people that I have called it the bathroom bill. I don’t want to call it the bathroom bill.

In fact, I used names, in my amendment with respect to a facility here: a correctional facility, a crisis-counselling facility, shelter or victims of abuse, washroom facilities, shower —

Some Hon. Senators: Order, order.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Plett, Senator Jaffer’s time has expired.

(On motion of Senator Plett, debate adjourned.)

Original transcript

Are the amendment to C-279 as widely supported as claimed by Senator Plett

Senator Plett wants to protect women from transgender women – at any cost. Read here for a detailed explanation of what he is proposing.

Central to Mr Plett’s argument in justifying rolling back existing implicit and explicit protection that transgender persons currently enjoy in Canada is his strong belief that Canada must create a law which “…will no longer allow biological males to self-identify as female and gain unrestricted access to sex-specific facilities“. it is important that under current law, what he is trying to do is currently implicitly human rights violation under federal law and all provincial and territorial law in Canada  and an explicit violation of human rights under the law of  Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Price Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories.

In addition, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) wrote a letter to the Senate in response to the amendments which were passed in in this sitting of the committee, urging the Senate to “Reject Amendment to Bill C-279“.

As part of their position, the CBA noted that  the amendment:

  • “undermines the Bill’s intent” (is a deliberate poison pill injected by a government attempting to ignore the will of the people),

  • “threatens the human rights of all people using sex or gender specific services, spaces and institutions in federal jurisdiction” (risks being abused in all kinds of terrible ways against us all),

  • “appears to rest primarily on a misapprehension of existing human rights law and criminal provisions” ( opponents fear mongering and do not seem to understand)

…Yet Senator Plett claims in a letter to the editors of the Montreal Gazette chiding them for criticizing his position and claiming that he is in fact NOT excluding transgender persons from gendered space:

“As for the amendment that I assume Ms. Page is referring to when she mistakenly writes about a bathroom “ban”. This misunderstood amendment deals with section 15.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which speaks to exceptions (or where “it is not a discriminatory practice”). This amendment addressed the widespread concern that this bill would have, in fact, allowed any individual to self-identify as the opposite sex and gain unrestricted access to sex-specific facilities on federal jurisdiction (Abused women’s shelters, change rooms, shower rooms, etc.).”

This is in stark contrast with the response that TAS recieved when we asked leading womens organziations for their opinion on the subject:

Trans Alliance Society Chair Morgane oger asked Canadian Women’s Foundation, a prominent Canadian charity working to end violence against women to clarify their position on transgender women in women-only shelters and the answer was affirming and supportive of transgender women:

This exchange is in stark contrast to Senator Plett’s claims that women’s shelters are demanding protection from the apparent deluge of transgender women.

A similar conversation with YWCA Canada, after a wonderful meeting with YWCA Metro Vancouver CEO Janet Austin also provided clear affirmation of the desire by service providers serving women to continue to support transgender women..

Senator Plett has found one witness who actually works in gender-specific support services to support his position.

Is this really enough to represent women?

Certainly not.

For the record: The transcript containing the Senator Plett proposal amending the trans rights bill C-279

Below is the exerpt from the Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (Issue 27, Evidence – February 25, 2015) during which Senator for Manitoba Don Plett proposed amending the transgender rights bill, derisively dubbed the bathroom bill by social conservative opponents, to exclude transgender persons from using the “correctional facility, crisis counselling facility, shelter for victims of abuse, washroom facility, shower facility or clothing changing room” intended for the gender they identified with.

I urge everyone to read the exchange and hear for yourself what exactly is happening.

Key Participants (in order of speaking):

  1. Senator Don Plett, Senator for Manitoba, appointed by PM Harper (parliamentary profile, political web page) – Manitoba explicitly protects transgender persons in its human rights code.
  2. Senator Grant Mitchell, Senator for Alberta, appointed by PM Chretien (parliamentary profile, political web page) – Alberta explicitly protects transgender persons in its human rights code.
  3. Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer, Senator for British Columbia, appointed by PM Chretien (parliamentary profile, political web page) – British Columubia implicitly protects transgender persons in its human rights code.

Excerpt from the session

Senator Plett: Thank you. I appreciate that. It is before clause 3. I apologize to you, chair. I have a new clause, just before clause 3, a new clause 2.1.

I move:

That Bill C-279 be amended, on page 2, by adding after line 14 the following:

2.1 Subsection 15(1) of the Act is amended by striking out “or” after paragraph (f) and by adding the following after that paragraph:

(f.1) in the circumstances described in section 5 or 6 in respect of any service, facility, accommodation or premises that is restricted to one sex only — such as a correctional facility, crisis counselling facility, shelter for victims of abuse, washroom facility, shower facility or clothing changing room — the practice is undertaken for the purpose of protecting individuals in a vulnerable situation; or”.

Colleagues, this amendment deals with 15.1(g) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which is a section dealing with exceptions.

As many of you know, my primary concern, and the issue we continue to hear from concerned citizens, is in respect to sex-specific facilities. We know that gender identity legislation in the jurisdictions that we have implemented it have included terms such as gender fluid, agender, genderqueer and neutros in their interpretation. This amendment will protect those operating sex-specific facilities in federal jurisdiction, for example, bathrooms, military base change rooms and shower rooms, and women’s shelters on First Nations reserves if they decide not to allow, for example, a biological male self-identifying as female into a sex-specific facility for the purpose of protecting vulnerable women.

Colleagues, we have a young girl here, and I spoke to her at the break. She had a concern that this bill would impact her in her school. I explained to her it would not because that school is provincial jurisdiction. This bill, of course, deals only with federal jurisdiction, and so I wanted to assure Charlie that this would in no way impact her at school.

We heard, colleagues, from Susan McLeod from the Siksika Health Services, who was supportive of the bill in principle, that women who have suffered physical or sexual abuse often find the experience of being in the presence of a biological male traumatic. This protection will allow health service providers the flexibility to provide separate but equal treatment for trans women when necessary for the protection of vulnerable shelter residents.

If an individual like Christopher Hambrook, the convicted sex offender who falsely claimed to be transgender to gain access to a women’s shelter in Toronto, were to attempt to gain access to a women’s shelter on a First Nations reserve, this would provide protection for the shelter.

In my opinion, this addition to the exceptions section of the Canadian Human Rights Act will afford those operating sex-specific facilities on federal jurisdiction with a reasonable protection. This will no longer allow biological males to self-identify as female and gain unrestricted access to sex-specific facilities.

This in no way hinders human rights protection for the transgender community. They will still be a recognized group by the Canadian Human Rights Act and will not be able to face discrimination most importantly, and this was raised with me, most importantly, in areas like housing and employment, which I know are two of the greatest concerns for the community.

Colleagues, I hope you will support this amendment.

Senator Mitchell: I will not, and my colleagues will not support this amendment. If I could provide the reasoning for that, I will.

First of all, this act and the human rights legislation and the Criminal Code in this respect are designed specifically to avoid discrimination, and this clause is inherently discriminatory. The very act that is designed to prohibit discrimination is actually being amended in a way that would allow for discrimination. That is the first question.

Second, I’m very pleased that Senator Plett pointed out the distinction between the application of this to the federal jurisdiction and to schools, but it is an interesting distinction that he draws. There is now in I believe five provinces legislation that acknowledges gender identity rights and ergo has jurisdiction over schools. There is no evidence, no case that I am aware of, no case that I expect anyone in this room is aware of, where it has ever been a problem, the question of schools, washrooms, et cetera.

Where this kind of bill, this kind of right, has been applied, i.e., in five provinces, in schools, for example, using the Charlie case, there hasn’t been a problem. In fact, a review of North America experience wherever this kind of right has been extended to transgender people, there has not been any clearly or reliably or credibly documented cases where it has been abused by somebody who has gone into a facility and done something inappropriate.

In fact, it’s interesting to note that the same Michael Crystal who Senator Plett used to defend his amendment with respect to taking the definition of gender identity out, and who was very compelling and actually convinced me that that was the right step, went on in his testimony in a number of ways to say that this amendment, the one before us at this particular moment now, the one with respect to washroom facilities and showers, was not necessary.

I would quote him, as Senator Plett did earlier:

In terms of when Senator Plett raises the issue, let’s say an individual, a brazen trans male, walks into a female washroom, maybe to make a statement, maybe to assert her rights. The question is: Do we turn a blind eye to that act if it is without any disregard to the rights of others?

I say no. I say that is not the way our law works.

The law that exists. That’s not the way the law works now.

In fact, if it’s done with a view to create hysteria, there may even be a criminal complaint.

That’s my point. There is a global approach to these issues, and we should heed that.

He is making the point, and he made it a number of times, the same Michael Crystal who said we need to take the definition of gender identity out, which we have done. He made the point that we do not need to include this washroom/shower facility amendment in this bill. In fact, it complicates matters and will not end up achieving the kind of result that Senator Plett is arguing that it might.

If I can use an analogy, many people who argued against gun control said that lawful, law-abiding gun owners shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of unlawful, non-law-abiding gun owners. In effect, if you put this amendment in, what you’re saying is lawful, law-abiding transgendered people will be held accountable for somebody who could do something unlawful, inappropriate in a bathroom or washroom facility, for example, who may not even be transgendered, who might not even be aware of this particular right and who might not ever use it. It doesn’t prohibit that.

It holds people who are law abiding, who are fully fledged and should be equal members of our society, accountable for the potential, although it’s a very long-shot potential that somebody would misuse this to try to justify a criminal act. That is the same thing that people who are opposed to gun control argued. It’s exactly the reverse argument they used there, which is why would we hold somebody who is law abiding responsible and accountable for somebody who is not?

It’s for those reasons that I would not support this amendment. I simply believe that it’s not necessary and that it weakens the bill in many ways, even in the ways ultimately that Senator Plett is trying to strengthen it.

Senator Plett: Thank you. I won’t belabour this. I will intervene one time. Senator Mitchell and I talked about this earlier, and we didn’t want to make this a back and forth. I don’t plan on doing that, and I appreciate all of his comments.

I want to just read into the record a few of the comments that Ms. McLeod made from the Siksika First Nation when she was here. She was very clear when she said:

We don’t want to turn away transgendered persons coming to our shelter and our transition house simply because of their gender at birth. We don’t want to do that. But we also recognize the fact that we have to protect women and children.

She went on to say:

The lack of clarity within the legislation makes it difficult for us to establish appropriate services and legal and ethical policies. The clarity would help us to make those definitions and policies at the administrative, front-line level.

We simply want to have the choice on-reserve to have a facility that we can offer to both transgendered individuals and to women and children in separate areas.

The last part of her testimony I’ll read is:

We fully believe it is possible to provide separate treatment facilities for men, women and transgendered individuals within the same facility, and the bill should be amended to allow health administrators to provide service in a manner that helps all and harms none.

Gerald Chipeur was here with Ms. McLeod, and was a constitutional lawyer as well. Senator Baker knows him well. He was here and he felt the opposite of Mr. Crystal, that in fact this amendment was very necessary. Some of the wording that he suggested to me was significantly stronger yet than the wording we came up with at the end. He believed it was very necessary.

Those are my only comments, chair.

Senator Jaffer: Senator Plett, this is the first time I’m seeing the amendment, so may I ask for some clarification so I have a better understanding of it?

One thing that concerns me, and you can correct me because I have not studied it as much as you have, is that we are not clarifying other groups that are discriminated against; we’re just doing it for it trans people, people with gender identity issues. We don’t do it for women and we don’t identify or go further to explain. I have a concern that this is more discriminatory. That’s a bigger concern.

I would like you to explain why you set out just a few facilities. It’s just an example, I get that. Why just a few? “Such as,” it could be “others.” Were you advised, or why did you feel it was necessary to put some facilities there?

Senator Plett: Thank you, senator. Initially, as I just finished explaining, when we talked to Gerry Chipeur he suggested a few others, such as sporting facilities. At one point I had it in the amendment.

My personal feeling, Senator Jaffer, was that the facilities that I am using are the ones where it is most likely for people in vulnerable positions to be exposed to people with biological differences.

Also, in crisis shelters, as Ms. McLeod shared, and I’m not going to quote her, I’ll just say what she shared here at committee and with me that when people come to her crisis centre, they are mostly women. The crisis centre isn’t specific to women, but they’re mostly women. They’re mostly women who have been abused by men.

Her concern was not that if a transgendered individual went there that they were a threat to anyone, but her concern in that particular case was here is a woman who has come to my facility. She has been maybe raped, maybe beaten up, abused by her husband, father, brother, boyfriend, and she sees a biological male and it is a traumatic experience for her. She doesn’t identify that that person is of no danger, that that person is transgendered.

Furthermore, Ms. McLeod said that this transgendered individual could apply to work there. Of course, we are not dealing with the employment issue, but she raised a concern there. She said here is a biological male who will now be helping this woman who is already traumatized, and so she had a concern.

I have raised, as you know, senator, the issue of fully grown men walking into a woman’s shower — and I will use men because I believe they are biological men, transgendered, but biologically they are male — walking into a shower room that has either women or girls in it. Of course it could be the opposite. It can be a biological female, but it seems that it’s more often the earlier one.

Those are the reasons. So I chose, for the amendment, the facilities where I thought people would be the most vulnerable. So these are the ones I chose.

Senator Jaffer: Senator Plett, I very much appreciate your explanation. I know how much work you’ve put on it but, with the greatest of respect, I feel that this is discriminatory. We’re trying to take away the discrimination, and then you are putting it back. That’s my challenge with this.

Senator Plett: I appreciate that. I guess I’m saying that if I feel that my daughter or granddaughter is being discriminated against — if she is not allowed into a facility of her choosing and she’s not. I guess we can go back and forth on that, but I respect your opinion.

The Chair: Is there anything further on this?

Senator Mitchell: I want to thank Senator Jaffer and her intervention, and underline that this particular amendment is deeply troubling to transgendered people. I want to acknowledge here, on the record, the deep pain that it causes them. I would like to say that without going back and forth, I could answer some of the points that Senator Plett has made, but this is not the time to do that. We can do that at third reading as well.

There is another complication. What this clause will require is that a trans man — so somebody who was assigned a woman’s physique at birth, but transitions to a man and is on drug therapy and hasn’t been operated on, and looks as masculine as every man around this table, and, in fact, there are probably trans men in this room who we have no idea, were assigned women’s physiology at birth — will be required to use a woman’s washroom. Somebody who looks absolutely masculine and looks like a man, and who knows that he is a man would, could, be forced under this amendment, to use a woman’s washroom. That would be, it would seem to me, extremely unsettling both to the transgender man and to any women who happened to use that washroom at the time.

So there is this conundrum. I’ll leave it at that and say that while we supported the earlier amendment, we simply will vote against this amendment.

Senator Jaffer: I’m really uncomfortable with this amendment. I feel there is a presumption that a transgender person is in an aggressive position and I especially have great difficulty with the protecting individuals in a vulnerable situation. For me, that is assuming that the transgender person is a threat to people. All that we worked for and all this legislation, it’s all for naught. We say we keep the gender identity, but yet we say that they cannot use some facilities because we see them as the aggressor because we are saying the other people are in a vulnerable situation. I have great difficulty with this amendment.

The Chair: I think that exhausts the conversation surrounding the new clause that Senator Plett has proposed. Senators, is it your pleasure to adopt the motion in amendment?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Chair: On division. The amendment is carried?

Do you want a roll-call vote? I’ll ask the clerk.

Senator Plett: I have been quite under the weather lately and so I apologize.

The Chair: We’re about to have a roll-call vote, Senator Plett.

Shaila Anwar, Clerk of the Committee: The Honourable Senator Runciman.

Senator Runciman: Abstain.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Baker, P.C.

Senator Baker: I am against the amendment proposed by Senator Plett.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Batters?

Senator Batters: For the amendment.

[Translation]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Dagenais?

Senator Dagenais: For the amendment.

[English]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Manning.

Senator Manning: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator McInnis.

Senator McInnis: For the amendment.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator McIntyre.

Senator McIntyre: For the amendment.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Mitchell.

Senator Mitchell: Opposed.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Plett.

Senator Plett: In favour.

Ms. Anwar: Senator White isn’t here.

Yeas, six; nays, four; abstentions, one.

The Chair: New clause 2.1 is carried. Shall clause 3 carry?

Known Twitter accounts for Senators currently sitting in canada’s Parliament

When mounting Twitter campaigns in order to help politicians get an understanding of what Canadians and Canadian organizations would like to see happen, a serious challenge is to know the point of contacts.

For email and mailing address, refer to the official site

Here is an un-tested list of twitter accounts for current senators.

I’d like to thank my source. You know who you are.

BRITISH COLUMBIA
Jaffer, Mobina @SenJaffer (verified)

ALBERTA
Black, Douglas @DougBlackAB
McCoy, Elaine @senelainemccoy
Mitchell, Grant @senmitchell
Scott, Tannas @ScottTannas

SASKATCHEWAN
Andreychuk, Raynell @SenAndreychuk

MANITOBA
Chaput, Maria @SenChaput
Johnson, Janis @senjanisjohnson
Plett, Donald @DonPlett (verified)

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
Sibbeston, Nick @SenatorNickS

ONTARIO
Ataullahjan, Salma @senatorsalma
Eaton, Nicole @SenEaton
Enverga, Tobias @SenJunEnverga
Frum, Linda @LindaFrum
Meredith, Donald @SenatorDonM
Munson, Jim @SenatorMunson

QUEBEC
Carignan, Claude @senatcarignan
Dawson, Dennis @dennis_dawson
Hervieux-Payette, Céline @HervieuxPayette
Seidman, Judith @JudithSeidman
Smith, Larry @larrywsmith36

NOVA SCOTIA
Cowan, James @SenCowan
Mercer, Terry @SenTMM

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Downe, Percy @PercyDowne
Duffy, Mike @senatorduffy (not 100 percent sure this is authentic)

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Furey, George @GeorgeFureyNL
Wells, David @wellsdavid

Pink Shirt Day 2015: The day an unelected politician prevented a democratically approved law from being enacted in Canada

Febuary 25, 2015 was is Pink Shirt Day, a day supposed to be dedicated to standing up for marginalized persons who are unable or not empowered to stand up for themselves. Questions of appropriation and whitewashing aside, this is intended to be a day where marginalized and bullied people get to feel good.

Instead, through in ironic turn of the calendar, today is the day that Don Platt, the Harper Government’s Conservative party whip in the un-elected Canadian Senate used long-disproven transphobic arguments that bring us back to the US’s civil rights movement in their blinkered bigotry to block amendments to the country’s human rights law in such a way that Canadian lawmakers in the House of Parliament (the elected lawmakers) will be faced with a poisoned choice:

1. Agree to the changes in the law and accept that transgender persons have been labeled potential sex offenders and predatory pedophiles and require that all persons use their “biologically appropriate” gendered facilities.

2. Reject the amendments and send the bill back to the senate where it will meet an artificial deadline brought on by a pending election and be cancelled.

The cynicism of this calculated action leaves no room for very much speculation. There has been discussion about this tactic for nearly a year it was a nearly foregone conclusion that Mr Harper and Mr Platt would use this opportunity to kill a bill whose history is already so politically sordid.

Glaringly, Mr Plett, representing the province of Manitoba. He was not elected to represent them but appointed by the conservative party to represent them. Mr Plett hence represents a province which does not require surgery to change birth certificates.As a result, transgender persons born in Mr Plett’s constituency can prove their “biological” sex based on a document which is now based on gender identity. This is the same in British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Ontario. Hence, the changes Mr Plett has forced into this law do not stand up to analysis in his own province, or in several others.

This is unprecedented in Canada. This is despicable. This is harmful. This is undemocratic. This is, sadly, typical of the current government.

Thank You Letter To MLA S. Chandra Herbert

This letter was sent to MLA S. Chandra Herbert on 04 November, 2014, to thank him for his ongoing support of trans* persons in BC and for specifically supporting the healthcare needs of Transgender and gender-variant persons in BC after the 02 November, 2014 BC Trans Day of Advocacy. Working closely with Trans Alliance Society (TAS) chair Morgane Oger, a transgender advocate and one of the organizers of the day of action event, MLA S. Chandra Herbert further challenged the minister of health by writing a letter asking for a number of changes to medical care for trans* persons in BC including the formation of a provincial-level trans healthcare authority where transgender and gender-variant persons are stakeholder and decision makers rather than just consumers.

From: “Morgane Oger – TAS Chair”
Sent: November-04-14 2:52 PM
To: “Chandra Herbert.MLA, Spencer”
Cc: “chair – TAS” , “secretary – TAS”, “treasurer – TAS”

Subject: re: This is a good day

Fri 11/7/2014 1:53 PM


Good afternoon Mr Chandra Herbert,

I am writing to you as the chair of the Trans Alliance Society (TAS).
As you know, TAS has been working since 2000 to advocate for and support transgender persons in BC and  throughout Canada.
I am happy to share in your satisfaction and voice our gratitude for your tireless efforts in supporting justice and equality for LGBTQ persons in BC. It takes many tireless voices to get change like this implemented and we are making encouraging progress.
The Trans Alliance Society is very much encouraged by the about face announced by Health Minister Terry Lake yesterday. We are especially encouraged by the promise to make a province-wide transgender health program and have it developed via meaningful consultation and oversight from the transgender community.
TAS is well aware that provincial and health officials have made promises to the transgender community before and that a press release is not the same thing as actual change. The transgender community is concerned that the announcement may amount to little more than preemptive firefighting to diffuse the impact of our highly effective BC Trans Advocacy Day Workshop which TAS helped organize for Sunday Nov 2, 2014 where over 100 transgender persons met to decide how we will pressure Government to give us the health care we are due and very badly need.
If there is any opportunity to help Trans Alliance Society get a seat at the table when it is time to discuss oversight, we would be eager to participate in the process. In fact, we believe that the provincial transgender health program needs to be under the authority of a board with at least 50% transgender and gender-variant persons.  Health strategies need to be based on partnerships rather than merely oversight.
We thank you for your long work helping trans people in BC and know you’ll keep up the pressure on the health ministry to ensure that this announcement by the Health Minister turns into actions and results.
(BC trans advocacy day website: http://bctransadvocacyday.com/)
Morgane Oger
Chair, Trans Alliance Society
Vancouver
1-800-825-2405

The Need for explicit inclusion of Gender Identity and Gender Presentation into the BC Human Rights Code

Based on Nov 19 letter to MLA S. Chandra Herbert

A wonderful aspect of being a British Columbian is that we live in a pluralistic society which enshrines the rights of all persons to hold core beliefs without constraint while, at the same time, protecting us from the actions of others that might harm us for who we are.

Every British Columbian has his, her, or their own sense of innate identity – we instinctively know who we are. British Columbians have our individual ideals, our core beliefs, and our own identity. Thanks to the BC Human Rights Cod, we are able to expect to enjoy equal rights and freedoms with full access to the “economic, social, political and cultural life of British Columbia.”

The tangible outcome of the BC human rights code is that persons in BC are protected against discrimination based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age.

 

To help protect us, British Columbians rely on public knowledge of the code to stop others from doing actions that we all know are forbidden by the code. We rely on persons around us to help us thanks to their own knowledge of the equal rights afforded by the code. As a result, adding a protected classification into the code serves as more than a guide for a court of law but also as a teacher for British Columbians.

Yet something is missing. Today, gender identity and gender presentation are not classifications that are explicitly protected from discrimination. When physical ability and age were added to the protected classifications of the BC Human Rights Code, it was a signal to all of us that as a society, British Columbians agree to make accommodations such as curb cuts or braille in elevators. We all agreed that age was not an acceptable cause of dismissal from your job.

As a province, British Columbia agreed to explicitly state that British Columbians care about the ability of all British Columbians to fully live their lives in BC and wish to see this ability protected and enforced through law.

But more needs to be done in order to protect all British Columbians. Unacceptably often, transgender and gender-variant persons in BC find themselves squeezed between societal norms and the letter of the law.  Because the law does not explicitly name gender identity or gender presentation to the list of protected classifications, the situation today is that people are surprised to learn that it is unlawful to refuse housing to a transgender person because of their gender identity.

Even though they are protected by the law, transgender and gender-variant British Columbians are forced to fight for fairness on their own and at their own expense because many British Columbians are unaware about the reach of the human rights code in the context of sex discrimination.

This is unfair. It is unfair to ask people to start a human rights complaint every time an employer discriminates unknowingly. It is unfair to ask somebody to challenge police on their actions when the officer doing an infraction is unaware of the subtleties of the law in this regard. It is simply wrong to ask marginalized persons to advocate for their basic human rights. The BC Human Rights Code must be amended to explicitly include gender identity and gender presentation as protected classifications in the BC Human Rights Code.

In fact, in October 2014 parents have launched a challenge in BC supreme court against the Vancouver School Board’s implementation of sexual orientation and gender identity guidelines. These guidelines were specifically written in order to answer criticism that their old guidelines did not go far enough to answer the demands of the law when accommodating transgender persons.

Such avoidable challenges are expensive and draining on our legal system and illustrate the disconnection between public perception and the rule of law when gender identity is protected in a judgment but not specifically named in the law.

The consequences of this lack of knowledge by British Columbians include repeated infraction, incomplete protection, unnecessary court proceedings, and poor enforcement.

It also results in marginalization and real harm

The public service alliance of Canada reported in April 2014 that survey data from both Canada (transgenderPULSE Project) and the United States (National Center for Transgender Equality) illustrates the difficulties experienced by transgender and gender-variant persons:

  •     97% of transgender people have been harassed in their workplace;
  •     26% lost their job because of gender identity;
  •     36% have had suicidal thoughts in one year (2011);
  •     13% said they were constructively dismissed for being transgender;
  •     10% have attempted suicide.

In 2011, Egale Canada Human Rights Trust released “Every Class in Every School,” a report on the first national survey of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Canadian schools. The trans students surveyed consistently reported the highest rates of harassment:

  •     74% said they had been verbally harassed because of their gender identity;
  •     49% reported being sexually harassed;
  •     37% said they had been physically harassed.

Explicitly including protection for gender identity and gender presentation in the BC human rights code will assure transgender and gender-variant persons have access to services on an equal level playing field as is intended for British Columbians who pride themselves on pluralistic values.

Morgane Oger
Chair
Trans Alliance Society