Tag Archives: discrimination

Is Senator Plett’s moral compass broken, or is he just the face of “out of touch” social conservatism?

Senator Plett’s statements regarding transgender women seems to confirm what many already believe: that his moral compass is broken.

March 31 2015 was International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day when everyone seemed to be celebrating transgender  persons. Everyone that is, except the Honorable Senator Plett.

That day, Senator Don Plett, the Senator from Manitoba used anonymous hearsay in an attempt to paint a transgender mother of a young girl as a potential predator. The hearsay came in the form of a letter from an angry ex-partner venting about her transgender ex on the matter of an alleged incident which supposedly occurred when the transgender woman went into a women’s bathroom at a sports facility in order to support her young daughter’s needs.You know, just like every other good mother does as needed when raising a young child – transgender or not.

It’s unfathomable what Mr Plett’s personal reasoning was which justified using this story. It even is unclear from what he says whether there was even a problem. it’s almost like he is making up an incident that didn’t happen – or if he chooses to believe this “45 year old woman” from BC who was clearly speaking about an event she was not at. Reading closely, Senator Plett in fact mentions no actual complaint from anyone who was there. He provides no tangible facts from witnesses and has no evidence whatsoever to back his claim beyond an alleged letter from of an angry ex partner. If this woman does indeed exist who wishes to broadcast her situation on the Senate floor, Mr Plett should produce her name – or the name of the other parent – so that the validity of his claims can be examined. Is it not customary, in fact, to limit ones speeches to facts in the house of Parliament?

One wonders whose imagination conjured this Dangerous Transgender Woman boogey-man cliche: Was it the angry ex or Senator Plett’s overzealous imagination? Did anyone else also see this?

In spite of talking about events without actual factual evidence, Senator Plett believes he is tasked with offering moral judgement about a transgender parent’s parenting methods in his own crass and sexist style. It wasn’t that a trans woman was misbehaving that bothers Mr Plett and the author of the letter. It is the supposed size of the hardware. What does Mr Plett think of the other women who do not, in fact, meet his aesthetic test for entry to a restroom? Should we ban intersex women for example? How about transsexuals? What, exactly is Mr Plett’s definition of a sufficiently “female” woman for access to the appropriate bathrooms? What about this genetic male who gave birth today to twins? Is he a man? Is she a woman? How will poor Mr Plett decide? Is 5% genetic female enough to enter your ladies room, Mr Plett?

Senator Plett’s March 31 statements on this transgender woman is simply not what one expects from the Senate in 2015. It seems simply unbelievable that a Senator, a member of this venerable sober chamber of second thought , do this. One simply does not speak about a specific, real, living person’s genitals on the senate floor unchecked and for no reason except to extend his offensively discriminatory and wrong perspective on what constitutes a woman good enough for his standards. This is beyond defamation. Not only Senator Plett shows an incredible lack of tact, judgement, and manners,but his words sound like sexual harassment.

Judging from his actions and statements over the last years, Senator Plett seems to believe only his own counsel. On the subject of gender identity, he surrounds himself with fear and disbelief and unsurprisingly only gives those voices credibility. Senator Plett certainly does not appear to believe the Canadian Association of Social Workers and the Canadian Association of Social Work Education when they say that

“Gender diversity must be respected as an expression of human diversity.”

Nor does he believe their urging in their january 2015 position paper that:

“Restrictive gender roles are a reflection of sexist, racist, heteronormative and cisnormative assumptions, and are harmful for all people regardless of gender identity. Social workers should engage in ongoing learning to recognize and eliminate these assumptions in the profession.”

So far behind current Canadian thinking about gender identity as he is, Mr Plett does not seem to be aware of the broad support shown by the majority of Canadians such as for example, the Safer Schools Coalition and their fellow supporters of the Vancouver Board of Education SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) policy, for policies already in place in Canada such as those of the Archdioceseces of Vancouver and the Vancouver Parks Board to name the ones in the home city of TAS.

All of these social policy changes were accomplished without incident beyond fear-based panic-mongering from social conservatives of the Senator Plett’s ilk. In fact, Senator Plett’s proposed amendment to transgender protection bill C-279 sound like a giant leap back to the 1980s when hearing of them from Vancouver.

In the end, one simply wonders how could come to be that a Senator appointed by the Conservative Party‘s  Stephen Harper, would come to read this letter. It seems like it would require too many errors of judgement to get to see the light of day.

One further wonders why this member of the Conservative Party of Canada finds himself advocating for someone’s views which are in fact contrary to the law of British Columbia. and as a consequence, one wonders why Senator Plett chose to harass an innocent person he has never even met.

What kind of moral compass is this social conservative crusader relying on when deciding to echo an angry ex’s sexist and discriminatory venom?

As a close friend, long time associate, and apointee, does Senator Plett reflect the views of Prime Minister Harper on gender identity? Is he speaking his own mind and straying foolishly into the forest on matters he does not grasp or is he acting on orders from his boss?

Were his actions and statements as measured as they appeared? Did the Senator from Manitoba really not know that it took only a few minutes to identify the family he is speaking of? Surely Senator Plett is aware of the rates of violence against transgender persons and their loved ones.

Maybe this was not what it looks like. Perhaps this was not simply Senator Plett’s  warning to transgender parents and to other transgender persons that their family troubles might get amplified on the Senate floor if they get too uppidy and forget their place at the back of the bus, away from the respectable cis ladies? Perhaps this was not Senator Plett’s own twisted analogy to a cross burning: “we know who you are and we can go even further than this” This feels like an extension of the Conservative party bag of dirty tricks against political opponents, except that its being used on a transgender mom in Vancouver.

But in vancouver, we don’t let bullies tell us what to do. Nor do we let the likes of Plett scare us by throwing his horrible amendments meant to take away our rights.

More than mean, was this legal?

But this is about more than hateful behaviour. This is also about how Senator Plett, speaking for his party, gave a derisive and detailed description of a transgender person’s most intimate and vulnerable features on the floor of the Senate. And that is more than just mean and creepy. It is also a violation of the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms.

Thanks to Senator Plett’s rough debate tactics, sexual harassment can now be added to the the already the rich quiver of skills prevalent on a 2009 cohort Conservative Senator’s CV, along with fraud, deceit, and sexual assault.

A federal election is apparently overdue so we can clean house and get new blood to appoint people into the senate.

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.


Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Dagenais?

Senator Dagenais: For the amendment.


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?

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
Trans Alliance Society