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House should pass legislation protecting transgendered people

Jane Lytvynenko | Fulcrum Staff

Illustration by Mathias MacPhee

Seventy-seven per cent. That’s how many transgendered people in Ontario consider suicide according to the Trans PULSE survey team. Aside from personal demons, those wrestling with gender identity also face everyday struggles, which New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament (MP) Randall Garrison hoped to ease by tabling Bill C-279.

C-279 seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code “to include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination.” Although the bill has been met with its fair share of criticism, it will soon go into a third reading—no small feat for a private member’s bill. The third reading is due this winter, and will ultimately decide the fate of the bill.

It’s about time. Not only do some transgendered people struggle with psychological pressures, but everyday things can be hard as well. C-279 would allow trans people to use washrooms of the gender they identify with and make changing the sex on their identification—like their passports—easier. Some provinces, including Ontario, have considered similar legislation.

Despite all the good it would do, the bill still faces considerable opposition. Although a handful of Conservative MPs have shown their support for the bill, many don’t see it as a move in the right direction. Calgary West MP Rob Anders started a petition against the bill. Several Conservative MPs have cited the term “gender expression” as too broad, and it was subsequently taken out of the bill.

Some have criticized Garrison for omitting the term “gender expression,” but I think the move was necessary. C-279 empowers the transgendered community, both acknowledging their struggles and attempting to fix them. If compromise is necessary to achieve that goal, it’s worthwhile. In fact, after “gender expression” was removed from the bill, it gained significantly more support.

C-279 has been called the “Bathroom Bill” because of its most publicized point of allowing transgendered people to use the bathroom of their choice. But that’s not all this bill is about. It’s about recognizing a need for inclusivity and understanding; it’s about acknowledging struggles and helping ease them. It’s about understanding there is a group of people whose rights need to be explicitly stated.

Transgendered folk are often targets of bullying and violence. The suicide rate is high, and with it, the rate of depression. It’s time we provide not only personal support, but national support. It’s time Canada is recognized as a country that will not stand for discrimination based on gender identity. It’s time to pass Bill C-279.