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Trans rights bill still stuck in the Senate

More than a year after it passed in the House of Commons, Bill C-279 has still not passed in the Senate, thus preventing it from becoming law.

The Bill, which would add “gender identity” to the Canadian human rights code and also make it an identifiable class under the hate crime section of the Criminal Code, recently passed second reading and is now at the committee stage (the last step before third and final reading.)

Some observers are optimistic the bill will be passed soon:

Human-rights groups remain confident that the majority of senators agree that it is important to support Bill C-279. That will be reinforced by compelling testimony the Senate committee will hear about the struggles of transgender individuals for security and equality across Canada.

While others, including its author, are conceding the bill is dead:

You know that classic Charlie Brown gag where he tries to kick a football that Lucy is holding, only to have it pulled away at the last second as he lands flat on his back?

The feeling must be a familiar one for the transgender community in Canada, as the government has—once again—thwarted efforts to protect them from discrimination and hate crimes.

The bill, now known as C-279, has been around for more than a decade. Colloquially, it’s known as the trans rights act, and it was nearly passed through parliament.

But thanks to the work of two unelected Senators and the inner machinations of the Harper government, the bill has been stuck. And proponents are not optimistic.

“It’s dead,” Randall Garrison, the Member of Parliament championing the bill, told me. “I’ve given up hope.”

The football has been pulled away. Again.

Act!

Visit trans.egale.ca to send a letter to the Senate urging them to vote in favour of Bill C-279, the Gender Identity Bill.

Writing Trans Genres, May 22-24, 2014

Writing Trans Genres is an upcoming conference in Winnipeg (May 22-24) that will develop critical contexts for reading and interpreting trans* writing.

Writing Trans Genres invites writers, performers, critics, and community members to participate in developing critical contexts for reading and interpreting an emerging body of literature by transgender, transsexual, two spirit and genderqueer writers.

See the schedule here. Many events are free and open to the public.

In addition to the four fabulous keynote speakers coming to Writing Trans Genres (Aiyyana Maracle, Jay Prosser, Nathanaël, and Rachel Pollack), we are thrilled to announce the panelists who will be giving plenary talks at the conference:

Amir Rabiyah
Ching-In Chen
Gein Wong
Imogen Binnie
Joy Ladin
Max Wolf Valerio
Micha Cárdenas
Mirha-Soleil Ross
Rupert Raj
Ryka Aoki
Samuel Ace
Tom Léger
Trace Peterson
Trish Salah

Manitoba to allow gender change on birth certificate without surgery!

The Government of Manitoba has introduced legislation to allow the change of gender marker on birth certificates without the requirement of surgery.

CBC reports:

The minister responsible for the Vital Statistics Act, Ron Lemieux, said proposed changes he introduced Friday mean transgender Manitobans will not have to undergo surgery to change the sexual designation on documents such as birth certificates, health cards or marriage certificates.

Lemieux said governments across Canada, including Manitoba, are working to address what he called an issue of basic human rights.

“In our case, removing the requirement for transsexual surgery to change sexual designation on government documents is really an issue basic fairness,” he said.

Instead of having transsexual surgery, a person would make a statutory declaration and provide the written support of a health-care professional.

Another article in the Wpg Free Press

A lengthy article,  A life reclaimed: The final symbolic step of transitioning appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press recently.

Last year, Manitoba saw a spike in the number of people seeking to change their sex, at least on paper.

For most of the last five years, only nine Manitobans asked Vital Statistics to change the male or female gender marker on their birth certificate, typically the last step in someone’s transition.

In 2013, that number jumped to 21, with most people transitioning from female to male.

As part of a joint project between the Winnipeg Free Press and Red River College’s creative communications program, student journalists profiled three people in various stages of transitioning.  Their stories follow below.

The three described a system that is considerably better than it was, but still forces trans people to travel outside the province for some surgeries, still saddles them with big bills and still imposes wait times that can be tortuous.

Bill C-279 passes in the House of Commons!

Bill C-279 was passed at third reading in the House of Commons. It now goes to the Senate.

This bill adds “gender identity” to our federal human rights protections and to our hate crime legislation.

From the Canadian Press:

A bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgender Canadians was approved by the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The Opposition private member’s legislation passed by a vote of 149-137, with the crucial support of 18 Conservatives, including four cabinet ministers.

[Foreign Affairs Minister John] Baird, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and Heritage Minister James Moore were among the Conservatives who supported the bill. [Ed. - St. Boniface MP Shelley Glover also supported the bill.] Prime Minister Stephen Harper, most of his front bench and the vast majority of his backbenchers opposed it.

Opposition parties were united in their support for the bill, sponsored by New Democrat Randall Garrison.

Unfortunately, coverage of “gender expression” was dropped from the final version to address concerns that the term is not well defined.

To see how your MP voted check here.

Article in Wpg Free Press

A 4-page article, For Winnipeg’s transgender community, journey to a new identity is life-affirming, featuring some local trans folk, health care providers, and insights from the recent CPATH conference appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press recently.

For Winnipeg’s transgender community, journey to a new identity is life-affirming

Bill C-279 passes second reading!

Bill C-279 has passed its first vote in the House of Commons.  It now goes to the Justice Committee for amendments before a final vote in the House.

This bill would add “gender identity and gender expression” to our federal human rights protections and to our hate crime legislation. Unfortunately, the bill’s sponsor has suggested that “gender expression” might be dropped in the final version to address concerns that the term is not well defined.

To see how your MP voted check here.  Most of the Opposition members were in support, and a small but growing number of Conservative MPs were in favour as well.

Bill C-279 is essentially a restating of Bill C-389 from the previous Parliament that was passed by the House but died in the Senate with the fall of the minority government.

The text of the bill can be found here.

More info about the bill and its future can be found in this article from Xtra.

Manitoba to add “gender identity” to human rights code

The provincial government has introduced legislation that would explicitly ban discrimination based on “gender identity”.

The press release:

May 23, 2012

PROVINCE MOVES TO STRENGTHEN HUMAN RIGHTS CODE

– – –
Changes Would Further Protect Manitobans from Discrimination, Streamline Resolution Process: Swan

Changes to Manitoba’s Human Rights Code would ensure Manitobans are further protected from discrimination based on gender identity and disadvantaged social status, while improving the process by which complaints are addressed, Justice Minister Andrew Swan announced today, after introducing the amendments.

“Manitoba’s human rights legislation was ahead of its time 25 years ago when protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation was added to the code,” said Swan.  “These changes will build on that legacy and ensure the commission has the tools it needs to effectively address current and emerging challenges.”

Proposed changes to the code would specifically prohibit discrimination based on:

  • gender identity, further protecting transgender Manitobans, and
  • social disadvantage, further protecting individuals who are, or are perceived to be undereducated, underemployed, homeless or living in inadequate housing.

The minister noted the proposed change to include gender identity is similar to legislation recently introduced in the Ontario legislature.

“The Manitoba Bar Association (MBA) believes there is a need for better legal protection for transgender Manitobans.  Transgender Manitobans are a minority who can suffer discrimination,” said Josh Weinstein, president, MBA.  “In 2010, the Canadian Bar Association Council unanimously passed a resolution encouraging all provincial and territorial governments across Canada to amend human rights laws to better protect transgender individuals and I’m pleased to see the Manitoba government taking a major step forward in this regard.”

“Socially disadvantaged Manitobans should not face additional barriers when they are trying to get ahead,” said Floyd Perras, executive director of Siloam Mission.  “We welcome these changes because we’ve seen first-hand the positive contributions made by people from all walks of life.”

“This is a very progressive approach,” said Jerry Woods, chair of the Manitoba Human Rights board of commissioners.  “The Human Rights Code recognizes the individual worth and dignity of every member of the human family and the new grounds will help the commission address prejudice against some of the most vulnerable individuals and groups in this province.”

Other changes to the Human Rights Code would improve and streamline services to the public by:

  • expanding mediation provisions,
  • allowing for joint Manitoba Human Rights Commission proceedings on similar complaints, and
  • allowing the commission to sit in smaller panels to make decisions.

- 30 -

Ontario ruling: allow gender change without surgery

Xtra is reporting:

In what a London lawyer is calling a “game-changing decision,” the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has struck down a rule that required trans people to undergo “transsexual surgery” in order to change the sex category on their birth certificates.

Released April 11, the 95-page decision follows a challenge by one trans woman who complained she was discriminated against because she could not change her legal documents unless she had surgery.

The tribunal found that the Vital Statistics Act requirement of “transsexual surgery” prior to changing the sex designation on a birth certificate discriminates against trans people, she says. The provincial government has been ordered to remove this stipulation.

Whether this  means anything for the situation in Manitoba remains to be seen, though one person involved in the Ontario case says

[this] precedent-setting decision could force changes to legislation in other provinces and territories

WPATH updates their Standards of Care

Highlights and commentary from GID Reform:

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) released it’s 7th Version of Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People (SOC) in Atlanta today. The previous Version 6 was published in 2001. Overall, this newest SOC represents significant forward progress in respecting trans people and affirming the necessity of medical transition care for trans and transsexual individuals who need it.

View the SOC 7 here.