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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


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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.

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