Even if you don’t follow politics in the United States, you’ve probably seen something about the transgender bathroom policy debate. In a nutshell, there are certain locations in the United States that are passing laws to limit bathroom use based on a person’s sex at birth, whether the person identifies as a different sex today. It’s turned into a national debate, with businesses, states, cities, and the federal government each weighing in. While this situation should be watched, the real news in Canada is that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has introduced a bill that extends human rights protections of gender diversity to all Canadians.
Gender identity is described as an individual’s personal experience of gender. It’s not the same thing as their sexual orientation. Essentially, it is a sense of being a man or woman, or neither, or anywhere along that spectrum. Often, when a person’s gender identity is different than their assigned sex at birth, they may be called transgender. Cisgender is the term for gender identity that conforms to the gender given at birth. Gender expression is how people present the gender in public, which might be through dress, hair style, body language or voice.
Five Key Things to Understand About the Legislation
On May 17, 2016, the Government of Canada introduced a bill that would give basic human rights to the gender-diverse community. According to the Department of Justice website, there are five things that you should understand about the new legislation.
- Gender diversity is an umbrella term that includes gender identity, gender expression and transgender.
- The “Canadian Human Rights Act” would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.
- The Criminal Code will be amended to include hate crimes based on gender identity or expression. These types of criminal offenses could have longer sentences.
- According to a study from 2010, 18 percent of transgender participants had been denied employment based on their gender identity. Transgender individuals face much higher levels of discrimination than cisgender individuals.
- Transgender individuals face higher risks of violent crime. One study estimates that at least 20 percent of the participants had been physically or sexually assaulted. Many people do not report these crimes to the police.
Currently, the “Canadian Human Rights Act” prohibits discrimination based on:
- Ethnic origin
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
- Family status
- Convictions when a pardon or suspension has been ordered
The proposed legislation would make it clear that transgender individuals have protection under the law.
Social Media Discussion
PM Trudeau opened the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #FreeToBeMe. Overall, the bill has support from many different organizations and leaders, including the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board; Bill Morneau, Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre and Canada’s Minister of Finance; Eric Alper, SiriusXM Host; and TELUS, a communications provider. The hashtag is also being used on Facebook with a great deal of support.
Once the legislation is passed, it will be a huge step forward for LGBT rights in Canada and in the international venue. Canada is on the forefront of human rights for all its citizens. Jody Wilson-Raybould,
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, issued this quote:
“In Canada, we celebrate inclusion and diversity. All Canadians should be safe to be themselves. The law should be clear and explicit: transgender and other gender-diverse persons have a right to live free from discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crime. We are committed to making Canada stronger by ensuring Canadian laws reflect the rich diversity of our people.”
More governments need to take up the fight for inclusion and safety for all their citizens. Trudeau and the other leaders who support this legislation make us proud to live here.