Today I proposed an amendment to Bill C-16. It was a moderate amendment, designed to address some of the concerns around transgender rights, yet without compromising those rights.
The basis of the amendment was simple: Bill C-16 must not disconnect gender expression from gender identity because to do so means that people who don’t even believe they are transgender will have have access to transgender rights.
I was very disappointed that my common sense amendment was defeated today. This legislation represents a major shift in societal norms and yet the Liberal and “Independent” senators remain dismissive and even scornful of people’s concerns. Witness after witness at committee affirmed that though they supported trans rights this legislation is flawed. Even some from the transgender community testified against this legislation. It was evident that the ears of most committee members are simply closed.
For the record, following is my presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on why Bill C-16 should be amended:
This proposed amendment changes only one word of Bill C-16. It would change “gender identity or expression” to “gender identity and expression” in the Canadian Human Rights Act only. This change would create one ground of discrimination which includes both identity and expression, rather than two grounds. It would not diminish protection for either gender identity or gender expression, but would clarify that they are linked together.
The purpose for this amendment is simple yet significant. Gender expression is intrinsically connected to a person’s gender identity, and gender identity comes from a personal belief. The legislation should reflect this fact for a number of reasons:
- Gender expression cannot be separated from gender identity. Doing so would grant transgender rights to non-transgender persons because it divorces gender expression from the personal belief that one is transgender.
- Secondly, this amendment would address concerns that Bill C-16 will permit non-transgender persons to inappropriately access gender-segregated spaces. You cannot pretend to be transgender and expect to be protected by transgender rights. To be clear, this is not about preventing transwomen from accessing women’s spaces. Rather, without an amendment we would be allowing anyone to access any gender-segregated space. This is a necessary clarification: Transgender rights belong to transgender persons only.
- Thirdly, the amendment will help to address concerns over free speech. As a belief-based right, gender rights will not impact freedom of speech any more than religious rights currently do.
Connecting gender identity with gender expression as one ground would benefit both the transgender community and the non-transgender community. It clarifies that transgender rights are for transgender persons only, and allays concerns about security and free speech.
The Legislative Summary for Bill C-16 indicates that the Bill is identical to an earlier private member’s bill (Bill C-204) “except that it lists the two terms separately, dividing them with a comma, whereas Bill C-16 places the word ‘or’ between the two terms, thereby linking the terms more closely together”. My amendment will further strengthen this important linkage.