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      'It Could Protect Us': Canada Moves to Adopt New Trans Rights as Quickly as Possible

      'It Could Protect Us': Canada Moves to Adopt New Trans Rights as Quickly as Possible 'It Could Protect Us': Canada Moves to Adopt New Trans Rights as Quickly as Possible 'It Could Protect Us': Canada Moves to Adopt New Trans Rights as Quickly as Possible
      Charlie Lowthian-Rickert, a 10-year-old girl, is comforted by her dad after speaking at Canada's House of Commons. (Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

      Americas

      'It Could Protect Us': Canada Moves to Adopt New Trans Rights as Quickly as Possible

      By Justin Ling

      Flanked by members of the transgender community, Canada's justice minister vowed that she would put new human rights protections for trans and gender-fluid Canadians into law "as quickly as possible."

      The announcement, made on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, was the culmination of more than a decade of political battles.

      "I'm pretty sure this is the first time the trans rights flag has been displayed in this foyer," Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould told reporters in front of the doors to the House of Commons.

      The new legislation, entitled bill C-16, will add gender identity and gender expression as a protected class in the Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, as was first reported by VICE News last week.

      While reporters asked the justice minister whether the announcement was more symbolic than substantial, the practical effects of the legislative change could be significant.

      The changes to Canadian law will mean that gender identity and gender expression will be added to the already-lengthy list of protected classes — which includes "color, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability."

      That change will strictly forbid discrimination against trans workers in federally-regulated sectors — including the military, airlines, the telecommunications sector, and elsewhere — but also beef up hate crime protections for victims of violence, or targets of hate speech.

      While some, including opponents of the bill, have contended that sex, sexual orientation, or disability protections already protect trans Canadians, there is scant evidence to prove that is the case.

      'I know that the law won't change the daily reality of bullying, but it may stop those heartless bullies who can't accept who I am from doing more than just calling me names.'

      When asked to classify the murder of Shelby Tracy Tom, who was strangled to death after one of her clients discovered the scars from her sexual-reassignment surgery, the Supreme Court of British Columbia refused.

      Charlie Lowthian-Rickert, a girl from a small town in the Ottawa valley who has faced bullying because she is trans, stood at the podium on Tuesday in the foyer of the House of Commons, telling reporters that her reaction to the legislation was simply: "thank god."

      Lowthian-Rickert told the minister that she was hopeful, but realistic, about the effects of the legislation — "I know that the law won't change the daily reality of bullying, but it may stop those heartless bullies who can't accept who I am from doing more than just calling me names," the minister quoted her as saying.

      Lowithian-Rickert herself added: "it could protect us."

      The bill will almost certainly pass the House of Commons without much trouble — even a significant chunk of the center-right Conservative Party has voiced support for the bill in the past — but the real trouble may be in the unelected Senate.

      Related: Transgender People in Canada Are Getting New Human Rights Protections Next Week

      The three previous times that the legislation passed the House of Commons, then advanced by the opposition New Democratic Party, it was frustrated and ultimately killed by the Senate. One of the main individuals responsible, Conservative Senator Don Plett, still sits in the upper chamber.

      While it will be significantly harder to delay or undermine the government legislation, it is not impossible.

      Randall Garrison, the Member of Parliament who had been responsible for the bill in the previous Parliament, challenged the minister to get the bill passed as soon as possible, and ensure that it is immune to any monkey wrenches it maybe face in the Senate. Wilson-Raybould accepted.

      "Our government is committed to moving this legislation forward as quickly as we can," the minister told reporters. "I take Mr. Garrison's challenge to do everything we can to expedite this legislation and to work with our colleagues in the Senate to get it through.

      Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @justin_ling

      Topics: americas, canada, trans, transgender, trans rights, lgbtq, human rights, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia

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