As sad as it is, the Bill nicknamed the “Bathroom Bill” seems to be heading straight down the toilet.
Bill C-279, officially referred to as an Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code, seeks to include a definition of “Gender Identity” under prohibited grounds for discrimination. The Bill aims to ensure that transgender Canadians have equal rights and access to services (like bathrooms) corresponding to their gender identity. Pretty straightforward, and not particularly controversial, right?
Concern was initially raised when the original format of the Bill didn’t include a definition of Gender Identity. However, a definition was later added before the Bill passed in the House two years ago. For an Opposition member to pass a successful Private Members Bill is astonishing enough but for it to happen 16 Tories (some of them Cabinet Ministers) stood up in the House to support it.
Despite having reached its third reading, it seems as though the Bill will die on the Senate floor with the three amendments proposed by Conservative Senator Don Plett. A lifelong Conservative, Plett had worked within the party before his appointment to the Senate in 2009. He was one of the few Tory senators to oppose the motion to expel Senators Duffy, Brazeau, and Wallin. Representing the Conservative base support he got his start in politics working for the Hon. Jake Epp back in the ’60s. A Progressive Conservative (“Progressive” used with a great generosity of spirit), Epp is one of the more controversial figures in Tory history, having made a series of very public homophobic remarks throughout his painfully long career; before being awarded the Order of Canada for his career in government.
Although the first amendment to Bill C-279 was minor, the second called for a removal of the definition of gender identity (leaving the term undefined within Canadian Law), and the third aimed to exempt prisons, crisis centres, public washrooms, and changing rooms from being affected by the Bill – effectively meaning that transgender people can’t use the appropriate facilities anywhere! Liberals and NDPs still want to support the Bill, but they despair at its gutted state. The 140 Tories and the right-wing interest groups who fund them, however, are jumping for joy.
Canada Family Action argued that should the Bill be implemented, businesses could unknowingly commit an offence and face charges. They agreed with Conservative MP Rob Anders that the Bill could legally allow pedophiles and deviants to lurk in the women’s washroom to hunt women and children! Apparently, thirty-five years after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed, the rhetoric hasn’t changed. Maybe I should send some of those MPs who voted against it a calendar so they know what century we live in.
Along with citing the added costs to Canadian Health Care (should trans people interpret this equal status as meaning they can get their transition surgeries covered), the final and by far most bemusing complaint from opponents was that a definition of gender identity wasn’t being included. Conservatives removed the definition the opposition included which Tories argued was imperative to define gender identity only to then complain that there is no definition. Apparently, that definition wasn’t righting the Bill enough for the blue dinosaurs in the senate. They figured they had better get rid of it entirely, otherwise the Bill might actually pass and not potentially offend their constituents.
Costs and codes aside, transgendered Canadians face discrimination, abuse, and stigma every day. Amanda Ryan, head of Gender Mosaic Canada, points out that there is not a single solitary case of a transgender person attacking women or children in a sex-specific area. In fact, transgendered individuals have a greater risk of being attacked themselves, particularly when they use the male facilities. Trans women are not men in dresses, they are women.
Some nominally progressive Conservatives still insist that the legislation is redundant anyway and that the Human Rights Code and the Charter protect transgender Canadians too, even if not explicitly. Back in 1981, as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was being drafted, MPs of all stripes panned the notion of including homosexuality under Section 15. Some insisted that sexuality was already protected by “sex” in the Human Rights Codes and Bill of Rights, however, as the delegates for the Canadian Association of Lesbians and Gay Men pointed out to the committee, the courts refused to recognize sex as also meaning sexuality. It would be 15 years before sexuality was found to be implicit in the hallowed Charter. With Tories now turning to the same excuses they used so long ago, we know that gender identity hasn’t yet been explicitly protected.
I’d be interested to see how the Tories will enforce this amendment. Will they include something in their new spy bill perhaps? Quite frankly, spying on someone else’s reproductive organs seems a little voyeuristic (and already against the law), but if some former Reform and Alliance members want to play the part of the pervert (in order to protect themselves from supposed “perverts”), so be it! When they’re arrested for public indecency, it’s one more of those slimy buggers off the street.