Bill to Guarantee Equal Rights to Transgender Canadians

A bill up for debate this month proposes adding gender identity to the list of protected human rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The upshot of this bill is that it would become illegal to discriminate against somebody on the basis of their gender identity. Currently, there are no legal protections for transgender, transsexual, or gender non-conforming individuals.

The bill was introduced by NDP MP Randall Garrison back in the fall. This April will open up debate after the second reading of the bill in the House of Commons.

This bill has received remarkably little media attention, but non-traditionally gendered people are speaking out on what a bill like this could mean for their lives. Natalie Reed, a blogger on transgender issues, has written at length on her experiences being discriminated against, misgendered, and denied services — just the sorts of things that people can still get away with when their targets are an unprotected minority group:

How many trans people (including myself) have been openly and loudly misgendered at the welfare office? How many trans women have been kicked out of women’s shelters on the basis of being “really men” and forced to humiliate themselves and risk violence or sexual assault trying to be accommodated by men’s shelters? How many have been turned away from food banks on the basis that they don’t have “proper” identification? How many of us, exposed to this bigotry, humiliation, invalidation and risk simply stop trying to seek work or assistance, and end up falling between the cracks of the system, all because nobody can even be bothered to acknowledge this crucial gap in Canadian human rights law?

She makes an interesting but possibly spot-on analogy to class. At the moment, transgender citizens potentially don’t even have basic human rights: access to emergency services (like shelters), equal opportunity in job interviews, government services, etc. On the other hand, as she points out, there is a lot of rallying around the cause of same-sex marriage.

I find myself increasingly frustrated by the amount of energy the LGBTQ rights movement expends on issues such as marriage, adoption or DADT. It seems like a rather explicitly classist mentality to prioritize the ability of those already comfortably situated as full participants in society to pursue middle-class, nuclear family privileges while others do not yet even have the basic level of protections required to be able to seek employment, or at least receive assistance from institutions like emergency shelters.

I’m not sure I would use the word “privilege” with respect to equal marriage rights, but her point is well-taken. I’m reminded of early feminism, which was largely about equal rights for white, middle-class women, and not women everywhere. It was necessary for other women to speak up to be included in that social progress.

Which is not to say we should all abandon the cause of DADT and same-sex marriage until trans rights have caught up. I don’t think that’s what Natalie is saying either. She goes on to point out that the trans community absolutely supports all of these things.

The issue at hand is that there isn’t more interest and outrage at the fact that discrimination against transgender citizens is legally acceptable. We don’t have to choose one cause or another. If there was a finite amount of attention we were willing or able to devote to LGBT issues, then I might suggest this would be a good time to focus our attention on Bill C-279, and get back to less urgent LGBT topics after it’s been passed. However, since I don’t think that’s the case, I suggest we continue to do all of the above.

Things you can do to help C-279 (paraphrased from Randall Garrison with some additions made):

-Contact your MP and tell them how important this legislation is to you. You can find out who your MP is at

-Write to the Minister of Justice and tell him how important this legislation is to you. His contact information can be found here,

-Write to the Prime Minister of Canada and tell him how important this legislation is to you. His contact information can be found here,

-Sign our petition.

-Don’t stop following this issue and talking to your friends about it.

Related stories:

Transgender Teacher Forced to Quit Job in New Mexico

Transgender Contestant Barred from Beauty Pageant

Six Months After DADT Repeal Sky Still Not Falling

Image credit: Holly Boswell


Leslea Herber
Leslea Herber5 years ago

lol, glad to help. It seems the servers are lagging (not surprising) so it might take a bit for the changes to show up.

Sam Richardson

Thank you for this article, I had no idea that transgendered people had protection under human rights - that seems preposterous to me. I will absolutely do everything I can to help gain support for this, and I can only hope that once the discussion has opened up, that abrupt and swift action will come to help improve the lives of trangendered people.

Joel Boyce
Joel Boyce5 years ago

Er, that should be, in the "petition" itself. Honestly, I normally do all my own proofreading, but I'm a little off, today.

Joel Boyce
Joel Boyce5 years ago

My apologies for the bonehead typo in the position itself, and particular thanks to Leslea for letting me know outside of the comments. It's now been fixed.

Leslea Herber
Leslea Herber5 years ago

The petition does need cisgendered removed from it, as NO ONE is discriminated against for fitting into the gender they're normally seen as.

Otherwise, looks good.

Trans Canadians do indeed have ZERO protection under the current provisions. The CRAP tries to insist that we fall under the sex category, yet in the bulk of cases that does not fit even remotely. Worse, due to being Trans, many who do make it to court, have to PROVE to the judge that beyond any shadow of a doubt, that their mere existence is legitimate to begin with, that they deserve protection of the law for the fact they are not a figment of the imagination, takes up most of the court time the courts are even willing to allocate to trials & legal actions. This law would force legal recognition from the get go, something Trans people have been needing for decades.

Yvette T.
Past Member 5 years ago

Let's educate ourselves on the Zuni way, and other tribal people who respect all life. There is a place in this Universe for all who come into it, and this is higher than what limited perceptions can see. This is why people are to RESPECT ALL LIFE. ALL IS ONE IN CREATION. Never harm, insult, abuse, reject, shun, or assume a position of authority or superiority, as this is FALSE. Please eat veg'n.

Mary L.
Mary L5 years ago

I will hope and positively coerce the universe with all my will. Please let me know when the petition is fixed.

Andrew Carvin
Andrew Carvin5 years ago

I made a video about why Homosexuals should have equal rights. It’s at my YouTube channel Zarrakan, and here’s the link:

Watch it, share it, and join the fight against the evil Homophobes.

Suzy D.
Reverend Suzy D5 years ago

Good news, all progress towards equality is welcome news.

Beth M.
Beth M5 years ago

Let's make sure that it passes and then move on to the rest of the world.