OTTAWA, February 10, 2011 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today expressed its concerns that Bill C-389, which passed yesterday evening in the House of Commons by a vote of 143 to 135, could pose problems for human rights law and equality concerns in general.

The League has always supported the fair and equal treatment of all persons. In our analysis, adding “gender expression” and “gender identity” to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code represents a departure from the traditional, objective grounds and could easily lead to charges of discrimination that are unjustified and difficult to prove or disprove.

Bill C-389 does not include a definition of “gender identity” or “gender expression”, both of which often contain a strong element of self-definition. The standard diagnostic manual for psychiatrists, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 4th Edition, lists gender identity questions as a disorder. The condition is very different from such objective states as race, colour, creed or gender, all of which the law quite rightly protects from discrimination in the workplace, and in the provision of goods and services.

Under these changes, human rights complaints could be filed on the strength of a quality not often even evident to the alleged offender. “If we abandon the principle that discrimination complaints must be based on objective criteria, there could be a real risk of diminishing the seriousness with which human rights violations should be taken,” says Joanne McGarry, League executive director.

Ms. McGarry noted that the human rights code already recognizes gender and sexual orientation as prohibited grounds, which should address any problems raised by gender identity issues.

The League has been urging its members to speak with their MPs about these concerns from the time Bill C-389 received its second reading in November. It also urged the prime minister, and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, to oppose the change. Many other Catholic and pro-family organizations oppose Bill C-389.  The bill will now be sent to the Senate for further debate and voting before it receives royal assent.

Blurring Sexual Boundaries
, analysis by Professor Douglas Farrow, First Things, March, 2011

About CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League ( assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244;