OTTAWA, Nov. 12, 2010 – Private Members’ Bill C-389 was approved by the Justice Committee November 2 and is expected to be returned to the House of Commons for the debate and final report stage in December. If passed, it would then go to the Senate and become law. The bill, introduced in June by MP Bill Siksay (NDP-Burnaby-Douglas), would add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in the CanadianHuman Rights Act.

This proposal is not about the fair and equal treatment of all people. Bill C-389 does not include a definition of “gender identity” or “gender expression”, both of which tend to be self-defined. Human rights complaints could be filed on the strength of a quality not often even evident to the alleged “offender.” This 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. (The standard diagnostic manual for psychiatrists, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 4th Edition, lists gender identity questions as a disorder.)

There are other practical reasons to drop the proposal to make gender identity a prohibited ground. Would it still be permissible for retailers to prohibit the opposite sex from fitting rooms? Would new washrooms or locker rooms need to be built to accommodate those who don’t believe they belong in either of the others, or would they simply enter the facility of their choice?

The League has written to the Justice Committee, and to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, to encourage them to drop this proposal now. We encourage you to express concerns to your own MP if possible.

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