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Gender identity / expression to be added as ground of protection under Canadian Human Rights Act

Jurisdiction: - Canada/Federal
Sector: - All

The federal government voted on on June 15, 2017 to add gender identity or expression as a prohibited ground of protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which applies to federally regulated organizations in Canada.

One it receives Royal Assent, Bill C-16 - also known as the Transgender Rights Bill - will also add gender expression or identity to the Canadian Criminal Code provisions dealing with hate propaganda, incitement to genocide, and aggravating factors in sentencing.

In the House of Commons debate on the legislation Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said:

Bill C-16 reflects our commitment to this diversity and provides for equality and freedom from discrimination and violence for all Canadians, regardless of their gender identity. With the bill, we say loudly and clearly that it is time to move beyond mere tolerance of trans people. It is time for their full acceptance and inclusion in Canadian society.

She then went on to say:

...The term "gender identity" is a person's internal or individual experience of their gender. It is a deeply felt experience of being a man, a woman, or being somewhere along the gender spectrum. Gender identity is a profound matter of self-identity. It shapes one's self-understanding.

Conversely, "gender expression" is how a person publicly presents their gender. It is an external, or outward presentation of gender through aspects such as dress, hair, makeup, body language, or voice....

The amendments are a long time coming. NDP Members of Parliament first started trying in 2005 to have these protections added to the Canadian Human Rights Act but it is only now, with a supportive Liberal government in power, that these protections were able to pass all the legislative hurdles.

Most if not all of the provinces and territories already expressly protect gender expression and / or gender identify in their respective human rights legislation. British Columbia amended its Human Rights Code in this regard August 2016. Notably, however, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and many in not all of the provincial human rights bodies, had already read this form of protection into other protected grounds, such as sex or gender.