After months of lobbying and mudslinging in the House of Commons, NDP MP Randall Garrison’s private member's bill, C-279, appears to have stalled at the hands of Marjory LeBreton, the Conservative leader of the government in the Senate.
The federal trans rights bill would add gender identity to the list of grounds protected from discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and under the hate propaganda section of the Criminal Code.
On June 13, lesbian Senator Nancy Ruth added an amendment to C-279 that adds "ethnic origin, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation” to the bill.
“This bill will add the category of gender identity to section 318 of the Criminal Code, but one of the categories missing in that enumerated ground is the category of ‘sex,’” Ruth said on the floor of the Senate.
“We had a chance 10 years ago when we put ‘sexual orientation’ in that section of the Criminal Code. This is the time to add now the category ‘sex’ for the women of Canada.”
If Ruth’s amendment were to pass, the bill would go back to the House of Commons. If the amendment is defeated but the bill passed, C-279 would go to royal assent and become law.
Although he doesn’t expect Conservative senators to support Ruth’s amendment, Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell says Ruth’s amendment is not the reason the bill likely won’t be passed before the Senate rises for the summer.
According to Mitchell, who is the bill’s Senate sponsor, the un-amended bill has support from enough Conservative senators that it would pass. But LeBreton won’t allow the bill to go to a vote, Mitchell alleges.
“The real disappointment that has become clear in the last few days is they are not going to allow it to come to a vote. The bill will not be voted on, amended or un-amended,” he predicts.
“They are not calling a vote because the leadership in the Senate doesn’t want to have a vote. Because the prime minister voted against it, probably,” he claims.
Xtra’s attempt to reach the Conservative Party for comment has so far been unsuccessful.
Mitchell says this move by the Conservative senators is “frustrating,” but it is not the worst outcome for trans Canadians seeking recognition.
If no vote takes place, C-279 will be back on the Senate order paper in the fall, where it is now. However, if Parliament is prorogued, the bill would come back to the Senate and start the process from square one, as it is a private member’s bill, Mitchell explains.
“I deeply care about this,” he says. “My caucus deeply cares about this. It is a betrayal of democracy that elected MPs representing 65 percent of the popular vote supported this bill and the Conservative leadership in the Senate won’t even allow a vote.”
Mitchell says he will continue to attempt to get Conservative senators to change their minds about pushing for a vote.
“We don’t have to depend on the House of Commons to do it again, and we have time to work [and] continue to lobby. The community has been wonderful, just wonderful, in the way they have been lobbying, writing, phoning and meeting. We have a number of possibilities where we can change minds, possibly, get a vote and get this thing passed. Short of that, we need to change the government,” he says.