NDP MP Randall Garrison is optimistic his private member’s bill, C-279, will retain support from 15 Conservative MPs when it is reintroduced in the House of Commons at report stage Feb 27.
The bill aims to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to prevent discrimination against trans Canadians.
On the final day of debate at the standing committee on justice and human rights, Dec 6, a group of Conservative MPs, including Dave Anderson and Brent Rathgeber, filibustered the debate in the hope of killing the bill.
The filibustering Conservatives succeeded in using up all allotted time, thereby sending the bill back to the House unamended. Without the amendments, which include removing the term “gender expression” and adding a definition for “gender identity,” a group of 15 Conservatives, including Shelly Glover and Kerry-Lynne Findlay, will not support the bill.
Since the committee passed two amendments before time ran out, Garrison says it was obviously in favour of the amended bill.
“We should have had time to deal with the rest, and that was prevented only by the filibuster,” he says.
Garrison submitted a package of amendments, which include the needed compromises, Feb 7.
If Speaker Andrew Scheer confirms the amendments are in order, the bill can be debated and voted on in the House.
Garrison says he knows the majority of trans Canadians would like to see “gender expression” included in the bill, but they must understand the effect a Conservative majority government has on a private member’s bill.
“No one is excited to have to compromise to get it through,” he says. “But we have managed to find enough sympathetic Conservatives to get a meaningful bill through the House, and I think that’s what’s important.”
Susan Gapka, outgoing chair of Ontario’s Trans Lobby Group, says Garrison should be applauded for his tenacity.
Gapka was instrumental in the passage of Toby’s Act, Ontario’s trans rights bill, which includes both “gender expression” and “gender identity.”
Although Gapka is puzzled as to why “gender expression” is too controversial to be included at the federal level, she says trans people need to be protected, period.
“We need to protect people on the grounds of gender identity,” she says. “We need to do that -- not tomorrow, not today, but yesterday. That’s why this bill has our full support.”
Gapka adds that “gender expression” can be added to the bill in the future under a different party’s government.
“We would never want to see the weekend crossdresser, drag queen or drag king lose their employment, be denied service or be thrown out of their housing because of that. That would be wrong,” Gapka says, regarding members of the trans community who rely on the term “gender expression.”
Amanda Ryan, of Ottawa trans support group Gender Mosaic, who called the actions of the filibustering Conservative MPs “blatant discrimination,” would also prefer that “gender expression” remain in the bill but concedes that the bill with only “gender identity” should still be passed.
Gapka and Ryan encourage supporters to contact their MPs to facilitate the bill’s passage.
“When they know there are trans people and supporters in their community, that helps educate them,” Gapka says.Feb 10 marks the second anniversary of Bill C-389, C-279’s predecessor, achieving consent at second reading. The similar bill then died on the table due to an impending election.