The Yukon government introduced a trans rights bill in the legislature on April 25, 2017, making good on a pledge made in last fall’s election to bring the territory in line with current standards for LGBT people’s human rights. Yukon will be the last jurisdiction in Canada to pass a trans-rights bill.
Bill 5 — the second bill introduced since the legislature began sitting — amends the Yukon Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on “gender identity or gender expression” and amends the Vital Statistics Act to allow a change of gender on a birth certificate without gender-confirming surgery. The revised act will also allow gender-neutral markers to be used on birth certificates.
“All Yukoners have the right to be free from discrimination and harassment because of their gender identity or gender expression. Our laws will soon be a better reflection of Yukon’s rich diversity,” Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said in a press release.
Chase Blodgett, a coordinator with All Genders Yukon credits Xtra’s coverage of the fight for transgender people’s legal rights in the territory with getting the government to move so fast.
“I don’t know that this would have happened if [Xtra] hadn’t done those articles,” he says.
Blodgett says that All Genders Yukon has written commitments from all three parties in the legislature that they will work to improve trans people’s rights and quality of life, so he expects the bill will pass easily.
“We expect there to be little resistance to these long overdue amendments,” he says.
But while the proposed changes are a major advance for trans people in the territory, Blodgett says that All Genders Yukon would have preferred if the government took a step further and ceased collecting and recording gender data from its citizens altogether.
“All Genders Yukon will continue to suggest that the government denote the biological sex of all residents as ‘person,’” he says.
He says if the government insists on continuing to record sex data at birth, then it should use scientific methods that are more accurate than the standard visual method used by doctors, as this can sometimes miss intersex people.
The Northwest Territories was the first jurisdiction to amend its human-rights code to include “gender identity” in 2002, and Ontario and Manitoba followed in 2012. All provinces except New Brunswick had done so by 2016. Nunavut followed this March, while a trans rights bill is currently awaiting final reading in New Brunswick.
C-16, a bill to amend the federal Canadian Human Rights Act and to add trans people to listed categories under the hate crimes section of the criminal code is currently awaiting final reading in the Senate.
Prior to the changes, human rights commissions interpreted the protected category of “sex” as including trans people.
Changes to provincial vital statistics acts began after the Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled against the surgical requirement for legal gender change in 2012. After similar decisions in Alberta and Newfoundland, the other provinces and territories followed suit between 2014 and 2016, although minor variations remain between provinces as to what is required for a gender change.
Editor’s note, April 26, 2017: The subheadline of this article has been changed. An earlier version incorrectly said that Yukon is the last jurisdiction to pass a trans-rights bill. New Brunswick is currently also in the process of passing a trans-rights bill.