With Bill C-389 – which would extend trans rights to the Human Rights Act – due to come up for its second hour of debate on Tuesday, Siksay put out a call to action this week to get Canadians to contact their MPs to encourage them to vote for the bill. I spoke with NDP MP Bill Siksay about it after Question Period today.
Q: Your bill is coming up for second hour of debate on Tuesday, and then the vote on Wednesday. What are you doing to get ready for that?
A: We’ve alerted folks across the country of the day of the final hour and the vote, so that they can continue their lobbying efforts, and their efforts to be in touch with Members of Parliament, both of the importance of passing this legislation, and to get the word out that we’re coming up to this turning point in the debate finally.
Q: Have you heard from any other MPs about the concerns raised in debate, especially by Conservatives?
A: No, and I think that the Conservatives raised important questions that can be answered, and I think a lot of MPs appreciate that there are answers to the kinds of concerns that the Conservatives raised in the first hour of debate. I think they raised really two points – one was about the fact that gender identity and expression wasn’t defined in the bill, and I think anyone who looks at the Canadian Human Rights Act recognises that none of the prohibited grounds are defined in the Act, and that’s done intentionally to rely on jurisprudence, and to allow it to be dynamic legislation that responds to evolving understandings of discrimination and prejudice in Canada. I think to define it in the legislation would be a departure from the practice and from the intent of the original Canadian Human Rights Act. The other one they said was that somehow this was redundant – that Trans people are already covered. And it’s true – Trans people are already covered through two other categories – sex and disability, neither of which really address the type of discrimination that transgendered or transsexual Canadians face. When you think about the importance of the Canadian Human Rights Act in terms of educating Canadians about prejudice and discrimination, and how they operate in Canadian society, I think it’s really important to be explicit so that you don’t have to think your way into appreciating the need to not discriminate against a certain group of Canadians – that it’s right there in front of you. So that transgendered and transsexual Canadians can see themselves explicitly in the law, and that they don’t have to wonder in any circumstance whether they’re covered by it. I think those two are very strong points, they’re good questions to ask, but I think the answers are very strong, and I think other MPs are aware of that.
Q: What’s your sense so far, from MPs that you’ve talked to, about where the vote is going to go?
A: I think it could be very close if, because the Conservatives didn’t offer support last hour, they all voted against it, it could be a very, very close vote. There may be some surprises, and I’m always willing to be surprised that we find support from places that we didn’t know, and there are still ongoing conversations with folks in all corners of the House about the legislation, and we may be able to change a few minds and clarify a few issues for some folks before next Wednesday, and hopefully the debate on Tuesday will be part of that as well.