A day before the Trans Day of Remembrance, Ontario NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo reintroduced her private member’s bill to amend the province’s human rights code to recognize gender identity.
“I’m tabling this again, for a second time. I’m sorry in a sense that I have to, [and] that this is not law already,” said DiNovo at a press conference on Nov 19. “This time we hope the government acts.”
She’s not alone. At the federal level, NDP MP Bill Siksay has tried three times to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include explicit protection for trans people. His first two attempts failed because Parliament was dissolved or prorogued before the bill could be debated. DiNovo first introduced her bill in March 2007, and it died without being heard before the 2007 Ontario election.
Despite the lack of progress, trans activist Susan Gapka said she is hopeful.
“Ontario has a chance to be a leader,” said Gapka. In Canada, only the Northwest Territories and the City of Toronto offer explicit protection for trans people. The Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended adding gender identity to the provincial rights code in 1999 and again in 2008.
Although there is some protection for trans people under the grounds of sex and disability, Gapka said explicit protection is needed.
“It would be a clear message to landlords and employers that it’s wrong to discriminate,” said Gapka. “It would be a very clear indication that state and society says, ‘welcome, you are included.'”
Jake Pyne of the Trans Pulse Project spoke about the group’s survey results, and how trans people face discrimination in employment, housing and services.
Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, spoke about the results of the organization’s national student survey. 95 percent of trans students felt unsafe at school, compared to one-fifth of straight students, she said.
“In the last few years, lesbians, gays and bisexual people in Canada have made tremendous advances,” said Kennedy. “Unfortunately, trans people have been left behind.”
Canadian trans activists have had a mixed-bag of successes and roadblocks in the past two years.
In May 2008, the Ontario government restored funding for sex-reassignment surgery, a decade after it was cut by the Progressive Conservative government.
But this past spring, the Alberta government delisted funding for sex-reassignment surgery, arguing that the province could not afford the to pay for the procedures during a recession. The program cost the province $700,000 a year, out of a $12.9-billion annual healthcare budget. Alberta activists are keeping pressure on the provincial government.
In May, Xtra.ca revealed that Manitoba’s NDP government had rejected a proposal to fund sex-reassignment surgery and suggested that the recession was a factor. Shortly after, the provincial health minister said the government was considering a “made-in-Manitoba” solution.
For more info, check out:
Fri, Nov 20 is Trans Day of Remembrance.
The 519 Community Centre.
More info at the519.org.
Events are planned across Canada and cities across the world. See transgenderdor.org for a full list, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Halifax.