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Siksay introduces trans hate crimes bill

Bill sends a message that transphobic violence is unacceptable, but a vote is likely far off

Inciting hatred or advocating genocide against transgendered people may soon become illegal if a private member’s bill, introduced in the House of Commons by NDP Bill Siksay Dec 11, passes in the new year.

Right now, sections 318 and 319 of Canada’s Criminal Code make it a crime to incite hatred or advocate genocide against certain identifiable groups, including those “distinguished by colour, race, religion, and ethic origin.”

Sexual orientation was added to the list in 2004, after Parliament adopted a private member’s bill introduced by Siksay’s predecessor NDP MP Svend Robinson. But the list makes no mention of gender identity or expression.

Siksay’s private member’s bill would correct for that by adding gender identity to the list of distinguishable group traits protected from hate propaganda by the Criminal Code.

The bill also seeks to amend the Criminal Code’s sentencing provisions to allow judges to take into account whether crimes were motivated by hatred of transgender or transsexual people when determining the offender’s sentence.

Section 718 currently states that a sentence should be stiffer if the crime was motivated by “bias, prejudice or hate” based on a number of factors, including race, national or ethic origin, and sexual orientation. Once again transgendered people are left off the list.

“Transgender and transsexual people are regularly victims of abuse,
harassment and physical violence,” said Siksay. “This bill will ensure that transphobic violence against transgender and transsexual people is clearly identified as a hate crime” in the code’s sentencing provisions.

In June 2006, Siksay introduced another private member’s bill seeking to add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. He first introduced this bill in May 2005, but it died at the end of the 38th Parliament. The bill has still not been debated past first reading.

The Northwest Territories is the only jurisdiction in Canada that explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in its provincial human rights act. There are campaigns across the country to get gender identity added to human rights acts at the provincial level, including theTrans Human Rights Campaign in Ontario.

Siksay — the NDP’s queer issues critic — says that the trans hate crimes bill “will send a strong signal that targeting people for their gender identity or expression will not be tolerated in Canada.”