The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) launched its Trans Equality Now (TEN) campaign May 21, urging all parade participants, politicians and the general public to support the rights of transgender and gender-variant Canadians.
The first part of the campaign is a pledge that calls on federal and provincial governments to enact legal protections for transgender and gender-variant people.
“By pledging public support, 2015 Pride parade entries are showing their commitment to putting an end to the unchecked violence transgender and gender-variant Canadians face everyday,” says VPS executive director Ray Lam.
All 2015 parade entries will be required to sign the pledge.
“If anyone refused to agree to our core values, they are declined,” Lam says. “The Trans Equality Pledge brings specific focus to trans issues, but it doesn’t materially change anything or ask entrants to agree to anything they haven’t agreed to in the past.”
Lam says any concerns, or objections to signing the pledge, will be reviewed by a parade committee made up of volunteers and community members.
“By taking a visible stand for the human rights of transgender and gender-variant Canadians, the Vancouver Pride Society is seeking to restore a historical wrong within the Pride community where transgender and gender-variant rights have largely been ignored,” says VPS parade coordinator Bry Leckie. “We can no longer afford to ignore the inequality faced by members of our community who’ve long been discriminated against in Canada.”
The VPS launched its campaign in response to a Conservative senator’s attempt to undermine Bill C-279, which would protect trans people from hate crimes and discrimination by adding gender identity provisions to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.
The Bill C-279 amendments introduced by Senator Donald Plett in February would block many trans and gender-variant people from using a bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity in federal buildings and women’s shelters.
“I can tell you that most of the Liberal senators are supporting the bill as it is and do not want those amendments,” Vancouver Centre Liberal MP Hedy Fry told the gathering at the VPS’s campaign launch.
Fry called on the Senate to stop blocking the bill.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, says the TEN campaign is a reminder that Pride isn’t just a celebration but also a protest, in this case against the discrimination and injustices still faced by trans people.
Over the past four years Herbert has introduced three bills in the BC legislature to add protection for gender identity and expression to the BC Human Rights Code.
“The government has said, ‘Thank you for your work for human rights’ and I write back, ‘So then are you going to support the bill?’ ‘Well, we have no plans to do anything around human rights legislation at this time,” he says.
“So I hope that when the BC Liberals decide they want to march in the Pride parade as the governing party, and I hope they do, they will acknowledge that they need to do something, take action for better equality rights of transgender British Columbians, and I hope the same for federal parties.”
Vancouver city councillor and deputy mayor Andrea Reimer expressed her hope that trans and gender-variant people will someday enjoy the same rights as gay and lesbian people.
“As a mother of a trans child I obviously feel these things very deeply, very personally, but regardless of your family status when a child in our community, when a teenager, when an adult is diminished, we are all diminished and our democracy itself is diminished when we bring to the table the idea that human rights only matter if you’re willing to conform to a gender identity that society has placed on you,” she said.