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Yukon passes trans-rights bill

Trans people now protected from discrimination and can legally change gender in all provinces and territories

Left to right: Director of Yukon Pride 2017 Rian Turner, mayor of Whitehorse Dan Curtis and trans activist and founder of All Genders Yukon Chase Blodgett stand in front of the new trans crosswalk in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Credit: Courtesy Chase Blodgett

Yukon became the final part of Canada to enact explicit anti-discrimination protections for trans people into its Human Rights Code, when Bill 5 passed third reading and received royal assent on June 13, 2017. 

Bill 5 also amends the territory’s Vital Statistics Act to allow trans people to change their legal gender without undergoing gender-confirming surgery. In a first for Canada, the bill also allows a gender-neutral option on birth certificates, whose marker will be determined later. 

The bill passed on a 15–3 vote.

“I’m very proud to be able to say that transgender Yukoners now have the same rights and protections under these acts as the rest of their fellow citizens. We support a person’s right to self-determination of their gender identity,” Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost said in a statement after the vote. “The amendments are part of our government’s commitment to support inclusiveness, equality and a respect for diversity in Yukon.” 

Chase Blodgett, an organizer with the trans group All Genders Yukon says that the vote is the payoff of years of activism in Yukon’s trans community. 

“There was a very emotional vote,” he says. “We had many members in the legislature and our supporters’ eyes were welling with tears as the Liberal members stood to vote in favour.” 

On June 6, as part of the build up to Yukon Pride, the city of Whitehorse unveiled new crosswalks across its Main Street at Third Avenue which have been permanently painted with the colours of the trans Pride flag and the rainbow Pride flag. 

The trans flag crosswalks are a first in Canada, although the city of Lethbridge, Alberta, installed a temporary trans flag crosswalk a day later, and plans to install two permanent ones after an upcoming redevelopment. 

A permanent crosswalk was recently painted with the colours of the trans flag across Main Street at Third Avenue in Whitehorse, Yukon, along with a matching rainbow Pride crosswalk.
Courtesy Chase Blodgett

However, not everyone in Whitehorse was happy with the decision. Just days after the crosswalk was installed, on Monday afternoon the rainbow crosswalk was vandalized. It is reported that a driver in a pickup truck stopped on the crosswalk and deliberately spun the tires to burn the rubber, which left black marks on the rainbow. Witnesses saw the incident and were able to report a licence plate to the RCMP, who are investigating.  

“I was not surprised at all. It was expected and we were waiting,” Blodgett says. “We had actually discussed once we painted them that if vandalism happens we needed to have a crew ready to go because we can’t have a vandalized crosswalk for the Pride parade. My hope is they’ll investigate it through the lens of a hate crime.”

“There’s no more beautiful statement than on a day that someone tarnishes our symbol, that the government comes together to enshrine our rights,” he adds. 

Trans people are now explicitly protected under the human-rights legislation of every province and territory in Canada. They can also legally change the gender on their birth certificates in every province and territory without undergoing gender-confirming surgery. 

Bill C-16 is currently before the Senate. That bill would add trans people to the Canadian Human Rights Act, would apply to the federal government and federally regulated industries like banks and airports, and would add gender identity to the listed characteristics protected under the hate speech and hate crime sentencing sections of the Criminal Code. 

Also on Tuesday, senators defeated a proposed amendment on a 28–49 vote that would have stressed that the bill does not require people to use terms and pronouns preferred by a trans person. It is expected that senators will hold a final vote on the bill this week.