Transgender rights bill passes in Canada!


Back on March 20th, despite the Tories’ attempts at kicking the can down the road, NDP, Liberals and a whopping 15 Conservatives passed the controversial transgender rights bill in the House of Commons, making assault on a transgender person a hate crime, and protecting trans* folk against discrimination.

I hate having to say “the controversial” in this case, but as usual, it’s controversial because Conservatives don’t want to pass anything making it any less acceptable to attack anyone who isn’t a straight white cis-gendered males in this world. Making it illegal to discriminate against a trans* person, in the same way as it’s illegal to discriminate against any other non-ciswhitestraightmales, well, would simply be a bridge too far to most of them. So they’ve been fighting it with the rhetoric that it would allow sexual predators to assault women in bathrooms by pretending to be transgender. They’ve honestly smeared it throughout the media and throughout the political discourse as “The Bathroom Bill”.

Yeah, it makes about as little sense as it sounds.

Anyway, the bill is not entirely perfect after some last-second wheedling:

There were complaints that the language in the bill was confusing and vague, including the term “gender expression” and “gender identity.”

Mr. Garrison tried to strike a compromise by removing the term “gender expression.”

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel teared up in the Commons earlier this month as she spoke about the discrimination that transgender Canadians face, even as she questioned the bill’s effectiveness.

“Both sides of this debate should agree that equality and protection against harm are two fundamental values that all Canadians of any gender, any age, any background are entitled to,” Ms. Rempel said.

“However, as legislators we are also tasked with deciding if the proposed legislation is sound. Given the lack of clarity that I found in the bill, I do have concern about its viability.”

This “vagueness” charge is the same as previously covered here, when David Anderson spent an entire session — one he was apparently not even invited to — wasting the House’s time on obfuscatory smokescreens about how poorly defined “gender expression” and “gender identity” are, even though they’re concisely and clearly defined in international human rights law. It seems pretty clear that the charges that the terms are ill defined are intended as legal chaff, as a FUD tactic to throw uncertainty onto a valuable and clearly needed human rights bill.

There’s another aspect to this that I’m confused by. Many, many big-name Conservatives — Harper included — voted against it, and spoke out against it prior to the bill’s vote. Political parties don’t really vote in blocs in Canada generally, but Harper’s had extraordinarily tight control over his party’s voting. (The idea of a “party whip” is a foreign import from the States’ already-polarized political system.)

This is important, and telling, but I’m not sure what exactly it means. This bill was tabled by the opposition party, the NDP — and it passed, despite a Conservative majority. Either Harper told everyone to vote their consciences, or he has lost control of his party over this issue. Or more cynically, he wanted it to pass but wanted to be seen as voting against it and told some of his back-benchers to do the right thing.

Comments

  1. Félix Desrochers-Guérin says

    Political parties don’t really vote in blocs in Canada generally, but Harper’s had extraordinarily tight control over his party’s voting. (The idea of a “party whip” is a foreign import from the States’ already-polarized political system.)

    Really? I had the impression it was the other way around. In Canada, voting against your party gets you expelled from the party caucus unless the leader allows a free vote while in the US, punishment for dissidence is not nearly as drastic, especially in the Senate.

  2. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    They’ve honestly smeared it throughout the media and throughout the political discourse as “The Bathroom Bill”.

     
    Article: Phoenix NewTimes – Bathroom Birther: Lawmaker Wants People to Use Birth Certificate to Prove They’re in the Right Bathroom

    [Arizona Republican] Kavanagh’s proposing making it a crime to intentionally enter a public restroom if that restroom has a designated sex, and the person “is not legally classified on the person’s birth certificate as a member of that sex.”

    From a previous article, linked there:

    There was much discussion by opponents of [an earlier measure that expands the city’s anti-discrimination law to include LGBT and the disabled] that language in ordinance created a loophole that would allow men to dress as women and infiltrate the women’s restroom and attack women and children. [They dubbed it the “bathroom bill”.]

  3. Schala says

    I hate having to say “the controversial” in this case, but as usual, it’s controversial because Conservatives don’t want to pass anything making it any less acceptable to attack anyone who isn’t a straight white cis-gendered males in this world.

    It’s part of even the conservative notion of male gender role (and the liberal notion too) to protect women, so don’t think laws against DV (when done to women anyway) are hard to pass. They pass without obstruction because all men are for it pretty much.

    Bills against homophobia and transphobia are something else.

    Some of the opposition to it (this trans discrimination bill) is…about protecting women (at least a perception they’re doing so) against violent/perverted men.

    I really hate this notion, which seems apparently universal, but unstated, that given the chance, a man (or even young boy – see elementary schools and trans kids, wanting to ‘protect girls’ is a sure sign of it) would assault, rape and murder a woman, and what’s holding him back is not a sense of ethics or morals, but merely a lack of opportunity. Hence having men in the women’s bathroom would not simply offend women visually (by the possible sight of a penis), but put them in danger, because everyone knows they would behave like demons…

    Even trans women who defend their right to use the right bathroom often do it in a way that it seems “I’m not like cis men, my penis is useless/removed, my testosterone is null, hence I’m no risk.”

    Wether that’s true or not, the corollary to this is that people who have a penis and higher testosterone are at risk (of offending), simply because of those biological facts. It implies rape isn’t possible without a penis (hint: it is possible), and that T levels matter in all violence (hint: they don’t).

    If this notion were right, lesbian women would be the most peaceful people on earth, not even having normal relationship conflicts like raised voices (some people really do claim this, but I bet they personally know otherwise).

    And gay men would be the most violent people on earth (2 penises, and way more T levels). (bigoted people usually claim gay men are hypersexual rather than hyperviolent – citing this hypersexuality as a reason to deny them marriage)

    In short, the conservative defense against trans women using the women’s room is steeped into misandry (men inherently violent, women never violent), even moreso when they consider trans women (and other people who might enter the bathroom when the bill is in place) as all men.

    They probably consider trans men to be women, and thus don’t care if trans men enter the women’s room (if this bill was rejected), regardless of the trans man’s looks (Buck Angel), he’s considered harmless and helpless to cause violence, even less sexual violence (misogyny in action, denying agency to all women).

    Funny they’ll have a different outlook to a more masculine looking trans woman than to a masculine looking cis woman, or even a masculine looking trans man. The trans woman is a potential danger, and her looks is all you need as proof (see VRR vs Kimberly Nixon), the cis woman is collateral damage, but once she proves she’s been female-since-birth, danger is gone (would be hired by VRR). The trans man is only considered in more marginal communities (queer communities particularly), and is accepted in both women’s space (where trans women are often refused entry, even lesbian space) and everyone-space. Otherwise, will be treated the same as a masculine cis woman if found out (that they are trans) in mainstream society (would likely not be hired due to anti-maleness, by VRR).

  4. Schala says

    There was much discussion by opponents of [an earlier measure that expands the city’s anti-discrimination law to include LGBT and the disabled] that language in ordinance created a loophole that would allow men to dress as women and infiltrate the women’s restroom and attack women and children. [They dubbed it the “bathroom bill”.]

    Proves my point so much.

  5. says

    Political parties don’t really vote in blocs in Canada generally, but Harper’s had extraordinarily tight control over his party’s voting. (The idea of a “party whip” is a foreign import from the States’ already-polarized political system.)

    No. You’ve got this backwards. Whipped voting comes to us from Westminster. It is traditional for most votes to be whipped, and woe unto you if you step out of line and vote against your caucus. However, it is up to the leader to allow their caucus free votes–which they sometimes do when a bill is socially controversial (e.g. marriage equality was a free vote except for cabinet ministers), and it is almost always done on private members’ bills (which was why there was such controversy over the vote on the gun registry repeal bill, which was ostensibly a private member’s bill, but was, in effect a government bill; the NDP refused to whip their caucus despite criticism from the Liberals on that decision and the bill was passed).

  6. says

    Minor correction (at least, I hope it’s minor): the bill passed in the House of Commons, but it still needs to pass the Senate before it can actually become law. Since the NDP doesn’t have any Senators, I’ve read that might make things a bit trickier procedurally (who is going to call for a vote on the bill?), but I highly doubt the Senate is going to block this bill in any way. There’s been a ton of scandal surrounding some Senators already, and failing to pass this bill would create even more bad press for the Upper Chamber, which I imagine they’re keen to avoid.

    I’m also pretty pissed that Peter MacKay (my asshole MP) voted against this bill. I remember during a debate at the last election, people brought up concerns that he was just like Harper, and he side-stepped by going on about how he’s a different flavour of Conservative than Haper, blah blah blah. Well, here was his chance to prove that he’s not the same as the Prime Minister, but of course he falls in line like a good little lackey and votes the same way Harper does. I most definitely won’t be forgetting this the next time he tries to say he’s not like Harper.

  7. erk12 says

    Really? I had the impression it was the other way around. In Canada, voting against your party gets you expelled from the party caucus unless the leader allows a free vote while in the US, punishment for dissidence is not nearly as drastic, especially in the Senate.

    Generally speaking, parliamentary votes are whipped in Canada, yes. Canadian senators are appointed until they’re 75, so they are theoretically free of interference. In actual fact, because it’s such a gravy train, PMs tend to appoint only the most loyal lap-dogs, who will likely never vote against their party.* This is why once the electorate tire of our current crop of neocon clowns in parliament, I can see the senators Harper has appointed (hey anyone in the CPC remember senate reform now that you have a majority in both chambers? Didn’t think so.) causing problems for another decade.

    It’s my opinion that Harper doesn’t really care about trans* discrimination (though he’s probably pro-discrimination), and wants to appease the social con base by voting against the bill, but doesn’t want to face the popular backlash of the CPC tanking an anti-discrimination bill, so he allowed the free vote. He’s more about political strategy than he is about principle.

    *Unless there’s a later shake-up of the party that has created internal strife or a major shift in policy.

  8. Félix Desrochers-Guérin says

    Generally speaking, parliamentary votes are whipped in Canada, yes. Canadian senators are appointed until they’re 75, so they are theoretically free of interference. In actual fact, because it’s such a gravy train, PMs tend to appoint only the most loyal lap-dogs, who will likely never vote against their party.* This is why once the electorate tire of our current crop of neocon clowns in parliament, I can see the senators Harper has appointed (hey anyone in the CPC remember senate reform now that you have a majority in both chambers? Didn’t think so.) causing problems for another decade.

    I was talking about the US Senate in case that wasn’t clear, where individual members can pretty much vote however they like. As for the Canadian one, it was my impression that they were relatively restrainted* because of their total lack of democratic legitimacy. I remember a big uproar caused by them actually voting down a motion that passed the house for the first time in a long while.

    * Of course, as with all unwritten rules, all you need to break it is a power-hungry asshat of a PM who could campaing under the slogan “If it ain’t broken, smash it.”

  9. says

    I’m in BC and there’s an election coming up here; I’ll be asking the local candidates about this bill and stuff like unisex washrooms. Should be interesting considering one of the candidates is John Cummins, former federal Conservative and now leader of the BC Conservatives.

  10. Watcher Two says

    @erk12. I left the CPC precisely because of Haroer’s hypocrisy on the Senate Reform issue. I held my nose and voted Liberal in the Calgary by election, much good it did.

  11. klem says

    “…making assault on a transgender person a crime, and protecting trans* folk against discrimination.”

    What a bizarre and stupid law. Protecting trans gender folks against assault and discrimination implies that non-trans gender folks get less protection. It discriminates against anyone who isn’t trans gender. What idiot tabled such a discriminatory law and how did this loser get passed?

    Lefties and their herd mentality, can’t wait to single out one group over others.

    What’s wrong with a law making assault on a Canadian citizen a crime? Oh wait, we already have that don’t we. Gad.

  12. says

    Thank you so much, Klem, for your usual wrongheaded kneejerk reactions to anything that might protect people other than conservative bigots. Without that, I might have never caught that I’d missed a word in that sentence: “…making assault on a transgender person a hate crime”.

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