Canadian House of Commons passes trans anti-discrimination bill

A rare bit of good news coming from the Canadian Parliament yesterday:

A bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgender Canadians was approved by the House of Commons on Wednesday. The Opposition private member’s legislation passed by a vote of 149-137, with the crucial support of 16 Conservatives, including four cabinet ministers. It was one of the first tests of the Conservative caucus’ resolve on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Canada at a time when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has been mounting a strong defence of such rights abroad.

The thing to remember in this story is that a majority of sitting members of Parliament are Republican North Party members, and all bills require nothing more than a simple majority to pass or fail. If the government had ‘whipped’ the bill – meaning that a strict party-line vote was required – it would have failed. To Stephen Harper’s credit, one of the few areas where he’s been consistent is in allowing his members to ‘vote their conscience’ on these kinds of bills. Of course his conscience led him to vote against granting legal protection to trans Canadians, but luckily enough of his members weren’t as amoral as the boss.

It’s also worth noting that this was an opposition-sponsored bill, so its passage is all the more remarkable. The RNP has treated the opposition as an annoyance and a punching bag as long as they’ve been in power, often railing against their ideas for amendments and then trying to smuggle those same ideas into their bills in committee. Their belligerence has led them to pass flawed bill after flawed bill, because their inability to see governing as being different from campaigning has put them in a position of reflexive dismissal of any ideas that don’t originate within their own caucus.

And then there’s the fact that the party is still full of shitheels like Rob Anders:

Shortly before Wednesday’s vote, Calgary MP Rob Anders tabled a petition “on behalf of thousands” of Canadians opposed to what he called “the bathroom bill.”

“These constituents feel that it is the duty of the House of Commons to protect and safeguard our children from any exposure and harm that would come from giving a man access to women’s public washroom facilities,” Mr. Anders said.

I have to confess that, except to interpret it as simple and disgusting transphobia, I don’t understand this preoccupation with bathrooms, and why it would be the case that children are particularly under siege by legions of men who would totally go into women’s bathrooms and molest them, save for the security pat-down that currently faces them outside of every woman’s washroom in the country. The fact that Rob Anders managed to find 2000 backwoods assholes to believe that fantasy enough to sign his petition is as unsurprising as it is unpersuasive.

So universal recognition of human rights takes one tiny step forward in Canada, the bigots in the RNP identify themselves in a recorded vote, and the existence of trans Canadians moves on to the national stage. Not bad for a Wednesday.

P.S. Meanwhile, across the pond, a trans woman was publicly hounded by the Daily Mail until she committed suicide.

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  1. invivoMark says

    Dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit. I was this close to coming away from this post with a reasonably good feeling. That postscript felt like a punch in the gut.

  2. says

    I wouldn’t congratulate Harper for his stance on GLBT issues too hard. He lets the issue slide “on individual conscience” because he’s acknowledged it’s a losing issue. Like abortion and public healthcare, he’s a cunning enough politician to realize that though he wants to oppose them all, doing so would only cost him votes and weaken or ruin his ability to control government as polls show most Canadians are against him on those issues.

    The difference between the Republican Party and the North division, as you say, is just a bit more political savvy from the top.

  3. says

    I get what you’re saying, you just said to his “credit”, and I felt it gave a bit of an angle to elaborate. Whether it’s issues of GLBT or women’s rights, or healthcare, he does this as a cop-out to avoid backlash at his party. I feel the only credit he’s due is the credit of being a savvy opportunist politician who realizes voting down these issues will hurt his overall situation.

    The damage control he does when MPs with his party move to outlaw abortions, privatize healthcare or attack GLBT rights attests to the fact he’s worried only about the damage it’ll do at the polls, and that’s all that keeps the whip at bay.

  4. Jacob Schmidt says

    The fact that Rob Anders managed to find 2000 backwoods assholes to believe that fantasy enough to sign his petition is as unsurprising as it is unpersuasive.

    It’s not “backwoods assholes”. You get plenty of hateful jackasses everywhere. It’s not “those bigots over there”. I realize that’s probably not what you mean; it just seems heavily implied to me.

  5. says

    An unintended consequence to the passing of this bill: women–not just trans women–are now a protected class under the Hate Crimes sections of the Criminal Code (sexual orientation *was* included before, but not sex). I hope some lawyers pick up on this and start prosecuting applicable assaults and murders as hate crimes against women. Also, misogynist crap as hate propaganda.

  6. says

    Question: Is “table” in the second quote being used in the American sense (to remove from discussion) or the British sense (to offer for discussion)? I’m not familiar enough with Canadian parlance to know which is generally used, and both could work in the context.

  7. wondering says

    The passing of this bill in the HoC pleases me very much. The only thing that worries me is that it still has to pass the RNP-controlled Senate and they have voted down bills that the Cons didn’t like before (but still allowed them to say that the party supported it).

  8. swar says

    I do find the comment about Harper being constantly in campaign mode. Really, in that regards, I don’t think he can hold a candle to how Chretien ran things.

    Definitely glad to see this bill get through, though.

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