Toronto: The air is rife with rhetoric and election buzz once again, threatening to seriously derail important steps toward building a safer, more equitable environment for LGBTQ Canadians and their allies. As political machines shift into gear and federal parties prepare to hit the pavement with buttons and pamphlets in hand, we must not lose sight of what hangs in the balance in the current session.
Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression), is currently slated for debate and third reading in the House of Commons on Monday, March 7, 2011. If it passes third reading, it will still need to be approved by the Senate—a process that could take months. Unfortunately, it is increasingly likely that a federal election will be called before C-389 can be signed into law. An election at this point means C-389 instantly dies on the Order Paper, effectively hitting the restart button and requiring the bill to be re-introduced from the very beginning of the legislative process in the next parliament. NDP MP Bill Siksay, the Private Member who sponsored Bill C-389, has recently announced his intention not to run in the next election. No other MP has yet committed to assuming the lead on a similar bill in his absence.
The looming election, complete with its inevitable gamesmanship, renders palpable the need for immediate and concerted action in support of C-389. We need your help to ensure that momentum on this issue is not lost as Members and candidates turn their attention from the halls of Parliament to the clamour of phone banks and button machines.
There is still a chance that debate and third reading on C-389 could be held sooner. You can help by calling or emailing your MP to urge them to take all available measures to move up debate to the first possible opportunity after the House resumes on February 1, 2011. You will find contact information for all MPs here, and a draft letter is included below.
Bill C-389 is an incredibly important initiative. If passed, the bill would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) to include “gender identity” and “gender expression” as prohibited grounds of discrimination. It would also add crimes motivated by transphobia to the list of crimes treated by the Criminal Code as potential hate crimes. This kind of explicit reference within the CHRA would afford transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, intersex, gender-queer, gender non-conforming and gender-open individuals clearer protection against discrimination and help create a safer Canada for all of us.
Egale Canada will be following this issue closely over the next few weeks and into the next election, if necessary. Please let us know what response you receive from you MP by sending an email to C389@egale.ca. This will enable us to target pressure where it is needed most.
[Insert Name Here], MP [Insert Riding Here]
House of Commons
Dear MP [Insert Name],
I'm writing you in support of Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression). As a resident of your constituency, I would like to stress the importance of including “gender identity” and “gender expression” as prohibited grounds of discrimination within the Canadian Human Rights Act as well as the addition of crimes motivated by transphobia to the list of crimes treated by the Criminal Code as potential hate crimes.
I am deeply concerned that a federal election could interrupt the passage of Bill C-389. As such, I urge you to take all available measures to ensure that debate and third reading take place at the first possible opportunity after the House resumes on February 1, 2011. Waiting until March may simply be too late to affirm the equality and freedom from discrimination of all Canadians, regardless of gender identity and gender expression.
Finally, when voting on C-389 at third reading, I encourage you to strongly consider your responsibilities to the many transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, intersex, gender-queer, gender non-conforming, and gender-open individuals in your own constituency and throughout the country.