The Paper Chase
Update on adding gender identity to Canadian Human Rights Act
Over the last few years there has been a wave of support for recognizing gender identity as a separate ground under human rights legislation. Ontario amended its Human Rights Code in 2012 to include gender identity and gender expression. Other provinces have followed suit. Even without these amendments it is often said that the ground of “sex” would encompass gender identity in the event of discrimination. However, many people feel it is important to have gender identity and gender expression recognized as unique grounds because it makes the protections available more explicit.
Advocates have been trying to make amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act for several years so that gender identity would be recognized as a ground of discrimination. The Canadian Human Rights Act applies to federal services such as border services, banks and federal government departments.
In 2011 Bill C-279 was introduced into the House of Commons. This Bill proposes adding gender identity as a ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It also proposes to amend the Criminal Code so that a judge making sentencing decisions can take into account that an act was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on gender identity.
The Bill went through multiple stages and then entered the Senate readings, where it languished for a couple years. Unfortunately, it was reported that a Senate committee introduced an amendment to the Bill in February 2015 that would prevent transgender persons from entering “sex-specific” places like washrooms that accord with their gender identity. In addition to undermining the purpose of the Bill, these amendments add further delay because they force the Bill back to the House of Commons. It is widely believed that the Bill will now die on the order paper as a result of the upcoming election.
About the Author
Lisa Feldstein is the principal lawyer at Lisa Feldstein Law Office. She is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and the University of Guelph. Lisa practices in the area of Family Health Law™, which includes reproductive law, human rights, privacy, mental health and other health law matters. Lisa has presented at the 519 Church Street Community Centre and PFLAG Canada (York Region), and has been interviewed on Proud FM. She has helped many couples build their families through third party reproduction. Lisa has been teaching negotiation at Osgoode Hall Law School since 2010. She was recently awarded a 2014 Canadian Law Blog award for Best Practitioner blog, and a 2015 Precedent Setter Award.