On Nov. 18, the House of Commons passed Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include transgender rights in the country’s hate crimes and human rights laws. It was overwhelmingly passed on a voice vote — that is, there is no record of who supported and opposed the bill.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said afterwards, “all Canadians should feel safe to be themselves. Our strength as a nation lies in our diversity and our inclusiveness. It is our responsibility to recognize and reduce the vulnerability of trans and other gender-diverse persons to discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crimes, and to affirm their equal status in Canadian society.”
Bill C-16 now moves to the Senate for consideration. A similar bill died on the Senate floor in 2015 when the federal election was called before it was voted on.
Several Conservative MPs spoke against C-16. Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia—Lambton) said, “There are many people in this country who do not believe that a transgendered lifestyle is God’s plan or that it is medically beneficial,” and she wondered whether their free speech rights would be protected. Cathay Wagantall (Yorkton—Melville) expressed concern that C-16 was rammed through the Justice and Human Rights Committee without hearing expert testimony from police, religious, or pro-family groups.
Ted Falk (Provencher) was the only member of the committee to vote against C-16 on Nov. 3, which passed without amendments. He, too, decried the lack of witnesses, saying there were numerous unanswered questions about how the law would affect religious and free speech rights.
Debate on C-16 is expected to begin in the Senate before Christmas.