Feb. 9, NDP MP Bill Siksay’s Private Member’s Bill C-389 passed third reading in the House of Commons 143 to 135.
While Prime Minister Harper and most of the Conservative caucus voted against the bill, six Conservatives stood to support it, including House Leader John Baird, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon and Heritage Minister James Moore. The NDP and Bloc supported the bill unanimously, but seven Liberals opposed it. The bill adds “gender expression” and “gender identity” to the Criminal Code’s “hate crimes” Section 318(4).
Critics have called Siksay’s legislation “the bathroom bill” because it would allow people to choose their gender—and gain access to bathrooms and locker-rooms of whichever gender they choose.
NDP MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj has another private member’s bill in the works that would include “sex” in Section 318, and Bloc MP Nicole Demers’ Bill C-531 would do the same.
However, those bills, sitting far down on the order paper, are unlikely to be heard. “I’ve tried that three times, and every time it’s been knocked down by the Conservative caucus,” Wrzesnewskyj says.
Still, he adds, “sex” will almost certainly be subsequently “read into” the law by the Supreme Court now that Siskay’s Bill C-398 has passed.
The high court has consistently read “sexual orientation” into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even though such a change to the Charter—which is part of Canada’s Constitution—has never been ratified by Parliament. The legal process for amending the Constitution, which is specified right in the Constitution, doesn’t seem to matter to our Supreme Court.
Vancouver lawyer barbara findlay (who insists on lower-case spelling of her name) specializes in what she calls “queer and feminist issues”; she says, “It’s a conceptual confusion to suggest that if people are protected from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression, that somehow gives trans women ‘more rights’ than non-trans women.
“Among other things, it protects lesbian women who look ‘too butch,’ and it would protect gay men who are ‘too femme’,” findlay says.
Critics say it would also allow predatory men to claim “trans” status and use women’s facilities for voyeurism—or worse.
Many observers expect Siksay’s ‘bathroom bill’ to be squelched in the Tory-dominated Senate, although the Conservative Leader in the Upper House, Senator Marjorie LeBreton, says it will be a free vote. “I’m ambivalent about the bill,” she said. If an election is called before the bill is ready for Royal Assent, it would die on the order paper.
“It’s the worst-written bill I’ve ever read,” CFAC’s Nathan Cooper told RKR. “It’s about two terms—‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’—that have no definition.”
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