It has been a momentous day in Ottawa, where the federal Liberals introduced legislation that, once passed, will protect transgender Canadians by updating the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include the terms gender identity and gender expression.
This will be the third time such legislation has been tabled in the House of Commons, but it will be the first time it has been done so by a sitting government: both times before, they were private members’ bills. You may recall that last year, the bill passed the House of Commons but failed to get through the Conservative-dominated Senate.
There is no doubt that this time around, the bill — known as C-16 — will be supported in the House by the Liberal majority, the NDP and several members of the Conservatives, including its interim leader, Rona Ambrose, who said in a CBC-TV interview tonight that she will support it.
But there was one worrying sign today, as CBC pointed out in its news broadcast and in its online report: “The NDP critic for LGBT issues asked but failed to obtain unanimous consent to move the newly tabled government bill through the Commons.” In other words, it will have to go through various readings, rather than being fast-tracked.
One question some are asking is, will it get through the Senate, which still has a Conservative majority — though, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could change that balance by filling the remaining vacant seats there with more Liberal-minded souls.
CBC-TV caught up with Conservative Senator Don Plett today to ask him how he feels about it all. You may recall that Mr. Plett was one of the senators — the lead senator — who opposed similar legislation last year, and who demanded changes be made to the bill, sparking outrage in the transgender community and inspiring a bathroom protest lobby with the hashtag #PlettPutMeHere.
Mr. Plett told the CBC that his “views on the issues have not changed, they probably will not change.” Though, the CBC reports he will think about it some more.
In fairness to Mr. Plett, his concerns were largely about the parameters of transgenderism and gender fluidity. He asked questions that many people in the United States and some in Canada are asking: where do you draw the line on who should have access to such female-specific places as washrooms and lockers rooms and women’s shelters?
It’s a very sensitive issue, and it is one that is dividing the United States these days — although in the U.S., it is as much about bigotry and so-called exclusionary Christian values as it is about genuine, if not misguided, concern for privacy and safety in aforementioned places.
Which leads to a bigger question about the upcoming debate in Canada: How much of the ugly anti-trans wave of bigotry sweeping states like North Carolina will spill over into Canada?
We would be naive to think there won’t be some backlash, more so than for the previous bills, though it is doubtful Canada will see the same degree of divisiveness and bigotry. But the first signs of ugliness quickly appeared on social media today in the form of tweets posted by people who oppose the Liberals’ legislation — and who oppose the existence of transgender people.
I don’t think conservative organizations in Canada will launch propaganda campaigns and whip up hysteria like organizations have done in the United States. I’m hoping it will be a civilized debate here.
Stay tuned . . . I know many of my readers here are in the United States and the United Kingdom. I will keep you posted.