Your Support of Bill C-279 is Urgently Needed Now

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“We don’t have a ‘Bill of Rights’ in Canada. We don’t need one.”

A colleague from Canada told me that once. I was pretty sure she was more or less wrong, but I was working in a lab of mainly Canadians at the time and I know that as an Ugly American I had no chance if I disagreed, so I kept my mouth shut. It turns out that only months before that declaration, Canada had passed the Constitution Act, and before that they had the “Canadian Bill of Rights” and subsequently some other stuff has happened along these lines, but just as in the United States, unless you are really quite specific, these sorts of protections don’t extend to everyone, and especially to people who are in certain groups or categories that many seem comfortable viewing as unworthy for some reason or another.

Well, at the moment, transgender Canadians are not protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the prevailing constitutional law. However …

Next month, in April, an extremely pivotal bill is going to be up for debate in the Canadian parliament. It’s Bill C-279, which will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of statuses protected under the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms.

Currently, transgender Canadians have no such protections, and may be discriminated against on the basis of their gender by employers, businesses, shelters, institutions (public or private) and individuals without any legal consequence. … This is not okay.

Natalie Reed has all the details here. It appears that Bill C-279 has not received much media attention, and the current political climate in Canada is such that it is at risk of not passing.

So read Natalie’s post and get on this, please. If you know of a petition or something, tell us in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “Your Support of Bill C-279 is Urgently Needed Now

  1. Not to detract from your point, but let me clarify a couple of things. First, we did have a Bill of Rights prior to the current Charter, enacted in 1960 (though it was a law, not part of a written constitution which document we didn’t have until 1982), and an implied BoR before that–which is perhaps why your interlocutor said we didn’t need one. In many ways it’s an improvement that our rights are spelled out, but in some ways the written form isn’t quite as flexible.

    Which brings me to point two.

    but just as in the United States, unless you are really quite specific, these sorts of protections don’t extend to everyone

    I don’t know exactly how constitutional law works in the US, and I have a layman’s understanding of the Canadian variety. The courts are free to extend protections to or “read into” the Charter classes of people not explicitly named in the document. This happened for sexual orientation which led to marriage equality in Ontario & BC in 2003 and most other provinces in 2004, paving the way for a federal marriage equality act in 2005. Not too shabby. However, it makes it even more of a shame that the same hasn’t occurred for gender and gender expression, since it actually is possible.

  2. A third clarification. This won’t amend the CoR (which pertains to actions of the government). This bill is to amend the federal Human Rights Code which prohibits third parties to discriminate against someone in areas of life regulated by the federal government: e.g. denial of goods, services, accommodations, employment, equal wages, harassment, etc. Also, the Criminal Code sections on hate propaganda and sentencing for hate crimes.

  3. Regarding your first point, yes, I know. The Canadian did not, however. Regarding your second point, I think the systems are similar in that way, however, the US constitution was not sufficient in and of itself to not require, for instance, the Civil Rights act of 1966.

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