‘Whose rights do we trump by giving someone else rights?’ Conservative senator slams transgender bill

Conservative Sen. Don Plett arrives to the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, October 28, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – A Conservative senator cited the case of a convicted sexual predator and the notion of men entering women’s bathrooms as examples of his concerns related to a transgender rights bill now being studied in the upper chamber.

Sen. Don Plett, a former Conservative Party of Canada president, sparred with the bill’s creator, NDP MP Randall Garrison, during a committee meeting studying Bill C-279 – which has languished in Parliament for the past three years.

It’s the second time the bill has come before the Senate after being passed in the House in March 2013, supported by 18 Conservative MPs.

READ MORE: NDP MP still hopes Senate passes transgender rights bill – three years on

Plett said he supports certain elements of the bill that would guarantee equal rights to housing and employment.

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But he expressed concerns with the idea that “gender identity” would be included in the Canadian Human Rights Act as well as the Criminal Code section dealing with hate crimes.

Watch above: An excerpt from Tracey Wilson’s interview with 16X9. Tracey was born a boy, but identifies as a girl.

The bill defines “gender identity” as an individual’s “deeply-felt internal and individual experience of gender,” which may or may not correspond with the sex that the individual was assigned at birth.

Plett specifically referenced the case of Christopher Hambrook, a Toronto man who posed as a transgender woman named “Jessica” to access two women’s shelters, where he sexually assaulted women. He has since been declared a dangerous offender.

He also expressed concern about men entering women’s washrooms – an example Garrison equated to discriminating against Asian or Jewish people.

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Outside committee, Plett said Garrison’s comparison was “ludicrous.”

READ MORE: That’s what friends are for: Conservative senator stands up for Mike Duffy

“Whose rights do we trump by giving someone else rights? I support the employment and the housing part, but the fact of the matter is, we’re biologically either male or female,” he said.

“And for a biological male, especially adult male, to walk into a change room where she meets my five- or six-year-old granddaughter, and my granddaughter says I don’t want to be in here with you, and Garrison compares that with her saying or somebody saying, ‘I don’t want to go into a bathroom with an Asian’? It’s ludicrous. She has the right not to be in a bathroom with a biological male. And I don’t want her to be in there with a biological male.”

“If that biological male happens to be trans, well, you know, we are all given a cross to bear and that does not give one person rights over another person.”

Garrison said the senator’s remarks only underscore the type of prejudice facing trans people in Canada.

“He simply doesn’t understand what it means to be transgendered. He is mistaken,” Garrison said.

“Someone who is a transgender woman is a woman. Someone who is a transgender man is a man…That’s exactly the prejudice we’re trying to confront.”

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He said Plett’s argument about Hambrook is especially irrelevant, as his actions would be criminal with or without the bill, and he was not truly a transgender person but rather putting on a disguise.

He added that bathrooms and change rooms fall under provincial jurisdiction.

“What (Plett) fails to understand is it’s discrimination, just like it’s discrimination on the basis of religion and national origin.”

Garrison also addressed questions about the bill’s necessity, seeing as human rights claims have succeeded in other provinces which do not have “gender identity” on the books.

He said such claims are much harder to make.

“It’s clarity in law and it’s also the public denunciation of the discrimination,” Garrison said.

The bill, which was first introduced in Sept. 2011, arrived in the Senate in October 2013.

Garrison said he believes Plett is trying to stall the bill before the next election, but said he is confident he has enough support to pass it.

Plett signalled he may want to introduce amendments to the bill potentially outlining specific places where he has concerns – such as bathrooms, change rooms, and saunas – but said he’d wait until the committee heard from all witnesses before making a decision.

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He has previously said the bill will be dealt with in the next month or so.


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