Alberta adds gender protection to human rights law

The Alberta legislature on March 27, 2015. Emily Mertz, Global News

EDMONTON – Alberta has put forward legislation to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.

The changes are part of a bill introduced Thursday that, if passed, will become part of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

“No Albertan should be denied basic services for being true to themselves,” Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley told reporters.

“This change will increase access to justice and make it clear that discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression is against the law.”

Once the bill passes, Alberta will join Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories, which have similar bans in place.

Gender identity refers to a how a person views him or herself. Gender expression is the way people express their gender, such as through dress, demeanour and behaviour.

Story continues below advertisement

Ganley said consultation on the bill reinforced concerns that transgender Albertans face discrimination and threats to their well-being.

“(They) continue to be a highly marginalized group within society,” said Ganley. “I heard several stories of discrimination: difficulties finding a job, difficulties maintaining employment, or even being accepted into a workplace.

“We heard stories of safety concerns in shelters and difficulty obtaining proper medical assistance.”

Aria Ehren, a transgender rights activist from Calgary, characterized it as a milestone day for the province.

“I know I’m far from the only trans person in this province feeling a little more optimistic about the world today,” said Ehren. “There’s an overwhelming feeling at times that our existence is an inconvenient fact that the world would rather not face.

“We have been discriminated against, mistreated, shut out, denied, ostracized, fired (and) threatened. There’s been little to no recourse because the institutions we would go to for support and for justice are rarely any better informed or mannered. This must improve.”

Angela Reid with the Trans-Equality Society of Alberta said they are now ready to take the next step.

“(The society) remains committed to working with community members, legislators, and other stakeholders to make these rights effective in practice and not just on paper, lest we remain in the current environment of rights without remedy,” said Reid.

Story continues below advertisement

Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the bill has support from both sides of the house.

“Bill 7 clarifies in writing what is already recognized by the courts concerning gender identity and expression,” Jean said in a statement.

“The aim of this legislation, to ensure that everyone has clarity over what rights are protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act, should be applauded.

“I am confident it will be passed with support from all parties.”

Sponsored content