Senate passes Bill C-16 which defends transgender rights

The Senate chamber sits empty on September 12, 2014 in Ottawa.
The Senate chamber sits empty on September 12, 2014 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadian senators have passed a new law which explicitly prohibits discrimination against transgender Canadians and affords them protection against hate crimes.

Bill C-16 passed third reading in the Senate on Thursday, more than a year after being introduced. The Attorney General of Canada issued a statement in response on Thursday evening.

“In Canada we celebrate inclusion and diversity, and all Canadians should feel safe to be themselves,” the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould said. “Trans and gender diverse persons must be granted equal status in Canadian society, and this bill makes that status explicit in Canadian law.

“The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that everyone can live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose. It will protect people from discrimination, hate propaganda and hate crimes.”

READ MORE: Canada’s special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues urges people to communicate with senators on Bill C-16

The bill must still receive Royal Assent before becoming law but outspoken transgender advocates – like Edmonton’s Marni Panas – sounded relieved about the development in Ottawa.

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“When the country says, ‘We have your back and you are included,’ it has a profound impact and it changes the narrative,” Panas told Global News Thursday evening. “It starts changing the narrative to talking about transgender people as part of the normal participation in society as we should be.”

“June 15, 2017 will be a historic moment for equality and human rights for all Canadians,” says Stephanie Shostak, a board member with the Trans Equality Society of Alberta.

“Respectful person who are not willfully discriminating against someone have nothing to fear. No one should be concerned about free speech limitations as hate speech laws already exist in Canada.”

MPs had already voted in favour of Bill C-16 in November. During discussions in the Senate, some peope, including Conservative Sen. Don Plett, expressed misgivings about the bill, including the notion that “gender expression” is not an identifiable group.

READ MORE: Parents of transgender youth urge Senate to back Bill C-16

“I would like to acknowledge the courage and the leadership of the trans community and their decades of effort to achieve equality,” Wilson-Raybould said.

“Their dedication, resilience and tireless advocacy for equal rights inspire me.”

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he intends to introduce legislation which will erase the convictions of people punished in Canada for sexual activity with a same-sex partner.

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READ MORE: Justin Trudeau: legislation, apology, coming for past wrongs against LGBTQ community

-With files from The Canadian Press.

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