Amendments to the transgender rights bill banning trans people from using public washrooms cannot stand, activists say.
“The bathroom part is appalling, that’s discrimination at it’s absolute worst,” said Amanda Ryan, from the Ottawa transgender support organization Gender Mosaic.
Bill C-279, which seeks to add gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Act, passed the Senate on Wednesday. But before passing, Sen. Donald Plett, a Conservative member of the standing committee reviewing the bill, added a controversial amendment exempting the legislation from applying to “sex-specific” facilities such as public washrooms.
Plett said it is a safety issue, and in previous committee meetings said that letting transgender women use the women’s washroom “allows for pedophiles to take advantage of legislation that we have in place.”
But many say that Plett’s concerns are inherently discriminatory.
“To me that is assuming the transgender person is a threat to people, and all that we’ve worked for, all this legislation is all for naught,” Liberal Sen. Mobina Jaffer said during Wednesday’s committee meeting.
At the heart of Plett’s amendment is a debate about what point a transgender person belongs to their chosen gender. Plett’s amendment would not apply to transgender people who have had a surgical sex change, but it would apply to those who take hormone therapy without surgery.
“The whole concept that trans people or especially trans women are men in dresses is very, very incorrect,” Ryan said.
Sexual reassignment surgery is a lengthy process, and many people may be living as their chosen gender but still waiting for surgery, Ryan said. Still more may not want to get the surgery at all, because of the expense or because they think it is unnecessary, she said.
Amnesty International, who is part of the Trans Equality Rights in Canada along with Gender Mosaic, called the Senate’s amendment “disappointing.”
“If Senators passed the bill in Committee with no amendments, we would be well on our way to having life-saving human rights protections in place in a matter of weeks,” said Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada in a statement.
Ryan said the coalition still supports the bill, but is lobbying to have the amendment struck down in the House, where it returns for third reading.
The private member’s bill, which was introduced in Oct. 2013, has slogged through Parliament. With the addition of this amendment, as well as two others, it is likely that the bill will die because of the impending federal election.
“Unfortunately time is against us,” Ryan said.