Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fate of Transgender Rights Bill Will Rest on Support of Conservatives

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fate of Transgender Rights Bill Will Rest on Support of Conservatives

Article excerpt

Tory caucus mulls transgender rights bill

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OTTAWA - Stephen Harper's Conservatives have declared themselves strong advocates for gay rights worldwide, but the prime minister's caucus is divided over a bill that would recognize some of those rights at home.

MPs are studying a private member's bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered Canadians and to disseminate hate on the basis of someone's gender identity or expression. Not all transgendered people are homosexual, but their issues are often represented within the gay and lesbian community.

Conservatives on the Commons committee handling the bill are split. At least two -- Manitoba's Shelly Glover and B.C.'s Kerry-Lynne Findlay -- have suggested they will vote in favour of the bill with some amendments.

With the support of the NDP and the Liberals, that means it will head back to the Commons, where it must pass two more key votes.

Glover, a former Winnipeg police officer, gave an emotional explanation Tuesday for why she wants explicit protection for the transgendered, describing how she saw cases of extreme brutality against some in the community.

"It is important that we embrace the notion that we invite other Canadians to feel that sense of belonging that this bill will give them," Glover said.

"When people say it's symbolic only, I disagree wholeheartedly. I want to see transgendered individuals feel they can go to a police service or a court, knowing that gender identity is in the Criminal Code and the human rights act."

The Canadian Human Rights Commission told the committee that the Canadian Human Rights Act should be expanded to include the prohibition of discrimination based on gender identity.

"This would promote acceptance and send the message that everyone in Canada should be treated with equality, dignity and respect," said Ian Fine, senior general counsel at the commission.

A bill that passed a minority Parliament in February 2011 did so without the support of most Conservatives. It died on the order paper when an election was called.

This time around it's gotten as far as the Commons committee, with the support of 15 Conservatives including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, Glover and Findlay. Nine other Tories abstained from a vote in June.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird raises the rights of gays and lesbians repeatedly during his speeches, and has been an outspoken critic of discrimination. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney sent an email to some Canadians earlier this year explaining how his government was fighting for the rights of gay Iranian refugees. The subject line included the term "LGBT refugees," the 'T' standing for transsexual or transgendered.

But the transgender bill is for the first time testing the appetite of the Conservative caucus to support legislation directly involving the LGBT community. …

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