Egale explains Bill C-16
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Egale explains Bill C-16


The federal government of Canada recently passed Bill C-16, which includes gender identity and gender expression in our Human Rights Act But what does Bill C-16 mean for folks living in Canada? C-16 amends the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as grounds protected from discrimination, in the same way they protect grounds like race, religion, age, and sexual orientation. Now this may have you asking: what exactly are gender identity and gender expression and why do they need to be protected? We all have a gender identity: that internal experience of being a man, woman, both or neither. And all people express gender in unique ways: through their clothing, hairstyle, voice, and behaviour. When a baby is born, people are quick to ask: is it a boy or a girl? But it’s not always that simple. As we grow, some people realize they don’t identify fully or in part with what people expect about the sex assigned to them at birth. And for some, this might mean they identify as transgender, or trans. This is the ‘T’ that you might recognize from the acronym LGBTQ. And trans can be an umbrella term, used to represent a wide range of identities and experiences. And though there is more public awareness and visibility of trans lives than ever before, data reveals distressing levels of anti-trans discrimination, harassment, and violence. In an Ontario survey of trans people, 18% were turned down for a job; 20% were physically or sexually assaulted; and 34% were verbally threatened or harassed, all because of their gender identity. So Bill C-16 protects us from being discriminated against because of how we identify or express our gender in areas like immigration, criminal law, federal services, and the census. It also makes spreading hate propaganda based on gender identity and gender expression a criminal offence, which helps to protect our trans and gender diverse communities. And while achievements at the federal level are important advancements for human rights, similar protections are lacking across Canada’s provinces and territories. Despite Bill C-16, some provinces and territories are still in the process of amending their human rights protections to include gender identity and gender expression. And not all provinces and territories explicitly protect gender expression. And this leaves serious gaps for discrimination on these grounds in the healthcare, education, and justice systems, because these systems are governed by provincial and territorial human rights law. So Bill C-16 is not enough! Provinces and territories must measure up to the federal government’s action. Make gender identity and gender expression protected grounds throughout Canada!

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