Equal Rights for All
In Support of Bill C-279: An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity)
The following organizations, representing a broad cross section of civil society groups from across Canada, urge the Senate to pass Bill C-279, the Gender Identity Bill, as drafted and without delay, to ensure that the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Criminal Code protect the human rights of all people in Canada.
We recognize the violence and discrimination faced by the trans/transsexual/transgender/ intersex/two-spirit/gender variant (“trans”) community in Canada. In a recent nationwide survey, 74% of transgender youth reported experiencing verbal harassment in school, and 37% reported experiencing physical violence. Transgender individuals in Ontario face unemployment over three times the national rate and many more are underemployed. As a result of discrimination and bullying, the trans community faces high rates of mental health issues. Rates of depression are as high as two-thirds; 77% of transgender individuals in Ontario report having considered suicide, and 43% have attempted suicide at least once.
Given the extreme vulnerability to human rights abuse faced by trans people in Canada, Bill C-279 will help to prevent discrimination and ensure that those who commit hate crimes are held to account. By amending the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to include gender identity, the Bill will be an important step in ensuring that trans people have access to the justice and equality for which Canada is internationally-renowned and for Canada to meet its international human rights obligations.
We support Senator Nolin’s statement that, “if discrimination based on the gender identity of some prevents them from having an opportunity equal to that of other individuals to make for themselves the life that they are able and wish to have, to the extent of being a source of prejudice and causing a strike against the human dignity of those individuals, such discrimination must become prohibited and in so doing guarantee the equality of rights pledged for all by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” And we stand with Senator Mitchell’s statement that, “these are individuals… They are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers and they are Canadians and they are our neighbours…[We can respond] by taking a step to change the lives of these important Canadians who have been discriminated against psychologically and brutalised violently all too often. We can stand up and do the right thing.”
We call on the Senate of Canada to pass Bill C-279 to help fully protect the human rights of all people in Canada.
519 Church Street Community Centre
Action Canada for Population and Development
Action positive VIH/sida
AIDS Committee of Newfoundland & Labrador
AIDS Committee of Simcoe County
AIDS Community Care Montreal
Amnesty International Canada
Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
British Columbia Services and Employee’s Union
Canadian AIDS Society
Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
Canadian Association of Social Workers
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Federation for Sexual Health
Canadian Federation of University Women
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Treatment Action Council
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Canadian Women’s Foundation
Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation
Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre
Central Alberta AIDS Network Society
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
Centre for the Study of Gender, Social Inequities and Mental Health
CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network
Communities Addressing Suicide Together
Congregation Shir Libeynu
Council of Canadians with Disabilities
CUPE Pink Triangle Committee
Egale Canada Human Rights Trust
Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa
First United Church, Ottawa
Global Network of People Living with HIV North America
HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario
HIV/AIDS Regional Services
Independent Jewish Voices – Canada
Institute for International Women’s Rights – Manitoba
Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development
Jer’s Vision/Day of Pink
Kids Help Phone
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Metropolitan United Church, Toronto
Mouvement d’Aide et d’INformation Sida – Bas St-Laurent
National Union of Public and General Employees
Northern Territories Federation of Labour
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontario Federation of Labour
Ontario Humanist Society
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Out On The Shelf
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Toronto PFLAG
Pink Triangle Services
Pivot Legal Society
Positive Living BC
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Queer Imaging and Riting Kollective for Elders
Saskatchewan HIV HCV Nursing Education Organization
Saskatchewan Public Health Association
Shaarei-Beth El Congregation
South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre
Stella, l’amie de Maimie
Ten Oaks Project
Toronto District Council, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Trans Lobby Group
Trans Pride Canada
Transgender Archives, University of Victoria
United Church of Canada
University of Guelph
University Research Chair in Forensic Nursing, University of Ottawa
Vancouver Island Persons Living with HIV/AIDS Society
Women of Halton Action Movement
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has written to Stephen Harper, John Baird and Bal Gosal applauding their public statements supporting human rights in Russia in light of new homophobic legislation passed there recently. One law appears to ban the public expression of support for LGBTQ equality, same-sex marriage, or fundamental rights for LGBTQ people. CCLA condemns this law that not only violates the right to equality of LGBTQ people, and violates such fundamental freedoms as expression, speech and opinion, but also seems to promote homophobia and transphobia – all in contravention of international human rights law standards. CCLA calls on the Prime Minister and Ministers to seek assurances for the protection of all people at the Sochi Olympic Games. CCLA also calls on the Canadian government to take a leadership role in the promotion of equal rights for all people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, at the Sochi Olympic games, in Russia and internationally.
For CCLA’s letter to the Prime Minister and Ministers, click here.
On June 28th, 2013 CCLA joined over 1,000 trans people and allies at the Toronto Pride Trans March. This was CCLA’s second year participating in the March, which has been held annually since 2009. This year’s event was different, however, because it marked the first occasion in which the City of Toronto issued a permit for the March to take place on Yonge Street, the city’s central artery.
The event/March was at once celebratory, dynamic, and sombre. Its message addressed the significant shift in social attitudes towards trans people that must take place. And it was meant to honour “the fallen,” all trans people who have been murdered or committed suicide.
Canadian Civil Liberties Association to Address Toronto Catholic District School Board on Proposed Motion to Ban Gay-Straight Alliances in Schools
MAY 23, 2013 – The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will address the Toronto Catholic District School Board this evening expressing its concerns regarding a motion by Trustee Garry Tanuan proposing to ban gay-straight alliances and other LGBTQ-positive student clubs in TCDSB schools.
“Students, like all people in Canada, have a right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and equality, subject to reasonable limits. There is no reasonable justification for depriving TCDSB students of these fundamental rights by banning gay straight alliances or other LGBTQ-positive clubs in their schools,” said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, CCLA Equality Program Director.
CCLA has spoken out frequently about the rights of students to form LGBTQ-positive student clubs in schools, including an address to the Halton Catholic District School Board and a submission to the Ontario Parliamentary Committee reviewing Ontario’s recent Amendment to the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters.
Details of tonight’s Board meeting:
Date: Thursday, May 23rd 2013
Time: 7 PM
Location: Catholic Education Centre 80 Sheppard Avenue East North York, Ontario M2N 6E8 Canada
The CCLA is used to doing work on equality and freedom issues across Canada, but the organization is also one of several on the international scene that engages in advocacy and education work on these issues. CCLA is part of a group of like-minded organizations that has submitted a brief to the United States Supreme Court on the issue of marriage equality. The International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD) brought together groups representing four continents to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to find Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that barred same-sex marriages, unconstitutional.
This week, ICAAD filed its amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, highlighting how both foreign and international law are rapidly evolving to recognize marriage equality as a basic right. In building support for the brief, ICAAD brought together a group of international human rights advocacy organizations from the United Kingdom (Liberty), Canada (CCLA), South Africa (Legal Resource Centre), and Argentina (Center for Legal and Social Studies).
In its advocacy, CCLA has supported the right to same-sex marriage as essential to ensuring equality in Canadian society. Because of its geographical closeness to the United States, and the high level of travel and exchanges that characterize the relationship between Canada and the United States, the same-sex marriage issue in the United States has profound repercussions in Canada, including the trans-border validity of same-sex marriages contracted in Canada.
More importantly, the persistence of discriminatory practices in a neighboring country undermines efforts in Canada to end homophobic practices and hate crimes against the LGBT community. American discrimination against gays in the context of marriage is used to justify pernicious discriminatory practices and contributes to the continued and insidious discrimination against the LGBT community in Canada.
CCLA has made written submissions to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, endorsing Bill C-279. This private member`s bill will, if passed, give explicit recognition to the rights of trans people, by adding gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code.
Should the government help fund a non-profit homophobia census that collects info about homophobic incidents? Is there a danger to free speech or privacy if the incidents can include “mockery” or media coverage? Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of CCLA’s Equality Program, squares off with Ezra Levant. Click on the image to launch video in a new page.
On Friday, June 29th, CCLA was proud to join the trans community and its allies in Toronto for the Trans March and Rally. As Toronto Pride describes it, the trans spectrum “refers to anyone whose gender identities do not match the bodies they were born with.” Since 2009, the Trans March and Rally has provided a safe space for people to gather in solidarity and stand up for trans rights. The crowd gathered for the Trans Rally was so big that it was spilling out of Norman Jewison Parkette and onto the surrounding streets. A decade ago, it would have been unimaginable to have a gathering of such size assembled in support of the Trans community, and yet on Friday the crowd was easily in the hundreds. It was a joy to see such a diverse group – the full spectrum of sexualities, genders, skin colours, ages, physical abilities and cultural backgrounds – there to celebrate the freedom to live, love, and be true to yourself.
CCLA presented oral and written submissions to the legislative committee looking into Ontario’s Bill 13, an Act to Amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters. CCLA’s submissions emphasized the fundamental rights and freedoms of all people in Canada, including young people in schools (subject to reasonable limits). These rights include freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to equality, and the right to life and security of the person. In light of these protections, CCLA’s submissions included the following:
support for the spirit and intention of Bill 13 to protect vulnerable students from bullying and harassment;
endorsement of a requirement that schools support pupils who wish to establish and lead activities or organizations to promote awareness and understanding of and respect for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities
concern that the bill should clarify the right of students, subject to reasonable limits, to choose the name of their club (gay straight alliance, rainbow club, etc).
a recommendation that transphobia and gender identity be addressed throughout the bill
concern that the definition of bullying as a punishable offence be revisited with protections for students’ basic rights; while educators should address bullying of all kinds (punishable or not) through various educational methods;
concern with harsh and mandatory penalties that may have a disparate impact on minority groups
For CCLA’s full written submissions and recommendations, click here.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association applauds the spirit and intention of Bill 13 to protect vulnerable students from the kind of bullying and harassment that can transform an important educational and development experience into a terrifying and traumatic one. While CCLA does not challenge the merit of the new legislation, its submissions will focus on the following areas:
The constitutionally protected fundamental rights and freedoms of young people (freedom of expression, freedom of association, equality, the right to life and to security of the person)
Gay-Straight Alliances – and the rights of students to choose the names of their clubs
The consequences of bullying
The definition of bullying – creating a safe space for students that also allows them to engage in meaningful discussions about controversial issues of importance bullying
Educational versus punitive approaches to bullying, and the disparate impact of mandatory punishments on minority students
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s submissions to the Committee will seek to reconcile the pressing and substantial concern of protecting vulnerable students from bullying, with a respect for students’ constitutionally guaranteed rights, such as freedom of expression, association and equality.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv will be available for comment following the presentation.