Canadian lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the country’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.
“Today’s vote represents a significant step toward recognizing and affirming the equality rights of trans and gender variant people in Canada,” Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, an LGBT rights group, said after the measure passed in the House of Commons by a 149-137 vote margin. “For too long, social and political invisibility have enabled discrimination, harassment and hate-motivated violence against the trans community to continue unnoticed and unchallenged.”
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Labor Minister Lisa Raitt and Heritage Minister James Moore are among the Conservatives who backed the measure that Parliamentarian Randall Garrison of British Columbia introduced. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is among those who opposed his bill.
“Today, New Democrats are proud to have contributed to ensuring equal protection under the law from discrimination and hatred based on gender identity,” Garrison said in a statement to the Globe and Mail after the vote. “Transgender and transsexual citizens are among the most marginalized and are too often victims of harassment and acts of violence.”
Parliamentarians approved the bill less than a month after the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled a Saskatchewan street preacher violated the province’s human rights ordinance when he distributed anti-gay flyers in Saskatoon and Regina in 2001 and 2002. Members of the Ontario Liberal Party in January elected Kathleen Wynne as the country’s first gay provincial premier.
Kennedy urged members of the Canadian Senate to approve the transgender rights bill.
“MPs have taken a clear stand against hatred and discrimination and for the full equality and protection of all people in Canada,” she said. “This is a huge step forward, and the onus now falls to the Senate to ensure that we as a country continue to move forward in our commitment to human rights. The Senate must take all measures necessary to ensure swift passage of this vital piece of legislation.”