The provincial government plans to table legislation that will explicitly protect gender identity and expression in the B.C. Human Rights Code, Attorney General Suzanne Anton announced Wednesday in Vancouver.

"In British Columbia we have a human rights code that ensures no one faces discrimination based on grounds such as race, religion, place of origin, sex, or sexual orientation, amongst others," she said, adding that everyone is protected under the code.

"However, it's important that they understand they're protected. Every British Columbian needs to feel protected and have confidence in that protection, no matter their gender identity or expression."

"The proposed changes will specifically include gender identity or expression among the protected grounds of discrimination in British Columbia's Human Rights Code," Anton said, adding that this would specifically protect transgender people against discrimination from anyone, including landlords and employers.

Anton said the government had planned to introduce a bill to protect transgender rights next spring, but has hastened the process in order to introduce the bill next week when the legislature resumes.

'We're getting there'

Vancouver-West End NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who has been trying to have protection for gender identity added to the B.C. Human Rights Code for several years, plans to support the government legislation.

"It's been a long road, but we're getting there," he said in the joint announcement alongside Anton.

"We will finally see explicit protections for transgender people in B.C.'s Human Rights Code and join with most of Canada in ensuring that transgender people know that their rights are protected in law, in name, and right there on the paper," said Chandra Herbert.

Morgane Oger, who chairs the Trans Alliance Society and sits on the BC NDP executive, is thrilled that the B.C. Liberal party has agreed to support the change to the B.C. Human Rights Code.

"It's a good day, a very good day," she said. "I'm very, very, optimistic that they'll live up to this and we actually get our human rights bill."

Oger said that now she's looking forward to taking the struggle for transgender rights "to the next step" and incorporating more gender identity issues into the education system.

Seven other provinces also have language that explicitly protects against discrimination based on gender identity or expression.