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Social Issues
Transgender Rights Bill Passes In The House Of Commons, With Help From 18 Conservatives
March 21, 2013
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With so much focus in Ottawa today on the federal budget, there's a piece of legislation that's been overshadowed somewhat.

The House of Commons has approved a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered people in Canada.

The Private Member's Bill, sponsored by B.C. New Democrat Randall Garrison, passed by a vote of 149-137.

The legislation succeeded with the crucial support of 18 Conservative MPs, including Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who's been taking a strong stand on such rights abroad.

Other high-profile "yes" votes included Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and Heritage Minister James Moore.

MPs are usually free to vote how they want on private members' bills.

After the bill passed, the NDP said it was "happy there was all party support" for the legislation.

In a statement, Garrison said "New Democrats are proud to have contributed to ensuring equal protection under the law from discrimination and hatred based on gender identity."

"Transgender and transsexual citizens are among the most marginalized and are too often victims of harassment and acts of violence."

The legislation sparked a lot of debate in the House, as some MPs said the language in it was too vague, such as "gender identity" and "gender expression".

The latter term was removed.

In its report, the Canadian Press noted that Conservative MP Michelle Rempel teared up in the House earlier this month, as she talked about the discrimination transgender people face.

But Rempel also said " legislators we are also tasked with deciding if the proposed legislation is sound. Given the lack of clarity that I found in the bill, I do have concern about its viability."

Another Conservative MP, Rob Anders, was more critical.

He referred to it as the "bathroom bill", saying "If a man is feeling like he is a woman, he will have access to women's bathrooms and I think that puts women and girls at risk".

Before the vote, Anders presented a petition "on behalf of thousands" of Canadians opposed to the bill.

On a side note, The Guardian has a piece entitled 'From School To Society, The Intolerance Transgender People Face'.

Columnist Jill Filapovic writes, "discrimination against transgender people is real, pervasive and often legal. And it often builds from ignorance and bias - things that start young."

She goes on to say, "for many of us, that internal sense of maleness or femaleness matches up with the doctor's message when we were swaddled in a blue blanket or a pink one.

"For transgender people, it doesn't. It shouldn't be that big of a deal: Mary's gender identity lines up with her gender assigned at birth, and Suzie's doesn't. Mary is Mary, Suzie is Suzie."

You can read the full article right here.


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