Transgender Edmontonian travels to Ottawa for 'historic event'
'We've had people struggling for years and years and years to get to this point,' says Marni Panas
A transgender woman from Edmonton plans to be in the House of Commons on Tuesday to mark what she calls an "indescribable" day for Canada.
Marni Panas wants to witness for herself the tabling of legislation expected to give legal and human rights protections to transgender people.
"We've had people struggling for years and years and years to get to this point," said Panas, a well-known advocate for LGBTQ issues in Alberta.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the legislation during the federal election campaign last fall, after similar bills were passed in the House of Commons twice, then defeated in the Senate.
Last week, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons "legislation will be coming forward very shortly."
Panas said while the Charter already protects equal rights, new legislation is needed to expand those protections to include gender identity.
"Many people will want to send a lot of myths about transgender people, and somehow connect us to predators or something absolutely ridiculous," said Panas.
On Saturday at the Alberta legislature, Panas faced up to people opposed to a provincial government bill to allow gay-straight alliances in schools.
She helped organize a demonstration supporting transgender rights, then later clashed with another group holding their own rally against Bill 10.
The Trans Equality Society of Alberta, a group that fights for transgender Albertans, said new federal legislation could make a big difference for many people.
The group said gender diverse Canadians still face challenges accessing some federal services.
"Amending the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include gender identity are important steps towards trans Canadians having the opportunity to have the promise of equality fulfilled," said Jan Buterman, president of TESA, who also plans to be in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Panas said after all the hard work by so many people, it's an honour to see their effort come to fruition.
"We are moving forward as a society and there's no going back," she said.
May 17 is a significant day for LGBTQ people around the world. It's commemorated annually as the day the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990.