Bill to protect transgender rights long overdue, Winnipeg advocate says

Shandi Strong says the new bill introduced on Tuesday is a good first step, but we will have to make sure people are following the law.

Shandi Strong says transgender people face many barriers

Shandi Strong, the advocacy coordinator for Pride Winnipeg, says the transgender rights bill is long overdue. (Courtney Rutherford/CBC)

New legislation to protect transgender people across the country is long overdue, the advocacy coordinator for Pride Winnipeg says. 

Shandi Strong welcomed the federal legislation introduced by the Trudeau government on Tuesday. 

"Today marks about 11 years since we've been trying to get a bill like this passed," Strong said. "It's always been stalled. This is the first time a sitting government has actually brought it forward."

Bill C-16 would update the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include the terms "gender identity'" and "gender expression."

Strong, who ran for the Liberals in this spring's Manitoba election, said it is a good first step but there is a lot more work to do to ensure equal access to employment and housing, as well as safety. 

"We still have to be diligent. We still have to look and make sure people are still following these laws. You can't give up," Strong said. 

After identifying as transgender for most of her life, Strong said she faced many barriers when she came out. 

"After about 40 plus years... I finally came out and felt empowered and shortly after that lost my job because I was trans, lost my partner who said they supported it. It was a hard time," she said. "Over the last five or six years I found some strength."

With Bill C-16, Strong hopes other transgender people in Winnipeg will feel support within their community. 

"We are just hoping once the legislation is enacted and becomes proper law that it trickles down so that we don't have issues with bathrooms and healthcare," she said, adding it could also help others who don't understand or fear transgender people. 

"This will hopefully trickle down and help everyone realize that there's no threat. We're just normal people who just need to do what we need to do."