Montreal

As Ottawa tables transgender bill, Quebec's is in the works

Quebec lawmakers are looking on with interest as the federal government moves forward with its transgender rights bill.

Stephanie Vallée to table 'something that will be a little bit more complete' on heels of Manon Massé's bill

Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée tables a law, Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at the legislature in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Quebec lawmakers are looking on with interest as the federal government moves forward with its transgender rights bill.

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced Bill C-16 Tuesday morning. If passed, it will guarantee legal and human rights protection to transgender people across Canada.

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée says the provincial government wants to do its part to protect transgender people and will present its own legislation in the coming weeks.

How the federal and provincial legislation will intersect is still unclear.

CBC Montreal political analyst Yolande James discusses whether Liberal MPs will be allowed to vote with their conscience or have to toe the party line. 1:00

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in Montreal Monday that legislation to guarantee legal and human rights protection to transgender Canadians will be tabled in the House of Commons Tuesday.

The federal law was tabled to coincide with the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Quebec's National Assembly also marked the day by passing a motion that affirmed the legislative body's commitment to fighting homophobia and transphobia. 

The motion also called for the rainbow flag to fly above the National Assembly every May 17 in recognition of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Québec Solidaire MNA Manon Massé tabled a private members bill last week pushing for minors in Quebec to able to legally change their sex.

The bill was introduced after a South Shore teen opted for home-schooling because he was being misgendered by staff at his high school.

Vallée says the government also want to make sure trans youth are protected and that the Liberals are working with Massé in order to "table something that will be a little bit more complete."

Mixed reaction to legislation

Gabrielle Bouchard, trans advocacy coordinator at Concordia's Centre for gender advocacy, says the federal bill is a good start.

"This is going to be a great recognition by the Canadian government not only to include gender identity but also gender expression into our legal processes," she said.

But Caroline Trottier-Gascon, spokesperson for the Groupe d'action trans* de l'Université de Montréal, says she believes the announcement is more for show than useful in practice.

Trottier-Gascon says the government should focus on issues such as amending its laws against prostitution, which she says put many trans sex workers in vulnerable positions by criminalizing them. 

Tuesday night vigil

Around 20 people took part in a vigil Tuesday evening outside Montreal's only gender-confirmation clinic, which was hit by a suspicious fire two weeks ago. 

Vigil participant Evonne Sawyer said the vigil's purpose was to communicate the message that gender-confirmation surgery saves lives. 

Sawyer, who underwent the procedure, said it saved her from a life of depression and suicidal thoughts. 

"And then, when I had my surgery, it was like, 'okay, everything's just perfect," she told CBC Montreal.

Vigil organizer Esteban Torres welcomed the new legislation out of Ottawa, but cautioned that it's just a start in terms of recognizing the rights of transgender Canadians.

He pointed to the legal status of trans men who give birth, as one example.

"There's still stuff to do to change a lot of things."

with files from Sudha Krishnan, Ainslie Maclellan and Shaun Malley