As It Happens·Q&A

Quebec's Bill 2 would put transgender people at risk of violence, says advocate

Transgender advocate Daphne Barile says a new bill proposed by the Quebec government to change how gender is addressed on official IDs is both confusing and dangerous. 

Proposed law threatens to out people every time they have to show their ID, Daphne Barile says

A transgender pride flag. The Quebec government has proposed a new law that LGBTQ advocates say puts transgender people at risk. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Transgender advocate Daphne Barile says a new bill proposed by the Quebec government is both confusing and dangerous. 

Since 2015, Quebecers have been able to change their sex designation on their identity documents without having to undergo gender surgery. Bill 2 could change that.

Transgender people who do not undergo surgery, either because they don't want to or can't access it, could instead have separate "sex" and "gender" categories on their ID. Under gender, people could choose male, female or non-binary. 

The government is presenting the proposed law as a victory for transgender people. But Barile says say it could put many trans people at greater risk of discrimination and harm by outing them every time they show their ID.

Barile is a co-ordinator with the transgender peer support support ASTTeQ in Montreal. Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Daphne, can you describe how Bill 2 would affect the provincial identification cards of trans people? What would it look like? What would it be like?

The [Premeir François] Legault government is proposing putting a new label, essentially, on trans people's ID cards that identifies them as trans. 

It would be called "gender identity" and it would distinguish trans people from everybody else. 

It would essentially expose trans people to being outed every time they have to present their ID.

Would this be all trans people, or only those who have not undergone gender-affirming surgery?

It would be all trans people who have not changed their sex designation already. 

If trans people elect to get a form of surgery, that will change what the bill calls your apparent sexual characteristics. Now, it's not clear exactly what that is, but it would be essentially a sterilizing surgery. So if you get that form of surgery, then you would be able to change your sex designation.

Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette says he's open to making amendments to Bill 2. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

There are many people who have gone through hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries. So would that mean that they would be designated as male or female sex? And then others who have not gone through that process would be identified by gender? 

Exactly.

[The proposed bill] creates this new category of person for the purposes of the law of the government of Quebec ... which is a trans person who has not elected to have the sterilizing surgery or who can't access the sterilizing surgery. 

Of course, there are many, many, many trans people who either do not wish to or cannot get that surgery. 

The person reading your ID would be able to tell: This doesn't say "sex," but says "gender identity." This person standing in front of me is a trans person.

That's what exposes us to discrimination, harassment, and sometimes physical violence.

And what now? Quebec says it's open to adjusting Bill 2, so how would you suggest they do this? 

I want to be absolutely clear that since 2015, trans people in Quebec have not had to have any form of surgery to change their sex designation. So this bill, should it be signed into law, is essentially taking us back to the era before 2015. 

I think that what trans communities in Quebec are calling for is for just a withdrawal of all of those provisions from the bill and keeping essentially the system as it has been, which [has] allowed us to change our sex designation without having to undergo that surgery or have it affirmed by a doctor.

In 2014, Concordia University's Centre for Gender Advocacy sued the Quebec government, arguing it should give trans people more rights. (Radio-Canada)

Why do you think the Quebec government is doing this?

In January, [the Quebec Superior Court] determined that Quebec needed to do more to include trans and non-binary people and to allow them to change their IDs more easily ... and so the Quebec government interpreted this in a very skewed way. 

They decided to make it easy to change ... this new category of a gender identity, and then create all of these new barriers to changing one's sex designation, which was the only thing that existed before. 

The Quebec government is acting as if this is a victory for trans people, that this is very progressive, and they did consult with community experts in the drafting of this bill, but those experts say that they clearly weren't listened to.

The government says that they are open to changing the bill and to consulting with us. And of course, we very much hope that they're sincere and we hope to [believe] this mistake was made in good faith. But it's essentially unclear why all these provisions ended up in the bill. 

Do you think that Quebec's justice minister will change this?

We haven't heard yet on how the government is planning on integrating the responses from the trans communities in Quebec. But I have hope that he will, because I am taking him at his word.


Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview produced by Kevin Robertson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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