Stephen Harper’s decision on Parliament may set back transgender ‘bathroom bill’
OTTAWA, August 22, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recently announced decision to prorogue Parliament has the effect of killing all legislation currently being considered by the government, including the controversial transgender bill.
The bill, C-279, seeks to include “gender identity” and “gender expression” as protected rights in the hate crimes sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.
Since it is a private members bill, government rules stipulate that all such bills are automatically reinstated when a new session of Parliament begins.
Bill C-279 was before the Senate, but failed to pass third and final reading before the summer break.
Harper made the announcement that he plans to ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament at a news conference in Whitehorse on Monday.
Prorogation shuts down the session of Parliament with the consequence that all legislation on the Order Paper dies. A new session starts with a throne speech, where the government’s priorities are summarized.
"There will be a new throne speech in the fall," Harper told reporters. "We will come back — October is our tentative timing — and we will obviously have some unfulfilled commitments that we will continue to work on."
Bill C-279, sponsored by NDP MP Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC), proposes to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to give “specific protections” to “transsexual and transgendered Canadians” and to include “gender identity” and “gender expression” as prohibited grounds of discrimination.
Critics of the bill have pointed to numerous troublesome aspects of the legislation.
Jack Fonseca, Project Manager with Campaign Life Coalition, has called the bill “lunacy,” and a “threat to the lives of girls and women.”
He said the bill would create a legal right for a man who calls himself transgendered to use a public bathroom intended for women.
The controversial private members bill has been dubbed the “bathroom bill” for this reason.
“This legal right will arise because the right to ‘gender expression’ will be interpreted by the courts as giving men the right to ‘express their gender’ by using a girl’s washroom, change room,or shower,” said Fonseca in an interview with LifeSiteNews when the bill passed second reading in the House of Commons last year.
Numerous religious and pro-family organizations oppose the bill, including the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, Campaign Life Coalition, REAL Women of Canada, and the Canada Family Action Coalition.
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Gwen Landolt, National Vice-President of REAL Women of Canada, said that the passage of the bill would open a Pandora’s box eventually leading to the normalization of “problematic sexual activities, including pedophilia.”
“It’s all in how the word ‘gender identity’ is defined,” said Landolt, explaining that “gender identity” is a catch-all phrase that could be interpreted by activist courts to legitimize “any kind of sexual deviancy”.
“This could include pedophilia, if that’s their deeply felt experience of gender and if that’s their sexual preference”, she said.
REAL Women of Canada argues that another major effect of the bill would be that "transgendered, transsexual, and sexually confused individuals will be given full protection, re-employment, services, housing, etc., in public institutions under federal jurisdiction. These behaviors will be ‘normalized’, accepted, and protected.”
"All Canadians are already equal before and under the law. Bill C-279 is not necessary,” the organization stated in a press release.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission concurs with REAL Women of Canada that the transgender bill isn't "necessary."
Ian Fine, acting secretary general of the HRC, told a meeting of the Canadian Justice Committee late last year that the private member’s bill that would afford special federal protection to so-called ‘transgender’ men and women “strictly speaking…isn’t necessary.”
Fine said that people who say they are transgender are already protected under the law.
“If someone experiences discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression, they are currently protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The commission, the tribunal, and the courts view gender identity and gender expression as protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act.”
Bill C-279 has even been criticized by some who might be expected to support it.
Hon. Nancy Ruth, Canada’s first openly lesbian Senator, spoke against the bill while it was before the Senate in June, saying that it would “privilege men who choose to become women over women who are born female.”
“While I do not question the good intentions of the sponsor and the supporters of the bill, I simply do not understand how they could advance this bill without including all women. Passage of Bill C-279 will mean that only if a woman is born a man who later chooses to identify as a woman will she receive protection, but a woman born a woman will not receive the same protection.”
Hon. Don Meredith agreed with Ruth and additionally criticized the "confusing jargon" and "murky terminology" used in the bill.
“I am concerned about the hazy definition of the terminology within the bill,” he said, calling the bill’s language “problematic” because it will lead to “court rulings based on speculation and assumption.”
“It is not the job of tribunals and courts to wade through murky terminology, honourable senators. It is our job to introduce legislation that is clear, concise and meaningful. If we cannot navigate confusing jargon, we cannot reasonably expect tribunals and courts to do so,” he said. Meredith said that the bill could be used by “certain individuals who could use this proposed legislation to prey on society’s most vulnerable — our youth.”
“There has been much controversy about granting transgendered individuals, especially transgendered men, access to women’s public washroom facilities and locker rooms,” he said, adding that a “threat to women and children must be dealt with seriously.”
Without prorogation, Parliament would normally resume on September 16. However, Ottawa pundits are speculating that Harper intends to begin a new session of Parliament as early as October 21, right after Thanksgiving, or wait until after the Conservative Convention in Calgary, which runs from October 31 to November 2.
Keith Beardsley, former PMO deputy chief of staff for issues management, suggested the later date as more probable, taking into account the time needed to hold four byelections to fill recently vacated seats in Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario.
“They could even use the convention speech as part of the effort to sell the throne speech or prep the country for a throne speech. There’s any number of ways they could do it, but they could link the two, there’s no doubt about it,” said Beardsley in a Hill Times report.
To contact Prime Minister Harper, Minister of Justice Peter MacKay, and your Member of Parliament, about Bill C-279:
The Rt. Hon. Stephen J. Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
House of Commons Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Email: [email protected]
Hon. Peter MacKay
EMail: [email protected]
Find contact information for Members of Parliament here.