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Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose voted for the Liberal government's transgender rights bill,Rona Ambrose / Facebook

OTTAWA, October 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The Liberal government’s transgender rights bill sailed past second reading Tuesday by a vote of 248-40, with several Conservative leadership hopefuls among the 38 Tories who voted in support of the legislation.

Bill C-16 amends the Canadian Human Rights Act, making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and expression. It also amends the Criminal Code to extend hate speech laws to include gender identity and expression. Evidence a crime was motivated by a prejudice on these grounds is to be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing.

Declared Conservative leadership candidates Ontario MP Michael Chong, Alberta MP Deepak Obhrai and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier voted for the bill, as did rumored candidates Ontario MP Lisa Raitt and Quebec MP Steven Blaney. Candidates Ontario MPs Kelly Leitch and Erin O'Toole did not vote.

Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose also supported the bill, along with fellow Alberta MPs Michelle Rempel and Michael Cooper, although the latter voiced several concerns to address in committee.

But leadership candidates Saskatchewan MPs Brad Trost and Andrew Scheer voted against the bill.

Trost told iPolitics on Tuesday that he had asked to speak on Bill C-16, but the party refused him because he is a leadership candidate.  

“Apparently the rules are leadership candidates can only speak on things that directly impact their riding and not anything that could help (their leadership bid),” Trost said.

However, Trost managed to close the four-hour debate with a two-minute comment, denouncing the bill as “impractical, unworkable” and stating he opposed it as “both as a social Conservative and as a free speech libertarian.”

“This is a big government solution to a problem that does not exist. As Conservatives, we should be opposed to big government solutions,” Trost said.

Moreover, Conservatives do not support discrimination, but C-16 “will actually promote discrimination against people who want to support more traditional values or who want to engage in free speech,” Trost said.

He pointed to University of Toronto clinical psychology professor Jordan Peterson, “who has been discussing this bill.” (The university has since told Peterson to stop speaking publicly on these issues, and that refusal to use gender neutral pronouns when asked was discrimination.)

Those concerns were echoed by Ontario MP Harold Albrecht, who wondered if parliamentarians were “simply trying to protect the sexual minority from verbal and physical abuse” or “intending to impose a cultural shift in our very understanding of human sexuality and gender expression?”

Albrecht voiced concern on the Bill’s impact on “immigrant groups and faith groups, the majority of which are at odds with gender fluidity concepts.”

He questioned if this majority would “have the freedom to teach their children and practice their beliefs without being accused of hate speech or a human rights violation?”

And Canadians in general “will not be able to even discuss public policy issues such as this one, on which they may disagree with the government agenda.”

Albrecht also raised the issue of men purporting to be women gaining access to women’s bathrooms and change rooms.

“One of the pitfalls of Bill C-16 is its failure to recognize the potential that heterosexual predators who, while not transgendered themselves, would take advantage of the protection of this bill to hide behind their predatory pursuits,” he pointed out.

Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall echoed these concerns, noting that “women’s rest rooms and locker rooms are traditionally family changing rooms.”

“By passing the bill, are we then be saying that a person’s need to express his or her gender or identity foreshadows the mother’s need to also protect her child from seeing a naked man at, let us say, a YMCA children’s swim class? Have we really gone this far in our society?”

But NPD MP Randall Garrison, who sponsored a similar bill that was gutted in the Senate in 2013, dismissed this concern as “a sign of the very transphobia we are trying to address in this bill.

“We all know that in the real world, the only ones at risk in bathrooms are trans people, who are almost always perceived to be in the wrong place,” Garrison told the House on Tuesday, adding that C-16 should be passed “as expeditiously as possible” to prevent the bill’s opponents from using “media sensationalism to promote hatred against the trans community for their own political purposes.”

According to the Huffington Post, Conservatives Chong, Obhrai, and Raitt supported Garrison’s Bill 279 in 2013, while Trost and Bernier voted against. Blaney did not vote, nor did Scheer, then House Speaker.

Campaign Life Coalition’s Ottawa lobbyist Johanne Brownrigg said “it’s a significant change” for Conservatives to support Bill C-16.  

She expected Trost and Scheer to vote the way they did, Brownrigg told LifeSiteNews.

“What is really the surprise, and a sad surprise, is that the Conservative Party has moved in this direction without consideration of the many, many ramifications of this bill,” Brownrigg said, noting that Bill C-16 is “a very troubling tool to affect free speech and traditional language.”

Bill C-16 now heads to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.