bill siksay

C-389 Final Vote This Week

NDP MP Bill Siksay’s Private Member’s Bill C-389 to enshrine transgender rights in the Criminal Code is coming up for a final vote this week. The legislation would add “gender identity and gender expression” as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and hate crimes laws.

The final hour of debate is taking place now in Ottawa, with the vote during third reading scheduled Wednesday evening, February 9. MP Olivia Chow swapped Siksay’s bill with one of hers on the order paper to bring about this earlier vote.

With opposition from some Catholic, “family”, and right-wing women’s groups, who make the ridiculous claim that this bill will increase assaults against women by letting MTF transsexuals use women’s washrooms, it’s important to keep up the pressure on MPs to pass this bill.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada has a petition you can sign to email a pre-worded message to your MP or, if you have time, write your own email or call your MP. Find your MP’s contact information by entering your postal code here.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT 2 Comments

Sex Reassignment Surgery in Canada

 

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

Last week Conservative Public Safety Minister Vic Toews instructed the Correctional Service of Canada to stop performing sex reassignment surgery for transgender federal inmates, at least four of whom have sought the procedure since 2008.
 
Speaking to QMI Agency, Toews said, “The courts have ruled that CSC must provide essential medical services to inmates. However, we do not believe that sex change surgery is an essential medical service or that Canadian taxpayers should pay for sex change surgery for criminals”. The problem is Mr. Toews’ rationale comes more out of social conservatism than it does from medical evidence. In 2001 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled sex reassignment surgery (SRS) an “essential medical treatment”, and in 2003, a federal court agreed. Now the NDP is calling on the federal government to reinstate coverage.

“Minister Toews’ decision completely misrepresents SRS.  There is nothing elective about SRS.  SRS is not cosmetic.  It is a medically necessary process for people who are diagnosed with gender identity disorder.  That medical necessity does not change solely because someone is incarcerated,” said Bill Siksay, NDP Critic for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual Issues.

But federal prisons aren’t the only area where we have a problem with access to SRS. Coverage for SRS procedures is inconsistent across Canada and people in some provinces people are required to jump through more hoops than in others (for a good overview, check out this interactive map via xtra.ca). That’s not in keeping with the Canada Health Act, which mandates accessible, comprehensive, universal health care. Again, the patchwork of services available comes from the mistaken view that these surgeries are elective and cosmetic. While not all trans people experience gender in a way that makes them need to change their physical sex, for those who do, these procedures are anything but elective.

And yet, in Alberta, Nova Scotia, PEI, and New Brunswick, no surgeries are covered. Patients have to move to another province and qualify for coverage there in order to get assistance. In Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, patients have to travel to the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto in order to be assessed prior to having approval for surgery. Even where procedures are covered, often after years of assessments and waiting, provinces often don’t reimburse travel costs or costs of related medical supplies.

Egale Canada advocates for greater access to SRS and related medical procedures because they can alleviate discomfort associated with Gender Identity Disorder: “Failure to remedy feelings of dysphoria can cause significant health care concerns. Health issues transsexual persons face include; depression, anxiety, anger, stress, drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, childhood trauma, self-harm and suicide.” Egale argues that helping people with GID access SRS can actually lower health care costs by preventing these health issues.

But even if that weren’t true, denying full coverage of SRS and related procedures to Canadians who need them – incarcerated or not – is an attack on equality and diversity and a fundamental break with our commitment to public health care.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT 6 Comments

Bathroom Transphobia

by Kaitlin

Evangelical Christian leader Charles McVety and president of the Canada Family Action Coalition is doing what he does best – fear mongering. He was quoted in the Globe and Mail yesterday making ridiculous statements, like, “Any man could self-identify as a woman and enter any female-specific space such as a bathroom, change rooms and even showers at the local pool.”

Charles McVety

All trans people want is respect, equal rights, and protection under the law – and yes, this does include the right to use the bathroom. The funny thing is, though, that I have never, ever felt unsafe in a bathroom, regardless of whether or not there were trans people present. Sadly, I can’t say the same thing for my trans friends; each of them to whom I have spoken has at least one bathroom horror story. As Bill Siksay so rightly pointed out when asked to respond to Charles McVety, “The reality is that trans people are the ones that face danger in public washrooms. They’re the ones who are regularly assaulted, insulted or denied access, and that’s the real problem with washrooms in Canada. The real problem is the discrimination and violence that trans people face when they use a public washroom in Canada, and hopefully the bill will go some way to educating people about why that’s the problem, and why that’s inappropriate, and why that needs to be addressed.”

I honestly believe that Bill C-389 is the most important Bill currently before Parliament, for what could matter more than fundamental human rights? It’s also important to me for personal reasons; it hurts on a very visceral level to know that my partner, the woman I love, isn’t entitled to the same protections under the law that I enjoy.

Charles McVety’s comments make the world less safe for all of us; in the past I’ve written about just how unsafe I felt growing up as a gay person and using the change rooms before and after PE class, for the vitriol that McVety spews affects all of us who might be suspected to be attracted to people of the gender changing in that room. Yet harassment rarely begins with queers, it instead begins with people who believe that all others should fit in the little boxes and carry out the neat little gender roles assigned to us at birth.

There is a little part of me that feels very protective of my partner; I want to keep her safe from anything that could hurt her because I know that neither our society nor our current laws do. But I would like some help. I would like our elected representatives to step up and say that they will change our laws to make sure that she enjoys the same protections that I do. I would like our society to stand together against bigots like Charles McVety, and make the cultural shift needed to ensure that the National Post, Globe and Mail, or Toronto Sun wouldn’t bother to give him the time of day. Most of all, I’d like to know that everyone feels safe to go to the washroom, that children are raised to understand that trans people are no more or less safe than everyone else who may be sharing the washroom or change room with them, and that trans people may feel safe and secure using the washroom of their choice no matter what point of transition they’re in.

I am grateful to my own Member of Parliament, Bill Siksay, for taking the initiative to introduce a bill that will make life safer for a lot of people. I’m also grateful to all of the MPs who have supported this Bill, whatever their political party or ideological bias. I don’t believe that this is simply an issue of the left, for human rights should be championed by all parties. At lease some members of each party have supported Bill C-389 thus far, and for that I am glad. I would ask each and every one of my readers to take the time to contact their MP to ask them to support this Bill; no matter what you think your MP’s ideology or party line, he or she may listen. You can find your Member of Parliament here.

 -Kaitlin

Posted on by Kaitlin in Feminism, LGBT, Politics 3 Comments

Call to Action: Equal Protection for Trans People

MP Bill Siksay’s Private Member’s Bill C-389, which would add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Act, is coming up for debate and another vote next week. There will be one hour of debate on Tuesday, June 8, and a vote on Second Reading on June 9. If passed, the bill will be sent to committee for consideration.

Here’s an excerpt from Bill Siksay’s call for action:

“Bill C-389 would update the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) to include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination, and update the Criminal Code of Canada to include gender identity and gender expression in the hate crime and sentencing provisions.

Transsexual and transgender people are often victims of discrimination, harassment, and violence because of their gender identity and gender expression. They often experience injustices such as denial of employment, housing, access to trans-sensitive health care, and face difficulties obtaining identification documents. Because there are so many barriers for transsexual and transgender Canadians, explicit rights and protections must be added to the CHRA and the Criminal Code.”

So here’s what you can do to help make sure this bill passes:

Thanks for your help!

-Jarrah

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Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT, Politics Leave a comment