May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), a day which marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders and illnesses.
This year, Canada’s unions hope to see the passing of Bill C-16, a legislation that would protect both gender identity and gender expression under the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.
“This would mark a significant step in protecting the trans and gender diverse communities in Canada. Many trans folks face discrimination in employment, housing or health care, and far too many experience violence and prejudice,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff.
Unfortunately, this legislation faces obstacles in the Senate, driven by conservative senators determined to slow the process. Similar legislation has been stalled in the Senate in the past, or amended in ways that were contrary to the spirit of the bill. Canada’s unions are concerned that the hearings thus far seem overly dominated by testimony from individuals and organizations that oppose trans rights and perpetuate harmful myths and stereotypes.
“We call on Senators to do the right thing and pass this bill as is. It is long past time for the federal government to follow the example set by the provinces and territories who have lead on this issue, and just get it done,” said Yussuff.
“It’s about allowing people to know they are safe to be themselves. This legislation will not only protect trans, nonbinary and genderqueer individuals, but also anyone whose gender expression does not conform to traditional norms,” added Yussuff.
Canada’s unions have a significant history of support for LGBTQ rights, from negotiating protections from discrimination and harassment at work to access to spousal benefits and parental leaves. The CLC also assists affiliated unions to bargain contract improvements for trans members, such as access to safe washrooms and change rooms and the right to be referred to by one’s chosen gender in the workplace.