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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Unions are joining trans Canadians and their allies celebrating the settlement of a landmark human rights complaint today. The settlement resolves a complaint launched in 2011 by Christin Milloy (“she/her”), a trans activist from Toronto, against Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

“What we see today is an important recognition by government that it is inappropriate to collect data about a person’s gender, unless there is a legitimate justification for its specific use. This is a key step forward for trans Canadians, who often struggle to have their gender identity recognized by government,” said Canadian Labour Congress Executive Vice-President Marie Clarke Walker.

The next step for government is a review of the entire federal data collection system to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether it is justifiable to ask an individual for their gender as a condition of receiving government services. Until that review is complete, ESDC will make changes to ensure that Canadians are not required to provide sex/gender information to apply for a social insurance number, or to provide proof to change existing sex/gender information in the database. When collecting sex/gender information on forms, ESDC will ensure there are at least three options available (male/female/3rd option) to choose from.

Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), called the settlement “an important moment for human rights in Canada” and stated: “a person’s gender needs to be treated the same as a person’s race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

Clarke Walker noted that collection of anonymized gender data is not at issue; trans Canadians do want to be accurately reflected in government data. Issues occur when sex/gender data is connected to an individual’s identity.

“There is no reason why our government should continue to perpetuate transphobic discrimination by collecting unnecessary data on sex and gender,” said Clarke Walker. “This is a significant step towards a future where trans Canadians are counted, but not labeled.”

Canada’s unions have a significant history of support for LGBTQ rights, and trans rights in particular. Unions championed federal legislation to add gender identity and gender expression as protected grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code, a measure which finally passed last fall. The Canadian Labour Congress 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.