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How Senator Plett is likely to kill off Trans Rights Bill

Tomorrow the Senate’s ‘Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ Committee will discuss Bill C-279: An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity). Trans lobbyist Amanda Ryan spoke with the Velvet Studio and revealed that it’s is expected that one Senator’s amendments will kill off the Bill.

Amanda Ryan, the Outreach Committee Chair at Gender Mosaic and  prominent lobbyist with the Trans Equality Lobby Group, spoke with the Velvet Studio about the impact the changes will have.

“There is a possibility that these restriction will pass as amended … and that’s not good,” she said.

“The frustrating part of all of this is the Senate has been taking a lot of pressure for delaying this Bill. It’s not the Senate, its one Senator. Senator Plett. He has used delay tactics to prevent it through, and now he’s managed to delay it so that it won’t get through in time.”

Ryan revealed that the content of the amendments was unknown, however she explained “we have a few insiders, we all seem to know what to expect; he’s going to delete the definition… it was a core part of getting it through the house- It was a Conservative mandated definition, which Randall Garrison went along with to get it through the House. Now in a Conservative Senate, they are saying they don’t want it anymore.”

The Bill to include Sexual Orientation to the Human Rights Code (Bill C-250, 2004) included Gender Identity, but it was sadly dropped. It was later re-introduced another four times. The current incarnation has been in Parliament for four years. In order to provide perspective to the past 3 years regarding these efforts, 6 separate provinces have introduced Gender Identity into their Human Rights legislation.

Ryan told us about previous delays “We are looking at 3 MP’s at the Justice Committee meetings, who tried to delay it, that’s 3 our 308, that’s 1%, 1% of the MP’s was dictating how Federal Law was going to take place, and now 1 Senator out of 93, which is 1%, how can 1% dictate the law? That’s reprehensible!”

“Canada is supposed to be a leader in Human Rights around the world, and here we are in such an archaic position with our laws in Canada”, Ryan said “This Bill would only actually have federal jurisdiction, and [on] federal buildings… If Canada passes gender Identity protections it will give a message.”

The success of this Bill heralds to Trans-identified people, like Ryan, that their identities are recognized under the law. “It’s a huge thing,” she exclaimed, “I can remember being absolutely full of dread, even just stepping out of a hotel room to my car, which was immediately in front of my door, and panicking… it took a lot of meeting people, and learning about Trans people to get past that fear.”

The Velvet Studio asked Amanda what message the delay, and its subsequent death of the Bill sends to Trans youth. “The same as on adults. It just says you’re not whole, you’re not 100%, and there is something wrong with you. That’s the most difficult thing we have to deal with in the community” she said “ I know that when I came out I thought there was something wrong with me…I think if you are told all your life since child hood that there is something wrong with you, how can that not have an impact? If your parents think that there is something abnormal about your child, how can you grow up and think you are something special?”

Ryan explained that fearing the backlash can be a major barrier to coming out “It takes a lot of fortitude to get past that, and many fail. That’s where you get the high suicides, and the low self-esteem.”

“If he dropped his amendments to this Bill, and it went to 3rd reading un-amended, then it’s just a matter of getting it to a vote, if it’s debated to oblivion there will be a question, If it went to the Senate, and it went to a vote, I believe it would pass,”, she said “There are a large number of people supporting this Bill, including the Senators, we have done a fair bit of lobbying with the Trans Equality Lobby Group, and through that, we’ve documented who’s in favour and who’s not, and there is enough Senators to pass this Bill, but there is one Senator blocking it.”

“These amendment’s he’s proposing is not about the protection of women, it’s about intolerance” She further explained “It will perpetuate the myth that there is something wrong with us, and there is something to fear from us. If the Canadian law says that, Trans people might believe it, and if it’s someone who is not sure of who they are”

Ryan concludes our interview with, “Attitudes are changing so quickly, that we are going to see dinosaurs like Senator Plett left behind.”


The Velvet Studio will be Live-Tweeting from the Committee Hearing (4:15pm Room 257 East Block), and would implore all GLBT advocates to attend and protest the proposed amendments.