The Justice Committee approved transgender Bill C-16 for vote in the House of Commons without hearings or public consultation Photo courtesy of Jeanne18, Wikimedia Commons

Justice Committee grants transgender bill quick approval

  • November 9, 2016

OTTAWA – The Justice Committee quickly approved transgender Bill C-16 and passed it back to the House of Commons Nov. 2 with no hearings or public consultation.

The committee endorsed the bill, which adds gender identity and expression to the Criminal Code and Canadian Human Rights Act, after hearing only one witness, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

It now awaits a third reading and vote that could send it to the Senate well before Christmas. The bill passed a second reading vote Oct. 19, with support from all parties.

Conservative MP Ted Falk, the vice-chair of the Justice Committee, said he was “surprised and disappointed” the committee chose to go quickly to clause-by-clause approval of the bill after hearing from Wilson-Raybould, who had introduced the bill in Parliament in May.

“There was no opportunity for stakeholders to comment on the bill, either for it or against it,” he said.

The Conservatives did not put forward any amendments.

“We had anticipated there would be time to do a study on the bill,” he said. When the committee decided not to do a study, “we didn’t have amendments that were ready to go.”

“A lot of immigrants and religious groups have very strong opinions on human sexuality,” Falk said. “The concern is whether there will be freedom of speech limitations because of this bill.”

Falk, however, was the only committee member who opposed the bill. Fellow Conservative MP Michael Cooper, a Catholic who has been identified as pro-life, voted for it both at second reading and at Justice Committee.

“I don’t think Bill C-16 would interfere or infringe upon the rights of individuals to express beliefs grounded in their faith,” Cooper said. Nor does it affect bathrooms or locker rooms.

“Bill C-16 doesn’t change anything in terms of the law right now in terms of how the Canadian Human Rights Act has been interpreted by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the courts,” he said. “It doesn’t add anything, it merely clarifies existing law.”

Cooper did say, however, he was disappointed the Justice Committee did not hear more witnesses.

Wilson-Raybould told the Justice Committee that the bill’s proposed amendments will not lead to criminal prosecution of those who “express disapproval of diverse gender identities or expressions.”

The amendments “respect freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expressions in a free and democratic society,” she said.

The bill was called “an embarrassment to Canada” in a press release from the pro-family organization REAL Women of Canada.

“It is based purely on politically correct ideology, not facts or evidence, and is being rammed through Parliament in a highly undemocratic manner.”

The bill would lift “the transgendered into an explicit category of law,” REAL Women said. “This has not been done for any other group such as First Nations people or other vulnerable individuals who also experience discrimination.”

Campaign Life Coalition’s Ottawa lobbyist Johanne Brownrigg said the recent controversy over University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson’s refusal to use new gender-sensitive pronouns raises concerns the bill will harm freedom of expression. Peterson has come under fire for defending his right not to be forced to use transgender pronouns.

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