Ignatieff onside with transgender bill

  • December 16, 2010
Michael IgnatieffOTTAWA - Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff stunned many pro-family Catholics when he threw his support behind the so-called transgender “bathroom” bill now before the House of Commons.

Party leaders do not generally vote for private members’ business, but Ignatieff rose to vote “Yea” for  Bill C-389, which passed report stage 143-136 on Dec. 8.

“Well, you know, we’re the party of the charter,” Ignatieff told journalists afterwards.

“We’re the party of reaching out and including all Canadians and extending rights of gender expression and sexual expression seem to be just, you know, where I’ve always been and where I’ll always be and where our party will always be.”

NDP MP Bill Siksay’s private member’s bill would add “gender expression” and “gender identity” to the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code.

“I don’t think people take (Ignatieff) seriously any more,” said REAL Women of Canada national vice president Gwen Landolt, who dismissed the implication that those opposing the bill are anti-charter as “childish rhetoric.”

If the bill passes, there would by law no longer be only a male and female sex, but “anything goes” with major implications for business, for the military, the RCMP and most importantly for children, “when you have the bathroom bill and a cross dresser can waltz into a women’s washroom,” she said.

Landolt also pointed out how damaging it could be to children to teach them that transgender or transsexual feelings are fixed, since sometimes children go through a transitory phase of feeling they may have been born the wrong sex. They grow out of it if it is not encouraged and are spared great misery, she said.

Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Joanne McGarry called Ignatieff’s rights-based analysis “incorrect,” noting that constantly expanding the grounds for discrimination undermines the responsibility to treat everyone equitably and fairly.

“The bill is not about equal treatment,” she said. “I only see it as laying the groundwork for human rights challenges based on a quality that the so-called offender might not be able to see.”

Conservative MP Royal Galipeau, who is Catholic, said the bathroom issue was one of the reasons he opposed the bill.

“I have a daughter, who is five foot two, fairly athletic and studies at the library at the university late at night,” he said. “When I have to balance probabilities, I have to protect her and other women in circumstances similar to hers.

“Her protection is more important than hurting somebody’s feelings who hasn’t today sorted out his gender identity.”  

Galipeau called Ignatieff’s comments “mischief.”

“These politicians do this only to create division in the country and polarization on Canadian public opinion, perhaps intending to demonize conservatives in light of the charter,” he said.

“I really think that they are stretching the charter to areas where I don’t even think (Pierre) Trudeau intended.”

The Dec. 8 vote fell mostly along party lines, with most Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and NDP MPs supporting it and Conservatives opposing it.

Landolt said she hoped the new alertness on the part of pro-family MPs would slow the progress of the bill. It may not come back to the House until February for more debate and a final vote on third reading. If it passes it would then go to the Senate.

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