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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new transgender rights bill


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While Americans continue to fume over President Barack Obama’s directive last week that schoolchildren must be allowed to choose the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, and not their birth certificate, Canadians are bracing for a related fight.

While receiving an award for his commitment to fighting transphobia and homophobia, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his administration would introduce new legislation Tuesday morning to protect the rights of transgender citizens.

“I am proud to announce that tomorrow, on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we will be tabling a bill in the House of Commons to ensure the full protection of transgender people,” Trudeau said on Monday in Montreal at an event hosted by Foundation Emergence, a gay rights group. “We must continue to demand true equality.”

Trudeau also announced that he would be attending the Montreal pride festival this summer, the first prime minister to do so.

The prime minister didn’t offer specific details in the announcement, but CBC News reported that he asked Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould “to add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to the list of distinguishing characteristics of ‘identifiable group’ protected by the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.”

U.S. civil rights laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 make mention only of color, race, religion, national origin and sex. Advocates have repeated and unsuccessfully attempted for years to add “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” to Title VII through an “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” (ENDA).

In the absence of such explicit wording, however, a number of lower federal courts, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and the Obama administration have interpreted the law to cover such discrimination. On that basis, the administration justified its letter last week to the states insisting that bathrooms and locker rooms be open to individuals on the basis of their gender identity rather than their gender assigned at birth. It remains vulnerable to court challenge in part because of the law’s silence on the subject.

The call to action from Trudeau is no surprise — he campaigned on the action before he was elected last year. And it’s not the first time Canadians have pushed for an amendment to their laws to include gender identity protections; proposals to do so have already passed the House of Commons twice, CBC News reported. In 2010, one bill never matured because Parliament was dissolved for an election soon after it passed the House, according to CBC News. Then in 2013, another proposal passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

Similar to the U.S., the reason is bathrooms. Opponents in both countries have argued that extending protections could make it easier for sexual predators to target children in public bathrooms.

This attempt may be different, in part because of Trudeau’s backing. His administration holds a majority in the House of Commons, the Guardian reported, making passage likely. Support in the senate, though, is still unclear.

During his announcement, Trudeau made it clear he hoped Canada would rise as a leader on the issue.

“I sincerely believe that in Canada we can and must do more,” he said. “Not just here, for us, but to show the rest of the world that an open and free society is the greatest thing we can aspire to together.”

Since North Carolina lawmakers passed a law requiring people to use the bathroom that aligns with the gender on their birth certificate, an already simmering debate about transgender rights in America has boiled over, provoking multiple lawsuits between gay rights advocates, the Tar Heel state, the federal government and advocacy groups.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/05/17/canadian-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-announces-new-transgender-rights-bill/

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