Trudeau introduces transgender rights bill after Obama issues order on bathrooms
By Bonnie K. Goodman
May 17, 2016 9:50 AM MST
First on Thursday, May 12, 2016, US President Barack Obama ordered a directive allowingtransgender students to choose and use the bathrooms and locker rooms for the sex they associate with, forcing schools across the country to comply or lose their federal funding. Meanwhile on Monday, May 16, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that on Tuesday, May 17 International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the Liberal government would table a bill in Parliament protecting transgender people against discrimination in the Charter of Human Rights and the criminal code.
On Thursday, May 12, President Obama ordered a directive to the Department ofEducation and Justice that requires schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom or locker room based on the sex they identify with rather than the one they were born with. The guidelines from the administration promise to ensure, “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment.”
In announcing the directive, Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated, “There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex. This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies.”
Obama based the directive on “invoking the sex discrimination law known as Title IX.” If the schools violate the order, they face “federal enforcement,” primarily losing federal funding. Republican state officials are objecting to the law saying it violates control over an issue. Obama’s directive was in response to North Carolina’s bathroom law forcing transgenders to use the bathroom based on their sex at birth; the Department of Justice is challenging that law.
On Monday, May 16, President Obama defended the directive on news site Buzzfeed, which is under fire from Conservatives and Republicans. Obama said, “Anybody who has been in school, in high school, who has been a parent should realize that kids who are sometimes in the minority – kids who have a different sexual orientation or are transgender – are subject to a lot of bullying, potentially.” Speaking out against discrimination transgender children face, Obama indicated, “They are vulnerable, and I think it’s part of our obligation as a society to make sure everybody is treated fairly, and our kids are all loved and protected, and that their dignity is affirmed.”
Last week, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest defended the president’s decision, “I think it is fair to say – and I think it’s important – that this kind of announcement reflects the President’s strongly held view about the need to prevent discrimination, but also the need to protect the safety and dignity of every student in America,” said last week.
Trudeau announced the new legislation on Monday, May 16, as he received the Laurent McCutcheon Award, at a Montreal, Quebec ceremony. Trudeau received the award for his “continued support for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual individuals in Quebec and across Canada.” In his announcement, Trudeau may a vow to protect transgendered people, saying, “We have worked too hard for us to stop here. Too hard to stop with the progress we have made because I sincerely believe that in Canada we can and we should do more.”
The Canadian Prime Minister spoke about what the new legislation would guarantee. Trudeau said, “I believe in a Canada where men can give blood, regardless of their sexual orientation. Where transgender people are protected by the law.” Trudeau is proud of his support to the community, saying, “A Canada where all prime ministers are proud to walk with the LGBT community during gay pride parades.”
Trudeau emphasized equality for all Canadians, “Because we must continue to demand true equality. We must carry on the legacy of those who fought for justice by being bold and ambitious in our actions. And we must work diligently to close the gap between our principles and our reality.”
The bill was tabled in the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday. Trudeau directed his Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould about the law in a mandate letter. The new legislation would “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.”
After the bill was introduced in Ottawa on Tuesday, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced the bill to the press. Wilson-Raybould said, “I’m proud to say that moments ago, I introduced legislation, Bill C-16 … that would ensure that Canadians will be free to identify themselves and to express their gender as they wish while being protected against discrimination and hate, because as Canadians, we should feel free and safe to be ourselves.”
Trudeau said at the Monday awards ceremony, “We must carry on the legacy of those who fought for justice by being bold and ambitious in our actions. And we must work diligently to close the gap between our principles and reality.” Trudeau’s words can apply to all instances of discrimination against minority and religious groups.
Sometimes, however, despite the laws protecting Canadians from discrimination it continues at alarming rates, even discrimination within communities. For example, the Canadian Jewish community is fighting against rising anti-Semitism, yet discrimination of Jew against fellow is also rampant but less publicized with rabbis and community leaders sometimes the greatest offenders. On this International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia let citizens of the world all unite to fight all discrimination and ensure everyone is treated equally, fairly and with dignity.