Here’s the Punishment Canadians Found Guilty of Anti-Transgender Speech Could Soon Face

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a bill that would criminalize anti-transgender speech, with violators receiving up to two years in prison.

The new bill, introduced May 17 on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, aims to amend the Canadian Criminal Code to expand the country’s “hate speech” prohibitions to include any public speech or communication that “promotes hatred” on the basis of “gender identity” or “gender expression.” It would also change the Canadian Human Rights Act to cover transgender people.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

“As a society, we have taken many important steps toward recognizing and protecting the legal rights for the LGBTQ2 community — from enshrining equality rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the passage of the Civil Marriage Act,” Trudeau said in a speech, adding, “There remains much to be done, though. Far too many people still face harassment, discrimination, and violence for being who they are.”

Trudeau deemed these sorts of actions and sentiments “unacceptable.”

“To do its part,” the prime minister continued, “the Government of Canada today will introduce legislation that will help ensure transgender and other gender-diverse people can live according to their gender identity, free from discrimination, and protected from hate propaganda and hate crimes.”

Prime Minister Trudeau, who heads Canada’s Liberal Party government, plans to march in the Toronto Gay Pride parade in July.

“This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination,” a summary of the bill reads. “The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.”

“The CHRC (Canadian Human Rights Commission) has long advocated for this change,” a statement on the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s website reads. “Transgender and gender-diverse individuals across Canada face discrimination, exclusion, and hostility in their daily lives — often impacting their access to everyday services that many Canadians take for granted when they, for example, want to see a family physician, travel or use a public washroom.”

The draft of the new bill is believe to be inspired by an unsuccessful proposed legislation defending transgender rights that was tabled last year by lawmaker Randall Garrison of the New Democratic Party.

Canadian law already prohibits anti-gay “hate propaganda.”

In 2013, the Canadian Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Christian street preacher who was distributing leaflets denouncing homosexual acts. The court held that the man had used “vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred” against gay people, the Legal Examiner reported at the time. The court determined that the pastor’s behavior constituted ”hate propaganda” and that his religious beliefs did not excuse him from violating the law.

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