A bill working its way through the Canadian Parliament would add “gender identity” to the nation’s list of protected classes and could severely restrict free speech related to gender-identity issues.
According to the bill’s summary, in addition to extending “gender identity and gender expression” to Canada’s protected classes listed in the Canadian Human Rights Act, “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 bill is currently under consideration in a committee in the Canadian Senate.
The bill’s provisions are particularly troubling for those who advocate for free-speech rights in Canada and worry about how the bill might be used against groups, particularly religious groups, who don’t support promoting protections specific to people who consider themselves to be the opposite sex as their biological composition.
Harold Albrecht, a Conservative Party member of Parliament from Kitchener, Ontario, says the bill presents threats in “four areas.”
“I am concerned that this bill would cause fear for many Canadians, fear that they would not be able to even discuss public policy issues, such as this one, on which they may disagree with the government-imposed agenda,” said Albrecht on the floor of Parliament. “I am concerned about the potential harm to innocent children and youth as a result of the possible invasion of their privacy. I am concerned that the terms ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ are very subjective terms, far too subjective to be used in the context of legal documents, particularly in the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Criminal Code of Canada.”
“Finally, I am concerned that when government adopts dramatic changes to public policy as it relates to gender identity and sexuality, with minimal research or support, the results could be harmful for all members of society, but especially for those we are actually trying to help; that is, transgendered children or youth,” said Albrecht.
Canadian pastor Paul Dirks, who heads New West Community Church in New Westminster, told CBC News he’s concerned the bill would make it impossible for businesses and schools to prevent men wanting to do harm to others and claiming to be women from hiding out in women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, and public showers.
“Our campaign doesn’t say trans-people are a risk to anybody, it’s saying predators are going to take advantage,” said Dirk, who has faced protests for his opposition to the bill.
Dirks’ campaign, the “Woman Means Something Campaign,” says on its website in a section authored by Dirks, “The problem we find with Bill C-16 is that because gender is undefinable, it obligatorily pits gender-rights against sex-rights. Unlike most other human rights, the inclusion of gender identity and expression rights means the exclusion of other rights.”
Dirks also claimed the bill would put women and girls at risk in virtually every public environment.
“We’ve heard much talk about ‘bathroom bills,’ but Bill C-16 will apply to showers, locker-rooms, rape shelters, and kid’s camp cabins as well,” wrote Dirks. “Up until now, at least under federal law, women have had the right to privacy in sex-segregated spaces when they are unclothed and feel vulnerable. Most women I know would not feel comfortable in a shower naked with a strange male (even if they identified as a woman).”