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Canada’s Parliament finally adopts transgender rights bill

12 years after it was first introduced, a bill to extend human rights protections to transgender Canadians will become law
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA

A bill to enshrine human rights protections for transgender Canadians into law has, after more than a decade of opposition and delays, been passed by the Senate and is on track to become law.

After those years of frustration, Canada’s trans community is ebullient.

“Today, Canada became a safer and more inclusive place for trans and gender-diverse people,” said Devon MacFarlane, Director of Rainbow Health Ontario.


Bill C-16 prohibits discrimination against trans people in federally-regulated sectors based on their gender identity or gender expression — including the public service, military, and airline and banking industries. It will also formally recognize violence directed towards trans people as a hate crime.

The legislation has been debated and voted on several times before, and has even enjoyed popular support from most Parliamentarians, both the elected ones in the House of Commons and their unelected counterparts in the Senate.

Yet despite passing the House on two occasions prior, delays caused by ornery Senators has led to the bill not becoming law. Most notably, Senator Don Plett, who has railed against the legislation for years — alleging it does everything from protect child molesters to quash freedom of speech.

This time, however, support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the majority of the Senate — driven by activism from within the trans community, endorsements from the Canadian Bar Association, and a raft of others — frustrated efforts to delay the bill in a similar fashion. Even then, though, the bill has taken more than six months to come to a final vote, and stall tactics were being deployed earlier this week to delay a final vote on the legislation.

The final vote total highlighted the wide support for the bill: 67 in favour, 11 opposed.

Susan Gapka, a prominent trans activist and advocate who has fought for the adopt of the bill, tweeted a simple “we did it!” after the bill was adopted.

The bill’s adoption in the Senate comes the same day the Yukon adopted similar protections on the provincial level, meaning that, once C-16 becomes law, every trans person in the country will have protection from both levels of government.

C-16 is on track to receive royal assent, and thus become law, by next week.