OTTAWA — A bill has been introduced in the Canadian Parliament that would extend the country’s ban on “hate propaganda” to pertain to “gender identity.”
Bill C-16 was introduced on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia by Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould.
“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 outlines.
“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,” it continues, “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.”
Those who violate the law by discriminating against a transgendered person or using speech that is deemed to “incite hatred” against the person might face up to two years behind bars.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is expected to march in this year’s pride parade, had released a statement the same day to advise that the bill would be introduced.
“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,” he said. “There remains much to be done, though. Far too many people still face harassment, discrimination, and violence for being who they are. This is unacceptable.”
“To do its part, 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,” Trudeau stated.
But some have expressed concern over the proposal, including Charles McVety, president of the Institute for Canadian Values, who called the bill “nebulous and reckless.”
“Bill C-16 is so vague, it is unenforceable,” he said in a statement. “The fluid nature of gender identity is so nebulous that people can change their gender identity moment by moment. In that the bill seeks to change the Criminal Code of Canada, people may be sent to prison for two years over something that is ill-defined, and indeterminable.”
“It is also reckless as the proposed law will establish universal protection for any man who wishes to access women’s bathrooms or girls’ showers with momentary gender fluidity,” McVety continued. “Every Member of Parliament should examine their conscience over the potential of their vote exposing women and girls to male genitalia.”
There is also uncertainty as to how the law will be applied to free speech. As previously reported, in 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the conviction of activist William Whatcott, who found himself in hot water after distributing flyers regarding the Bible’s prohibitions against homosexuality throughout the Saskatoon and Regina neighborhoods in 2001 and 2002.
The Supreme Court declared one flyer to be unlawful because it called homosexual acts “filthy,” and contended that children are more interested in playing Ken and Barbie than “learning how wonderful it is for two men to sodomize each other.” The justices ruled that because the use of the word “sodomy” only referred to “two men” and not also the sex acts of heterosexuals, it was a direct target against a specific group of people.
The Supreme Court also noted in its opinion, among other concerns, that Whatcott’s use of the Bible to target homosexuals was a problem.
“[Whatcott’s] expression portrays the targeted group as a menace that could threaten the safety and well-being of others, makes reference to respected sources (in this case the Bible) to lend credibility to the negative generalizations, and uses vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred,” the panel ruled.
It pointed back to the lower court ruling, which asserted, “While the courts cannot be drawn into the business of attempting to authoritatively interpret sacred texts such as the Bible, those texts will typically have characteristics which cannot be ignored if they are to be properly assessed in relation to … the [Hate Crimes] Code.”
The judges did note, however, that “it would only be unusual circumstances and context that could transform a simple reading or publication of a religion’s holy text into what could objectively be viewed as hate speech.”