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Garrison introduces bill to protect transgender rights

A high profile private members' bill to protect transgender people from discrimination was re-introduced by Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The bill, originally put forward by former NDP MP Bill Siksay, passed three readings in the House last February and was awaiting senate approval when the federal election was called.

Now it's back to square one for the bill that would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add the word "gender expression" and "gender identity" as prohibited grounds of discrimination. It would also modify the Criminal Code to recognize discrimination based on these means as a hate crime.

"This is a very important question of equality for all people," said Garrison, who is the NDP's critic on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual (LGBTT) issues.

This is the first bill introduced into the House by the rookie MP. While private members bills don't often become law, Garrison thinks this one has a good chance, particularly because of the orange wave in parliament.

"If the NDP unanimously supports the bill—as they did in the last session—I only need 15 votes from across the aisle," Garrison said from Ottawa on Wednesday.

So far he's counted six returning MPs that supported the bill in the last session, and he'll have at least a few months to lobby others for support. Private member bills are not subject to party discipline, meaning each individual MP is free to vote however he or she chooses.

The order in which private members bills are voted on is determined by a lottery, which took place last June. Garrison is number 38 on the list.

Just below him, in the 40th spot, is Vancouver Centre MP (Liberal) Hedy Fry who also planned to re-introduce Siksay's bill. She brought forward her bill two days before Garrison.

"I have great support from my party, and from Bill (Siksay), to move this forward and it fits within my role to represent LGBTT issues," Garrison said.

"There are many trans people that face discrimination in Canada—they are our friends, in our families and part of our communities—and they deserve the same basic rights as the rest of us."

 

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