Tuesday • 2012.02.21
Toby’s Act is Back—New Ontario Parliamentary Bill Will Enshrine Trans Human Rights Protections into Law
Today in Ontario’s Provincial Parliament, at Queen’s Park in Toronto, MPP Cheri DiNovo has once again introduced Toby’s Act (Right to be Free from Discrimination and Harassment because of Gender Identity or Gender Expression). It was my privilege to be present at this historic event.
This bill will enshrine into the Ontario Human Rights Code protections for trans people which bring members of the trans community up to the same level of equal protections currently afforded to Ontarians based on sex, religion, race, sexual orientation, and a number of other factors. Toby’s Act is similar to the bill C-279 which is currently before Federal Parliament, except Toby’s Act would afford protections at the Provincial level of government (for Ontario residents). With such an important issue, it is important to work toward protections at all levels of government.
This is the fourth time DiNovo has introduced Toby’s Act into Provincial Parliament, however it is the first time that the bill has been cosigned—by all major Ontario political parties, no less. For the 2012 version of Toby’s Act, Cheri DiNovo (NDP) is joined in introducing the bill by Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi, and (in what may come as a pleasant surprise to many readers) by Progressive Conservative MPP Christine Elliott, who (as it happens) is also the Deputy Party Leader for the Ontario Progressive Conservative party.
It is highly unusual for a private members bill such as Toby’s Act to receive this type of endorsement from all parties; a highly symbolic act, which underscores the general acceptance in Ontario’s Parliament that the time has come for such legislative protections for trans people to be enacted. The desperate need for Human Rights protections based on Gender Identity and Gender Expression have recently been brought to greater public attention by highly publicized events such as the recent mass public awareness given to certain Identity Screening Regulations attached to the federal Aeronautics Act which technically amount to a “Trans Flight Ban.”
In an interview due to be released by XTRA shortly, [UPDATE: XTRA link] MPP Yasir Naqvi attributes the successful cooperation of all three parties in the cosigning of the bill to the work done by Trans Lobby Group over the past several months in preparation for this bill’s introduction into the Chamber today.
At 3PM after recess, prior to the introduction of the bill, there was an opportunity in the proceedings for MPPs to introduce visitors in the gallery. Cheri DiNovo introduced the members of Trans Lobby Group who were present in the gallery to witness these historic proceedings. In addition to Susan Gapka the Chair of Trans Lobby Group, and myself, there was Stefonknee Wolscht, Davina Hader, N. Nicole Nussbaum, Doug Arcand, and Martine Stonehouse.
We all clapped loudly, and smiled broadly, after we had the honour of watching Cheri finally read her bill’s introduction into parliament. At that point, the Speaker asked for confirmation that it was the will of the house that the bill pass first reading; what followed was a wonderful chorus of assent from various MPPs throughout the chamber, with calls of “aye” and “yes,” and with no dissenting members whatsoever audible from my position in the gallery.
I would say this bodes well for the future of trans rights in Ontario, and I look forward to seeing this bill come up for second reading and debate (the next steps to seeing this bill become law). This is currently scheduled to happen in November, but we’ve got a few ideas up our sleeves which could speed up the process.
Stay tuned for information on how YOU can help us get this wonderful bill passed more quickly!