Saturday • 2012.05.12
Toby’s Act Likely to Become Law in Time for Pride—Full Details, and Next Steps
Thursday (May 10th) was a day of celebration for members of Ontario’s trans community. Toby’s Act had been expected by trans activists to pass second reading without much trouble, but none of us predicted such a dramatic outpouring of support from the members of our provincial parliament. I was as professionally impressed as I was personally touched.
When a Private Member’s bill (such as Bill 33, Toby’s Act) comes up for Second Reading and debate, 15 minutes is allotted to each party, to be divided amongst party Members who wish to speak. I am pleased to report that members from all three parties spoke with unwavering support for Toby’s Act (full transcript below).
Several LGBT people I’ve spoken with in recent weeks had expressed concerns to me that Progressive Conservative Members might rise to speak in resistance to Toby’s Act, but those fears turned out to be unfounded. It is important to acknowledge, I believe, that despite the potential for displeasing some of their socially conservative voters, the PC party totally stepped up and did the right thing here.
In addition to prominent PC party member and deputy-leader Christine Elliot adding her signature to Toby’s Act, co-signing the bill along with Yasir Naqvi (Liberal) and the bill’s originator Cheri DiNovo (NDP) making it a rare “tri-party” private member’s bill, PC Members Jane McKenna and Rod Jackson rose during debate to give passionate endorsements of the bill. I even noticed that Ms McKenna, in her statements, used some familiar ideas and phrases.
Later in the day when the vote was called, Toby’s Act passed Second Reading, and was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy. The vote was unanimous (nobody dissented in the House).
The bill needs to finish its review by the committee, then come back to the House for a final reading and vote, wherupon it will pass. Then, it need only be signed into law by the Lieutenant Governor (a formality which happens quickly).
Co-sponsors of the bill have stated it is their intention to see the bill whisked through the committee process in just one hour of committee discussion. Normally, running through committee might involve lengthy processes of gathering research and taking deputations, which would create significant delays and could lead to the bill dying if an election is called.
As an aside, Bill 13 (The anti-bullying bill) is presently in such a committee process, which has involved several days of deputations, mostly from anti-gay groups who wish to see the anti-bullying bill defeated. Fortunately there are additional deputations scheduled for Monday, this time from pro-GSA and education groups. I myself am scheduled to give a deputation to the committee in support of Bill 13, in my capacity as a member of the Trans Lobby Group. More details will be forthcoming.
With Toby’s Act, it is believed by the bill’s 3 co-sponsors that lengthy committee procedures will be eschewed in this case; citing the simplicity of the bill in conjunction with its tri-party support as reasons it should bypass major scrutiny, Cheri DiNovo and Yasir Naqvi both told me personally there is a realistic possibility it can be passed into law in time for Pride (late June 2012). That this is certainly their goal. In a “worst case” scenario, Toby’s Act would instead pass later in the year.
After Thursday’s developments, it’s no longer a question of “if” the bill passes, but “when.”
Thursday May 10th was a Red Letter Day for all Ontarians. It was a reassuring reminder that all of our provincial legislators, regardless of party affiliation, agree that no Ontarian is excluded from human rights. For as long as the Province has a Human Rights Code, it will (and must) apply to everyone.
For those interested, here is the entire debate, excerpted from Hansard for May 10th:
TOBY’S ACT (RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT BECAUSE OF GENDER IDENTITY OR GENDER EXPRESSION), 2012 / LOI TOBY DE 2012 SUR LE DROIT À L’ABSENCE DE DISCRIMINATION ET DE HARCÈLEMENT FONDÉS SUR L’IDENTITÉ OU L’EXPRESSION SEXUELLES
Bill 33, An Act to amend the Human Rights Code with respect to gender identity and gender expression / Projet de loi 33, Loi modifiant le Code des droits de la personne en ce qui concerne l’identité et l’expression sexuelles.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First of all, I want to acknowledge those who have come for the reading of this bill. We have, in the members’ gallery, Egale; Trans Lobby Group; Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre; transition support, 519 community centre; and we also have Kevin Beaulieu, executive director of Pride Toronto. I want to name a few of them. I always hate doing this, because I might leave somebody off: Alex Duffy, Shadmith Manzo, Jonathan Mackereth, Dwayne Shaw, Susan Gapka, Cristin [sic] Milloy, Stefonknee Wolscht, Crystal Lee-Cummings, Davina Hader, Paul Denison, Treva Bondarenko, Zephaniah James, and Martine Stonehouse. Welcome all to Queen’s Park, and thank you for your advocacy.
Mr. Mike Colle: Where’s Kevin?
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: He’s back there.
I also want to thank my associates in the other parties. I want to thank Yasir Naqvi from Ottawa Centre. I want to thank Christine Elliott from Whitby–Oshawa—brave folk, both, for signing on to this and for supporting this cause. So thank you both.
I thought about how I could present it. I could start by talking about—and I will—the situation that most trans folk find themselves in. There was a huge study done in the United States. There hasn’t been one presented in Canada with the same kind of numbers. This included about 7,000 trans folk in the United States. They discovered in that study that 41% had attempted suicide. That’s about 25 times the normal rate of attempted suicide. They also discovered that almost one in two trans folk lived in poverty—again, way, way higher than the general population. They discovered that the vast majority of trans folk are bullied in school. It’s interesting: We’re talking about Bills 13 and 14 in committee now, and I have to say there’s been a huge media influence and excitement about that bill, and so there should be. Certainly, we in the New Democratic Party would like to see GSAs be allowed in schools. I’ll say it right up front.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Thank you. But, you know, we had a press conference the other day around this issue, and no press showed up. That’s what we’re dealing with here. We’re dealing with a problem that often goes unrecognized. It goes unrecognized, unacknowledged and has the results that I just told you about in the study. That’s what happens to trans folk.
I could talk about the legal aspects. I could talk about the recent Human Rights Tribunal action with XY—which is groundbreaking—where XY won against the Ministry of Consumer Services, won a groundbreaking challenge, which was to say that you shouldn’t have to go through a surgical procedure to be able to use identification that shows that you’re a woman, even though you haven’t had the transition surgery—or a man; vice versa—that this is actually anti the human rights of trans folk.
This is exactly the reason that we need explicit protection in the Human Rights Code. It has been argued that it’s already implicit. That’s not what Barbara Hall says, who, when I first tabled this years ago, wrote a letter to the Toronto Star in support of explicit wording—“gender identity” and “gender expression”—in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
I could talk about the federal instance, where we know that trans folk have been stopped from boarding planes. Human Rights Watch in the United States said, “If you’re a trans person, don’t try to fly in Canada.” Come on, this is an embarrassment on an international scale. Why? Because, very quietly, in 2010, the then Minister of Transport federally brought in a regulation that said that you gotta match the presenting ID—in the minds, of course, of the people checking. Again, this is an incredible deterrent for trans people just to travel.
Federally, there’s a bill before the House for the second time to look at adding gender identity and gender expression federally for that very reason. We all know about Jenna—Jenna, the trans person, the woman who wanted to enter the Miss Universe contest and was denied that. It made a lot of international press.
Mr. Mike Colle: And Donald Trump—
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Donald Trump, absolutely. Again, he was forced to backtrack on that, thankfully—but again, another very, very obvious instance of trans phobia. It’s real; it’s everywhere. It’s here in Ontario, it’s across Canada and it’s international. That’s the reality of trans phobia.
I could talk about the trans lobby efforts. What an amazing group of people we have here, Mr. Speaker, an amazing group of brave individuals who have been at this for years—I might say decades. They have been championing this without a great deal of support.
I might also talk about some of the people at Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre, who have been champions of all of those who suffer oppression in my area of Parkdale, and who have also championed the cause of trans folk as well, so I welcome you here too. It’s wonderful to see you.
I could talk about where it’s better in the world. It is better in other jurisdictions. The Northwest Territories has gender identity in their human rights code. We know it can be done in Canada. The entire European economic union recognizes gender identity as a way of discriminating against people. So we’re a little behind here, but we can catch up. I’m hopeful, today, Mr. Speaker, that that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
I could speak about all those things, but what I really want to talk about is a person, Toby Dancer, because this is known as Toby’s Act. Let me tell you about Toby. Toby died about eight years ago. Toby first walked into my church looking like a man—it turned out Toby was a woman; looking First Nations—it turned out Toby was of Ukrainian heritage; looking like a drifter—it turned out Toby was one of the most accomplished musicians in Canada. She had actually produced Ian Tyson albums. She played the piano for us, and we were blown away when we heard her play. She was a phenomenal jazz musician. She eventually became the music director of my church. Toby also started a gospel choir for us, as well as being the music director over at Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre. I’m seeing nods because some of Toby’s fellow musicians are here.
Toby, like many trans folk, also suffered from depression, also suffered from addiction issues. Toby eventually died from those issues. At Toby’s funeral, I said, “We may be the first church”—and let me backtrack a little bit, because this is what we did in our church—“to put a stained glass window in the sanctuary depicting a trans person,” because we had one made of Toby playing the piano, and it’s up in Emmanuel Howard Park United Church on Roncesvalles as we speak. I said, “We may be the first church to have done it,” and somebody called out, “What about Joan of Arc?” They’re right, Mr. Speaker. What about Joan of Arc? What about those trans people in history that already have stained glass windows of them? So Toby may not be the first, but we’re very, very proud of that window in that church. It has been the site of many filmings and photographs, and will be there forever and will commemorate a very, very special person.
I want to talk about Toby, because Toby changed the lives of everyone who knew her. We all came to know trans issues in our church through Toby. That same church became the site of the first ordained trans person in Canada.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Yes, absolutely—Cindy Bourgeois, who, again, when she first walked into our church, walked in as a man and walked out as an ordained woman in the United Church of Canada and is now in Stratford. If you go to Stratford, go see Cindy preach.
Toby also was the subject, in part, of a book that I wrote. That book went on, after Toby’s death, unfortunately—because I really wished she could have been with me in Washington to receive the Lambda award for that book for spirituality and religion. It was based on what we had done to be an inclusive church. It’s called Qu(e)erying Evangelism. In light of the great production of Bill 13 and Bill 14 and all of the deputations we heard, it’s particularly pertinent, because the argument of that book was that you can grow a church, you can grow an inclusive community by being inclusive and still being Christian. I want that on the record, Mr. Speaker: You can be inclusive; you can still be Christian. We did it. We proved it. We grew that church. We got that church to survive. Toby was a part of that, and part of the book is dedicated to Toby. Now I can use her real name; in the book, she’s called Mary. That was dedicated to her and to others who have died in our midst.
I’m going to have more to say on this and more to say on the whole issue of adding gender identity and gender expression to the Ontario Human Rights Code, but right now, I just want to say thank you. I want to say thank you to everyone who supported this. I want to say thank you to those who have shown up today, and not just today but have shown up for years, for decades, some of them. I want to say thank you to my colleagues from across the aisle and next to me, the Progressive Conservative and Liberal parties, for also adding to this bill and adding their support for it, because if there’s one thing I know and there’s one thing I really want to see, it’s that at this Pride, this year, we march in a Pride Parade in a province where gender identity and gender expression has been added to the Ontario Human Rights Code and where we celebrate it at Pride. So that’s what I’m looking forward to.
I’m going to leave some time for my colleagues, and I look forward to talking more about Toby, more about trans issues, more about inclusivity, in fact, and what it means to be an inclusive society a little later.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Thank you very much, Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak on a very important bill, An Act to amend the Human Rights Code with respect to gender identity and gender expression. I stand here today as one of the co-sponsors, along with the MPP from Parkdale–High Park and the MPP from Whitby–Oshawa, wholeheartedly supporting this bill.
My family came to Canada almost 24 years ago. One of the biggest reasons my parents chose this country and this province as their home is because of that quintessential Canadian value of equality, where we all are equal, that all our rights are protected.
We have a situation right now that we have a little gap. There’s a vacuum that exists that we need to rectify. What this very simple piece of legislation does—it’s not very complicated; it’s one page long—is it ensures that members of a trans community in the province of Ontario have the same rights accorded to them as everyone in this province. It makes us greater. It makes us more equal. It celebrates our diversity. That is the reason I’m so happy to be part of this legislation: that we are ensuring that equality is accorded to every single human being in our great province, because that makes us stronger and that makes us even stronger Canadians in terms of the values we enjoy so much.
Now, Speaker, it’s very interesting; I want to bring a perspective here, and that is that, thankfully, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the rights of the trans community are protected. Under the definition of “sex,” their rights are protected. So what we’re doing today by approving this bill is nothing earth-shattering. What we’re doing is bringing more clarity. By what we’re doing—and I perhaps speak as a lawyer for a second—we’re bringing case law, what the courts have decided and interpreted, into law. That’s our role. We’re supposed to do that. We’re supposed to take what courts decide for us and say, “Yes, that’s the right thing,” and enshrine it in the law. That’s what we’re doing so there is no ambiguity, so there is absolutely clarity when it comes to the rights of trans people in the province of Ontario, so nobody can discriminate against members of the trans community, so that their rights are protected when it comes to employment, when it comes to accommodation, when it comes to just living their daily lives, being who they are. That’s what we’re doing here, and it’s something that I’m confident that all members of this House are going to support.
I’m very proud, Speaker, to represent the great riding of Ottawa Centre, which is home to Ottawa’s perhaps largest trans community. I have a great opportunity to work and learn from the trans community in Ottawa. I want to highlight two women in the trans community from my riding who have helped me understand, who have helped me learn about this issue. Joanne Law is one individual who has been so active and so involved in the community at large as a transgendered woman. The work she has done for the LGBTQ community in Ottawa Centre, the work she continues to do with Pride, the work she does in going into schools and talking to young people, is incredible. I want to take this opportunity to thank Joanne for educating me, for really making me part of the community and understand why passing Bill 33 is so important.
The other person who I also want to thank is Jessica Freedman. Jessica was the very first transgendered woman who asked me the question about this issue the very first time I ran in 2007. Instead of making up an answer, as some of my other opponents did in that debate, I told her very clearly, “I don’t know the answer. Please educate me. Here’s my card. Can we go for a coffee so I can ask you questions?” She said yes, and we went—I remember that day—we went for coffee, and I said to her, “My apologies in advance. I’m going to ask a lot of questions, and many of them will be stupid questions.” She said, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Go ahead.” And I asked her very personal questions, and she answered and she gave me stuff to read and helped educate me about the trans community, about the transformation that goes through where somebody may recognize that they are not a man, they are a woman, or vice versa.
Jessica and I became good friends. She’s actually at Carleton University, I think, doing a master’s in social work right now—just an incredible human being. I want to take this opportunity to thank Jessica for informing me, for educating me, for answering my questions whenever I had those questions.
Speaker, I know there are other colleagues of mine who also want to speak on this very important issue. I am just very pleased to be standing here today, the first time ever in this great Legislature that we are debating the inclusion of gender identity and gender expression in Ontario human rights. The time is right. This is the time to ensure that we bring clarity to Ontario human rights. The term “sexual orientation” does not cover the trans community. The term “sex” does not cover the trans community. We need to incorporate the terms “gender expression” and “gender identity” in the Human Rights Code to ensure that members of Ontario’s trans community are equal to every single other Ontarian, because by doing so, we’re making our province stronger and we are ensuring that we continue to celebrate the diversity in this great province of ours.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?
Mrs. Christine Elliott: I am very pleased to rise today and join in this discussion of Bill 33, Toby’s Act (Right to be Free from Discrimination and Harassment Because of Gender Identity or Gender Expression), and I am very pleased that I am joined today by my colleagues the members from Burlington and Barrie and sharing my time with them. I’m also very proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill along with the member from Parkdale–High Park, who originated this bill, and the member from Ottawa Centre.
I would note—and it has probably been mentioned before by other speakers—that this is the fourth time that the member from Parkdale–High Park has raised Toby’s Act but the first time that it has been co-sponsored. So I hope that, in this case at least, the fourth time’s the charm. We’re hoping for the best here.
I’d also like to thank Susan Gapka and the members of the Trans Lobby Group who are joining us here today for both their commitment to this issue and their tenacity in bringing this forward. You are really to be congratulated for getting this to this point today.
I’d just like to go back a little bit and recall when I first met Susan, which was in 2006, just shortly after my election to this Legislature. Some of the very first pieces of legislation I dealt with as a new member, and in my capacity as critic to the Attorney General and as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, were the amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code. It was then known as Bill 107. At that time, Susan appeared and was making the same arguments that she has continued to make, which are that everyone is entitled to the dignity and protection of the Human Rights Code, and that the inclusion of gender identity and gender expression, along with race, ancestry, place of origin, colour and all of the other things that we talk about when we speak about the Ontario Human Rights Code, should be included. Gender expression and gender identity should be included with that, to clarify and make sure that the rights of trans people are included as well.
Fundamentally, I agree that this is a matter of basic human rights, and that’s why I’m really proud to be able to co-sponsor this bill. I truly believe that everyone has the right to be fully included in our society, and everyone deserves the rights and protection of the Ontario Human Rights Code, period, end of sentence, no exceptions. That’s what I think we’re fundamentally dealing with here.
I agree with the member from Ottawa Centre that it isn’t properly included, although some may say that “sexual orientation” would cover the situation here, but I agree that it’s not fully clarified, that what we’re dealing with here isn’t a huge movement; it’s simply making sure that everyone understands that everyone is to be included, and gender identity and gender expression are to be included.
There was a letter that was sent by Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall in 2007 on this issue, and she noted that “the lack of explicit inclusion in the legislation means that trans people’s distinct experiences of discrimination remain unacknowledged…. Amending the code would provide clarity and greater recognition of the dignity of transgender people, and would leave no doubt, in the eyes of the public or the law, that they are entitled to the same human rights protections as everyone else.”
I totally agree, Mr. Speaker, and I think that some of the problems that people have encountered in terms of obtaining identification and obtaining travel documentation clearly show the fact that it hasn’t been completely accepted and understood by everyone. I hope that obtaining all-party support of this—and I hope that all members will join us in supporting this bill—would absolutely clarify the issue once and for all and we could move forward on this issue.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I want to thank the co-sponsors of the bill, the members from Whitby–Oshawa and Ottawa Centre, but, in particular, to congratulate my colleague who sits beside me, who is very articulate, who is fearless, who is persistent and a passionate advocate for human rights. She never gives up. This is the fourth attempt and I believe this is going to work this time around.
I want to say how afraid politicians are to do the right thing. I saw this when we debated Bill 167 about 20 years ago, the bill that would give gays and lesbians the same rights that heterosexuals have. Politicians were incredibly afraid, and we didn’t win enough support from the members to pass that bill. We’d rather let the courts deal with it until they beat us into submission, until we do the right thing, because we are afraid to lead on these issues. I think it’s a crime.
Here we have another opportunity to include gender identity and gender expression in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and I am persuaded that we’re going to win this time around. It will not end discrimination, but people will know they cannot discriminate. And the time has come.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I’m proud to rise today to speak in favour of this bill, and “proud” is an important word here. By taking a stand with this bill, we are showing pride in our diversity. We’re showing that we’re proud of every single Ontarian, no matter their gender identity, no matter their gender expression, but more importantly, by showing that we’re proud, we’re taking a stand against shame. We’re taking a stand against stigma and discrimination. We’re saying to trans people of all ages that they should never be ashamed of who they are and that they should never be made to feel that way; and to young people who may be struggling with their gender identity, although you may feel vulnerable, you are protected. You are loved.
I believe that we have an opportunity with this bill to show leadership. It’s the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come along every day. We have the opportunity to move society forward and embrace our responsibility, not just as legislators but as citizens in an open society. We have the opportunity with this bill to recognize the fundamental human rights of a community that is entitled to all of the protections that that affords, a community that is entitled to feel proud of who they are, a community that is entitled to live their lives free from shame and free from the barriers that our society often puts in place for trans people.
As a medical doctor, I know how difficult those barriers can be. They have adverse effects on the health of trans people, whether it’s their physical health or their mental health. Our profession, the medical profession, views being trans as a normal part of the human condition. Many of my colleagues in the medical profession work with many trans people through these very important transitions in their lives.
As an elected official and as a legislator, it is my belief that the laws must reflect and protect the normalcy, dignity and humanity of my transgender friends in the same way that my profession, the medical profession, treats and respects this extraordinary community.
As someone who spends each day fully invested in helping our children and youth meet their full potential, I know how important it is for us as legislators to take a stand today against shame and tear down those barriers, fight that stigma, tell young people struggling with gender identity that nothing is wrong with them. Instead, let’s say to that young person, “You are not alone. You are protected. You are loved.”
I want to thank the authors of this bill today for taking that stand, and I want to encourage all members of this Legislature to join us in recognizing the fundamental human rights of all Ontarians, no matter their gender identity.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?
Mrs. Jane McKenna: Thank you to the member from Whitby–Oshawa and, of course, the members from Parkdale–High Park and Ottawa Centre.
I have said before that I believe we are all God’s children. I firmly believe this to be so. I have said before repeatedly that no one should suffer discrimination or persecution because of who they are and the road they walk in this life. We pride ourselves on being a modern society, a progressive place. We aspire to the ideas enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the idea that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”; that all people are entitled to these rights “without distinction of any kind”; that “all are equal before the law and are entitled … to equal protection of the law,” without discrimination.
We celebrate the home-grown beauty of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, under which “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice;” and under which “every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination….”
And yet, under the current language of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the equalities and freedoms that most of us enjoy, and which far too many of us take for granted, are spelled out clearly for some and are implied for others. Bill 33 addresses that shortcoming. It amends the Human Rights Code to specify that every person has a right to equal treatment without discrimination because of gender identity or gender expression with respect to services, goods and facilities; accommodations; contracting; employment; and membership in a trade union, trade or occupational association or self-governing profession. The bill also amends the code to specify that every person has a right to be free from harassment because of gender identity or gender expression with respect to accommodation and employment.
There is widespread agreement in legal circles that transgender and transsexual persons, or trans people, are implicitly protected by the Human Rights Code. But because this protection is not specifically laid out in the code, discrimination cases that come before a tribunal suffer because of the fuzziness and the lack of clear historical precedence. It can be a vicious circle. Cases drag on and on. Discrimination seems to carry with it no real consequences, which can lead to an increase in discrimination and, in turn, more discrimination cases being filed.
Beyond the cost that comes with gridlock at the tribunal level, there is also a cost in terms of lost social equality. If we truly want all Ontarians to enjoy these fundamental rights and freedoms, they should be extended to all Ontarians.
We in this House might understand more than most how tenderly the spirit of legislation is often treated. We know how common it is for people to honour only the outline of the letter of the law and no more. Maybe there are some areas where we can resign ourselves to that reality. Human rights isn’t one of them. The idea that anyone should be denied the full scope of freedoms, rights and protections that others enjoy as a birthright, even though they could even be identical twins, strikes me as a little bit inconsistent.
The need to specify this detail is even more apparent when you consider the Liberal government’s lacklustre track record on human rights enforcement. But setting that aside, it is an issue of equality and fairness, and of walking the walk when it comes to constitutional rights and freedoms.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?
Mr. Jonah Schein: I am genuinely happy and proud to stand up here today and speak to this issue. There are days in this Legislature when I feel worried that we’re not making progress, worried that this Legislature does not function. But I’m happy to stand and support Toby’s Act today.
I worked in the city for a long time as a social worker before I was elected. I was a volunteer counsellor at The 519 in Toronto. I’ve seen the health issues that face the trans community in the city and the prejudice that people experience, and this is a small step but a very important step moving forward.
I think it’s incredibly important to recognize activists for this work. It’s inspiring to me to see you here, whatever your cause is, because in many ways you have the hardest work to do. You’ve taken on one of the hardest causes to fight, but see that it matters. We can’t do it without you, and that’s the truth. Whatever the issue is, we need activists, we need people, we need everyday Ontarians to stand up and say what’s right and what’s important, and to come into this House and explain to people here that every single person in this province matters. So I thank you for that.
It’s incredible to me to knock on doors in Davenport and see young people who are LGBT and young trans people. There weren’t trans kids that I knew about when I was a kid, and to see the older folks—you have done the work to make it easier to be a trans kid today, and I think that younger people have you to thank for that too. It speaks for the entire queer community that the doors have been broken down in many ways, and that’s a huge tribute to you.
I want again to thank all members of the House for working together on this. It’s inspiring. I’m frustrated by the pace of progress. I’m frustrated that it has taken this long. But President Obama in the United States finally came out yesterday in support of gay marriage. That’s a good step. That’s an important step.
I do want to recognize the member from Parkdale–High Park for championing this issue. She does it because no matter what the politics are, she knows that it’s social justice that’s important, that it’s people all over this province who are important. She’s gone out on a limb to do that, and I’m glad that we’re seeing change here today.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?
Hon. Glen R. Murray: I always try not to be emotional when I talk about these things, but every time we get into this, I’m always taken back to the worst moments in my life. Growing up as a gay man, as a gay kid, when everyone thought you were straight until they discovered you were gay, I didn’t understand what prejudice was, because when everyone thought I was a straight kid, I didn’t feel much of it. But I remember that when I was in my mid-teens, all of a sudden I was dealing with a level of hatred. Telling my father this news about me—I spoke about this when we were talking about Bill 13—and then not having my father talk to me for three years was very hard for a young person.
I try to imagine if I went to my father and said, “Dad, I know you think I’m a boy, but I’m actually a girl.” I think the consequences would have been much more severe than him not talking to me, and our eventual reconciliation and the very close relationship I had with this extraordinarily lovely and honest man.
So, in our entire complex gay, lesbian, transgender—just human—family, it’s the “T” that is the most courageous, and to all of you, thank you very much. I cannot imagine the courage it takes to be you. You are an inspiration beyond the transgender community to every young person who feels different and thinks it’s impossible to ever have a great and healthy life with love and respect. You are a shining example of the very best of humanity by the simple acts of courage of saying, “I and we,” and coming down today as courageous people.
Émile Zola and Hannah Arendt are two of my heroes. I know, with my friend Cheri, and Rosario—happy birthday, Rosario—I want to thank you. I want to thank all of you: Yasir, Christine, Julia, all of you who have spoken—my friend Kathleen, and Eric and Laurel, who have worked so hard in our caucus.
I want to acknowledge as well that Bill 13, which is now before committee, actually has gender identity and expression in it. We’re actually moving this already in law, so hopefully. But this will be a historic day.
For me, there’s two things I want to say in 30 seconds. One, it’s the first time in my life my straight friends are leading this. I’m the caboose in this parade. But it’s a young Muslim guy and a nice United Church preacher who aren’t gay. I represent that.
The second thing is, in my last 10 seconds, the most important thing is not what happens today, but what happens next, getting this through committee and back here and every one of us not ever hiding that we’re supporting this.
I’m going to the mosques in my community. I’m going to people who I think might be most afraid of this and spending my time explaining why this is a good thing in the coming weeks. God bless. Thank you.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate.
Mr. Rod Jackson: Speaker, it’s a great pleasure to stand here before everybody today and speak in support of Bill 33, Toby’s Act. This is, as the member from Parkdale–High Park mentioned, the fourth time this bill has passed through, but this is the first time it’s been co-sponsored by members from each party, which I think speaks to the strength of it and it speaks to the need to do what this bill does.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the member from Parkdale–High Park, the member from Ottawa Centre and our own member from Whitby–Oshawa for bringing this forward. It takes a certain amount of courage, too, to be a voice for those that don’t have their own in this House, especially on subjects that can be as contentious as this one.
There are so many people who are marginalized and vulnerable in our community. I think, as the minister just mentioned, this is one of the most courageous groups, one of the ones that will have the most difficulty, and I’m proud to stand here today to try to get this bill forwarded. I mean, four times—hopefully this thing has done enough mileage that we’ll see the light of day on this one.
If my memory serves, when this bill was last introduced in 2010, the Attorney General at the time rejected the bill on the basis that transgendered people’s rights are already protected under the code. However, it’s necessary, I believe, to further these protections, to clarify the protections in the act. Speaker, it would certainly do no harm.
The purpose of Toby’s Act is to explicitly state that transgendered people are entitled to the same human rights protection offered to all Ontarians, regardless of their race, creed, religion, colour, sexual orientation or sexual identity.
Along with the deterrent regulatory functions, law also has an expressive function. It’s twofold. First, scholars from academic institutions around the world have produced empirical data and theoretical bases supporting the position that law can affect people’s behaviour beyond deterrence. Law can change the way we interact within our own communities. By explicitly stating that every Ontarian is entitled to the same human rights protection, regardless of their gender identity and orientation, we can reduce the amount of hidden discrimination facing transgendered people. Second, the ties we wear, the cars we drive, the charities we donate to, the political parties we belong to, are expressions of who we are and what we value as individuals. Similarly, the laws that we pass in this chamber are expressions of who we are as Ontarians and what we value and cherish as a community.
By passing Toby’s Act, we’re sending a clear message that we as a community are standing up for the rights of everyone in this great province by reaffirming our continued effort to combat all forms of prejudice and discrimination.
Since the Conservative Party, led by Premier Robarts, enacted the Human Rights Code in 1961, our province has made leaps and bounds in recognizing and protecting the human rights of people and the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.
Toby Dancer’s tragedy is something to be remembered. We have to also remember that the dignity, respect and the heart and soul that we all have is shared by everybody, regardless of their gender, regardless of their identity, and everybody deserves to learn from each other and to move forward with the knowledge that we all have something to share, no matter what our race, creed, colour, religion or sexual identity is.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?
Mme France Gélinas: Je voulais ajouter ma voix à celle de ceux et celles qui ont parlé avant moi pour expliquer ce qu’on essaie de faire aujourd’hui avec le projet de loi 33. Le projet de loi 33 va modifier le Code des droits de la personne pour qu’on ajoute non seulement que la discrimination ne peut pas se faire au sujet de l’orientation sexuelle, mais qu’elle ne peut pas se faire non plus au sujet de l’identité sexuelle ou l’expression sexuelle. [Google Translate Provides: I wanted to add my voice to those who have spoken before me to explain what we are trying to do today with Bill 33. Bill 33 will amend the Code of Rights for which not only adds that discrimination can not be about sexual orientation, but it can not be done either on gender identity or gender expression.]
Donc, que l’on parle des droits du travail, au logement, à un contrat, d’avoir le droit d’exercer sa profession sans harcèlement et sans discrimination, bien, le projet de loi 33 va rajouter à ça l’identité sexuelle ainsi que l’orientation sexuelle. On a parlé beaucoup de ce que ça veut dire d’être trans en Ontario. Ce n’est pas toujours facile. Je peux parler pour mon comté. La communauté LGBTTQ n’est pas très grande. [Google Translate Provides: So that we speak of labor rights, housing, contracts, have the right to practice his profession free of harassment and discrimination, well, Bill 33 will add to that thesexual identity and sexual orientation. We talked a lot about what it means to betrans in Ontario. It’s not always easy. I can speak for my riding. LGBTTQ communityis not very large.]
We have lots to learn from the First Nations. One of the beautiful teachings that the First Nations brings is this acceptance of the two-spirited world. When you go to a powwow—I don’t know if any of you down here have had the opportunity, but I actually attend quite a few of them—the two-spirited are very easy to spot. They are some of the leaders, and they’re easy to see because they will wear different colours. All of their costumes and all of their dancing are done as two. So half of their feathers will be one colour; the other half of their head feathers will be a different colour. And the way they dance is very different because they are looked upon as gifted because they are two-spirited. It’s always my pleasure to share with you that, although I am very much in favour of LGBTQ, I always say “LGBTTQ” so we don’t forget the two-spirited people.
Ça me fait toujours plaisir d’ajouter ma voix et de rappeler aux gens que les petits pas qu’on fait ici, ce sont des pas qui peuvent nous amener sur un long chemin. Les gens de la communauté trans du nord de l’Ontario n’ont pas la vie facile. J’aimerais remercier Rita et Sky, qui sont deux membres de la communauté trans de Sudbury, qui ont vraiment mené le bal. [Google Translate Provides: It always makes me happy to add my voice and remind people that small step taken here, these are steps that can bring us a long way. People of the trans community in northern Ontario do not have the easy life. I want to thank Rita andSky, who are both members of the trans community of Sudbury, who really led the way.]
On a un bar gay à Sudbury; ça s’appelle Zig’s. Mais toute la communauté de Sudbury est invitée. Ils ont le meilleur karaoké à Sudbury, si jamais vous êtes intéressés, et il y a beaucoup de partage qui se fait là et il y a beaucoup de positif qui se fait là. Mais dans la vie de tous les jours, on a la chance de leur rendre la vie un petit peu plus facile parce que, comme mon collègue a dit, lorsque tu annonces à ta famille que, vraiment, tu as l’air d’un homme, tu as une barbe, tu as des gros muscles, tu as la grosseur d’un homme, mais vraiment dans toutes les cellules de ton coeur et de ton corps tu es une femme, ce n’est pas une décision facile à partager. Les gens qui ont eu à vivre ça ont eu de la difficulté. [Google Translate Provides: It was a gay bar in Sudbury, it’s called Zig’s. But the entire community is invited toSudbury. They have the best karaoke in Sudbury, if you’re ever interested, andthere are a lot of sharing that takes place there and there are many positive is happening there. But in everyday life, we have the chance to make their lives a little easier because, as my colleague said, when you announce to your family, really,you look like a man, you have a beard, you have big muscles, you have the size of a man, but really in all cells of your heart and your body you are a woman, it’s not an easy decision to share . People who have had to live that have struggled.]
Là, je vois ma collègue qui me regarde. C’est parce qu’elle veut que je lui laisse du temps. [Google Translate Provides: There I see my colleague who looks at me. This is because she wants me to leave him time.]
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: I’m so humbled by listening to all of this. A couple of points that need to be made: It has been insinuated—not here, but it has been directly said and insinuated in other places—that we don’t need explicit wording, gender identity and gender expression, in the Ontario Human Rights Code. I want to tell you that I’m old enough to remember as a young person fighting for sex, for gender itself, in the Ontario Human Rights Code. I remember being told, “But the word ‘man’”—do we all remember this? —“the word ‘man’ covers everyone.” Do we remember that as women? The word “man” covers everyone. But we fought for the explicit: “No, we need ‘sex’ in the Ontario Human Rights Code.” Those were the days of “Help wanted: male” and “Help wanted: female.”
We’ve come a long way since then. We’ve come a long way, and it’s a good way. We live in a kinder and gentler place. We live in a better place. One of the most humbling experiences of this afternoon, I think, is to look around this Legislature and to see this Legislature at its very best, and that is that all people agree on this. Thank goodness we live in Ontario and Canada. I feel extremely proud to be an Ontarian and a Canadian today, because we stand for justice and we all stand for human rights. We have seen the “progressive” in Progressive Conservative today, we have seen true liberals in the Liberal Party today, and we’ve seen true democrats in the New Democratic Party. I have to say, the “party” part will come later, when we all celebrate after.
I want to thank, in particular, Susan Gapka and Martine Stonehouse—those are the two people who jump out at me when I think about this—and others. I don’t want to leave anybody out again. I can tell you that Susan Gapka has visited all of us. We all know Susan, and she has been on this issue for a long, long time. When I think of a good lobbyist—that is to say, not one with money, not one with power and influence but one with just dogged determination to do what’s right and to fight for social justice—I mention Susan Gapka. So, Susan Gapka, absolutely, and Martine and all the rest of you. Absolutely.
Yes, I can certainly say that we also do Toby Dancer proud today—Toby, whose other name was Adrian Chornowol, so if you look her up under the male name, you’ll find her production assets and her creative genius writ large in music history in Canada. But again, we knew her as Toby Dancer. And when we buried Toby Dancer—Toby always dressed in jeans and T-shirts; Toby was not a flashy dresser—under those jeans was a little black miniskirt, and that’s how she wanted to be buried. That image of Toby—long grey hair, playing the piano; absolutely a woman in every sense of the word; absolutely a social justice activist; absolutely ahead of her time; and absolutely a person who struggled with demons we can only fear and imagine—all of those go into this bill. Toby goes into this bill, and today Toby’s here. There’s no question: Toby’s here.
All of those who have died, all of those who have attempted suicide, all of those who struggle with depression, all of those in the trans community: They’re here in spirit too. So it’s not just two-spirited; it’s multi-spirited here today. We are surrounded by a crowd of witnesses—a cloud of witnesses—who watch what we do, who admire what we do and who say, “Thank you for putting aside, just for a moment, partisan differences. Thank you for putting aside all of those things that”—and, quite frankly, we should celebrate those differences. Isn’t it great that we’re different, even here?
But just for this afternoon, we come together as one to say: We need to save lives here. We need to include a group that has been excluded for a long, long time in the Ontario Human Rights Code. And I think we’re going to do it. I think we’re actually going to pass this. And call me optimistic, but I think it’s going to go in and out of committee very quickly so that all of us—particularly the members from Ottawa Centre and Whitby–Oshawa, those brave folk—will be standing in our Pride parades and celebrating that Ontario is, unfortunately, not the first—Northwest Territories was—but, hey, almost the first province in Canada to have gender identity and gender expression in the Ontario Human Rights Code. That’s what it’s about today.
Brothers and sisters—and I say that truly meaning “brothers and sisters”—thank you for your support. Thank you all for your courage and your bravery. Finally, thank you, for the activists. Absolutely, absolutely. And thank you for doing what you do, everyone.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): We will deal with the vote at the end of regular business.