Friday • 2014.06.06
Conservative Senator Caught in Bald-Faced Lie in attack on Human Rights Bill
The Honourable Donald Neil Plett needs to get his facts straight… Or perhaps he was deliberately counting on the ignorance of those who were listening to him speak in yesterday’s Senate debate.
The subject was bill C-279, which would finally give equal human rights protections for Gender Identity at the Federal level in Canada. If it doesn’t advance in Senate debate very soon, it will die when the federal election is called next year.
It’s not the first time that Conservative Canadian legislators, and ministries controlled by them, have resorted to lies and preyed upon fear in order to attack Trans* people, but this is possibly the most graphic and disgusting incident yet. This latest example carries a sharp sinister undertone of threat: once again advancing a dangerous and harmful mythic stereotype of the Conservative mindset, the association of Trans* women with sexual predators.
Trigger warning: sexual assault. Emphasis added.
Honourable senators, in January of 2012, two women — a survivor of domestic violence from Ontario, and a deaf and homeless woman from Quebec — sought solace at the Fred Victor women’s shelter in Toronto. The shelter prides itself in serving as a safe place for women with extremely difficult histories.
After going to sleep one night in this new-found haven, these two women were awoken by a man sexually assaulting them — a convicted rapist. You are probably wondering how this could possibly happen. How did this man sneak into a highly secure shelter and gain access to these women’s bedrooms?
Honourable senators, the fact of the matter is, because of a law in Ontario nicknamed “Toby’s Law,” no sneaking was required. A convicted sex offender named Christopher Hambrook was given access to a women’s shelter, and even women’s bedrooms, because he falsely claimed to be transgender. Hambrook called himself Jessica and was invited in to sleep at the shelter and, in fact, in a bedroom with two women. Requiring no documentation and no background check, he simply said, “I’m Jessica,” and, because of Toby’s Law in Ontario, he was welcomed into a shelter full of vulnerable women — and welcomed with open arms. Toby’s Law in Ontario makes it illegal to discriminate on gender identity. This exists in three provinces in our country and now has the risk of being enacted federally.
Honourable senators, I am asking you to please consider the safety of women and children and vote against Bill C-279.
Let’s do Plett the honour and respect of taking his narrative at face value. The Toronto Sun reported the same story. Two women were attacked and raped in a women’s shelter by a man who had gained access by claiming a Trans* identity. Plett says it happened because of Toby’s Law, Ontario’s Human Rights amendment which included the protected grounds of Gender Identity and Expression.
These attacks occurred in January of 2012. Toby’s Law did not pass into law until five months later, on the 19th of June 2012.
The Fred Victor Women’s Housing Center did not admit Mr. Hambrook because of Toby’s Law (which did not exist at that time). In actual fact, the shelter has been supportive and inclusive of Trans* women for years, and even runs a Trans* support group. Allowing Hambrook access was clearly a tragic mistake, but the policy of accommodating Trans* people is not to blame—a serial raping criminal who lied through his teeth was the problem here.
Remember that a real sexual assault occurred, and we must not in any way minimize the trauma committed upon the two victims. Conservative Senator Donald Neil Plett is taking political advantage of the victimization of these women, jamming it together with his own oppressive agenda against Trans* people, and using vicious lies as the glue to make it stick.
Plett’s logic is a hateful house of cards waiting for the gust of common sense and compassion to knock it down. Consider the following. Because a sick and twisted predator, a man and serial rapist, committed a terrible crime against two women… and because in the course of committing that crime, he falsely claimed a Trans* identity in order to take advantage of accommodation measures in place (secondarily victimizing the Trans* community in the process)… therefore, we must deprive all real Trans* people of their human rights.
Let’s play the “hypothetical scenario” game. Say you run a secure environment, where people need to be searched before being allowed in. One day, a man presents himself as severely disabled, in a wheelchair, but is in actuality fully able-bodied and is only pretending. By taking advantage of accommodative measures provided to those in mobility devices (let’s say, bypassing metal detectors), this man is able to sneak a gun into the venue, subsequently jumping out of his borrowed wheel-chair to go on a shooting rampage harming many and making national news. Solution: Blame Human Rights protections for disabled people, and ban all wheelchairs. Right, Senator Plett?
There’s one more inconvenient truth that Mr. Plett has misrepresented to his fellow Senators and to the Canadian people. The federal Human Rights Act (and by extension, C-279) would not even have jurisdiction over access-to-service policies at urban homeless shelters. As a Senator, he knows this (or he ought to). So even if it were ethically justifiable to suppress the federal human rights of all Trans* people as a measure to prevent these rare criminal occurrences (committed at the hands of lying men), the strategy would not even work. Even if his facts were true, the very premise of his argument is a lie, intended to mislead people into supporting the continued legislative oppression of non-cis people.
Tell this unelected liar what you think of his fearmongering: his contact information is below. But also, write to all Senators (especially the ones from your province) and tell them we need equal human rights protections for Gender Identity now. Support C-279, currently bogged down in the Senate.
Senator Donald Neil Plett – Conservative Party of Canada
Appointed on the advice of: Harper (C)
Telephone: 613-992-0180 or 1-800-267-7362
The Honourable Donald Neil Plett
Room 276, East Block
Ottawa Ontario , K1A 0A4