Bathroom bill or potty panic?
The House of Commons is debating a bill to specifically include the transgendered in the Human Rights Act since they are the most victimized demographic in Canada, according to proponents.
Opponents say it would allow men to dress as women for bathroom peeping purposes. And that argument has led some in the LGBT media to accuse opponents of “potty panic.”
The discord caused Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod to ask her constituents to weigh in on her website.
In 2011, McLeod voted against the bill’s previous incarnation, Bill C-389, before it was killed when an election was call.
Last week, she supported the new version at second reading to allow it to go to a parliamentary standing committee for further study before returning to the House.
“It’s going to take a few months before going to final vote, which is why I think it’s important to get feedback now,” she said.
Bill C-279, first put forward by NDP MP Randall Garrison in June 2012, seeks to amend the Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to specify gender identity.
“Transgendered Canadians are the most discriminated against,” said Garrison during a House of Commons speech last week.
“In Canada, the rate of hate crimes against transgendered Canadians is very high, but even more shocking is the fact that transgendered Canadians are the group most likely to suffer hate crimes involving violence.”
McLeod is sure to hear from Kari Bepple, the Kamloops Safe Spaces co-ordinator for Interior Community Services.
Safe Spaces is a youth-driven service offering weekly group meetings for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered youth aged 16 to 25. A trans group also meets when needed.
“There is a large number of youth who identify in this group that are verbally harassed and bullied on a daily basis and as a result are at a greater risk of suicide,” said Bepple.
“Some have been turned away by their families and friends, quit school due to constant bullying and have been denied rights like housing and access to gender neutral washrooms for safety reasons.”
Some of McLeod’s party colleagues are not so conciliatory as to hear out these arguments.
Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla, spoke out against the bill in last week’s debate.
Detractors take a two-fold approach. First, they say the amendment is redundant since the Human Rights Act already addresses discrimination based on gender.
Other opponents equate trans women with pedophiles. A few Conservative MPs have said the amendment will enable male sexual predators to dress as women and enter bathrooms.
This argument led opponents to dub it “the bathroom bill.”
“Imagine the trauma that a young girl would face going into a washroom or a change room at a public pool and finding a man there,” said Ontario Conservative MP Dean Allison.
Bepple rejects the argument wholeheartedly. She pointed to the NDP’s reported research of U.S. jurisdictions where trans human rights protection amendments are already in place.
“California, Iowa, Colorado and the state of Washington,” said Garrison in the House of Commons last week. “All of them reported the same thing: there have been no instances in any of those states of attempts to use the protections for transgendered people for illegal or illegitimate purposes — no incidents, zero, none.”
“This is not a ‘bathroom’ bill,” said Bepple. “It is a moral and ethical issue of human rights being denied to a vulnerable population of Canadians.”