I was in Parliament on November 18th, to attend the vote on the third reading of Bill C-16 in the House of Commons. Three years ago, I was here watching the same for the failed precursor of C-16, Bill C-279.
I was there with activists from Gender Mosaic, who deserve much credit for their work in advancing this bill and its precursors. While waiting to enter the House of Commons we were greeted by MP Randy Boissonault, the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 Issues.
There was almost no one sitting in the House of Commons. At one point, I counted only five MPs visible from the gallery. At another point, when an MP was speaking on the bill, the speaker of the house was on his phone, and only a single other MP was actually listening. Whatever was said that day was for the benefit of posterity or the public record, but not for the people in attendance.
There were long speeches. Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin and NDP MP Randall Garrison came to visit us in the gallery. Randall Garrison is the one who introduced the previous incarnations to Bill C-16, Bill C-279. This parliamentary session, previous to Bill C-16 being introduced, he worked on another private member’s bill that would have done the same thing, adding pressure to the Liberals to introduce their version as a government bill. The result was Bill C-16.
I listened to the speeches. Conservative MP Michelle Rempel gave a speech that ended with this bit, which had me in tears:
I especially want to thank the trans activists who have lived through this discrimination, through the upheaval of transition, through the upheaval of guilt or confusion over knowing their truth is something different than what society pressures them to be. While they have lived through that, they have had to sit through years of committee meetings, while their sexual behaviours have been questioned. They have stood up against intolerance and in doing so, they have sustained Canada’s pluralism.
They deserve our thanks, and they also deserve an apology for when we have failed them in the past.
There was some opposition, and the name of Jordan Peterson came up with the suggestion that recognizing trans rights would undermine free speech. Opposition though was really insignificant, a welcome reprieve from previous debates around Bill C-279 or Bill C-389.
Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall proposed a motion so that the bill would not pass third reading, but be send back to committee. Then came the vote for the motion. It was done by whichever side could yell “yay” or “nay” the loudest. The motion to send the bill back to committee did not pass. Then the Conservative MPs tried to force a vote where each MP would stand up and individually say “yay” or “nay”, which would have pushed the rest of the deliberations to next week. They needed 5 people to stand up. They had 4. Then with no fanfare and no pause the vote for third reading came. The “yay” side had it, it passed.
It was so quick, I wasn’t even sure that this was the vote for third reading. I had to keep listening to see that they had moved onto something else. Here’s a clip of the vote:
An hour later, MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, who held a press release for C-16’s introduction but was absent on this third reading, released the following statement:
Today, I am very proud that Bill C-16 has passed the House of Commons. This Bill would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. It also proposes to amend the Criminal Code to add gender identity or expression to the definition of “identifiable group” for the purpose of the hate propaganda offences and to the list of aggravating circumstances for hate-crime sentencing.
All Canadians should feel safe to be themselves. Our strength as a nation lies in our diversity and our inclusiveness. It is our responsibility to recognize and reduce the vulnerability of trans and other gender-diverse persons to discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crimes, and to affirm their equal status in Canadian society.
I am pleased that so many Members of Parliament supported this important piece of legislation and I look forward to working with the Senate as it continues through Parliament.
After the bill passed, we exited the gallery. MP Randal Garrison came by to congratulate us and briefly chat, before he went off on a flight home. Then the lot of us went to D’Arcy McGee’s for a late lunch.