The Canadian Bar Association
Employment & Labour, Human Rights

Transgender rights to be better expressed, upheld under new bill: Simes

The introduction of a federal bill that would guarantee legal and human rights protection to transgender people is positive but overdue, says Toronto employment and human rights lawyer Nicole Simes.

The legislation would, if passed, make it illegal to prevent someone from getting a job or to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of gender identity or expression. The legislation would also update the Criminal Code to extend hate speech laws to include gender identity and gender expression, the Canadian Press reports. Watch video

“This is a positive move by the federal government. It is overdue as it follows the changes that Ontario made to its Human Rights Code in 2012 to protect transgendered persons,” says Simes, an associate with MacLeod Law Firm.

“The addition of gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act will allow transgendered persons to better express and fight violations of their human rights.”

In the federal context, until now, trans persons who faced discrimination had to fit their claims into sexual orientation or sex discrimination complaints, Simes tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“This did not always accurately reflect their experiences. This addition allows employees or those accessing federal services like airlines and banks to be confident that the human rights legislation clearly protects them and they have a way to fight back should they experience harassment or discrimination.”

As part of her practice, Simes advises transgendered people with regard to human rights laws after the Ontario Human Rights Code was amended in 2012 to include gender identity and expression as protected grounds.

She says the community still often faces blatant discrimination and companies and individuals still need much education as the law continues to evolve.

A survey conducted by Trans Pulse Project in 2010 showed that out of the almost 500 transgender respondents in Ontario, 20 per cent reported having been physically or sexually assaulted, though not all of them reported the assaults to police, the CBC reports.

Another 13 per cent reported being fired and 18 per cent refused a job because they were transgender, according to the survey.

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