Spencer tables gender identity rights bill for the third time

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 Vancouver MLA tables gender identity rights bill for the third time
Matt Kieltyka/Metro File

The first two times Vancouver-West End NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert introduced a bill to protect gender identity and expression in B.C.’s Human Rights Code, nothing happened.

But he hopes the government will have a change of heart and pass the legislation, which he tabled for the third time on Thursday, the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The bill would involve adding the right to gender identity and expression specifically in the code alongside other clauses such as race, gender and age.

“It does need to be explicit when transgender people face much, much higher levels of violence and discrimination,” Chandra Herbert said.

Nearly 75 per cent of transgender students have been verbally harassed because of their gender identity, 49 per cent have been sexually harassed and 37 per cent have been physically harassed, according to a 2011 national survey by Egale Canada Human Rights.

Transgender people in the workplace do not fare better, according to a 2014 survey by the public service alliance of Canada.

It found that 97 per cent of transgender people have been harassed in their workplace, 26 per cent have lost their job due to gender identity and 10 per cent have attempted suicide.

Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories have all added gender identity to their human rights codes, he added.

Chandra Herbert received “wholehearted” support from his NDP colleagues, the independents and the Green Party’s sole MLA, and said the B.C. Liberals said they would take a look at it.

When he first tabled it in 2009 he never received a response from the government. On his second try in 2011, the minister of justice congratulated him on his work for human rights. He was told the government would consider the addition the next time they addressed the code, but that they had no plans to do so.

Yet he remains optimistic that the new government, elected in 2013, will be more supportive this time.

“I’m hoping we can get action, if not right now, hopefully in the spring,” Chandra Herbert said.