There is no better weekend than this one, the weekend of Pride, to remember those trans-phobic Members of Parliament from Manitoba who have consistently attempted to thwart the advancement and extension of rights for trans Canadians.
Since 2012, British Columbia NDP MP Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca) has been championing Bill C-279, his effort to extend legal protections for the trans community. Specifically, his bill would do two things: amend the Human Rights Act to include gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination; and, amend the Criminal Code Criminal Code to include gender identity as a distinguishing characteristic protected under section 318 (Hate Propaganda) and as an aggravating circumstance to be taken into consideration under section 718.2 (Principles of Sentencing).
These are, legislatively, minor amendments. And they’re long overdue. Yet, at every step of this bill’s circuitous route through Parliament, it has been the majority of Canada’s Conservative MPs and Senators who have who have steadfastly voted against it. With the exception of Shelly Glover, outgoing Conservative MP for St. Boniface, every Conservative MP from Manitoba voted against Garrison’s bill at every opportunity they were afforded, including former school trustee and Winnipeg South Centre MP Joyce Bateman and now former MP and current Queens’ Bench Justice Vic Toews. Despite overwhelming opposition from the likes of then-Justice Minister Toews, enough Conservative MPs joined their New Democratic, Liberal, Bloc and Green colleagues to send the bill to the Senate in October 2013. It has languished there ever since–thanks in no small measure to Manitoba Conservative Senator Don Plett.
Garrison’s bill has been dubbed “the bathroom bill” by Canada’s worst MP, Rob Anders (Calgary West). (Anders, of course, is most famous for preventing the House of Commons from unanimously conferring honourary citizenship upon Nelson Mandela.) Anders’ efforts to distort the legislation notwithstanding, Manitoba MPs Bateman, Bergen, Bruinooge et alia thought it best to let him be their moral compass on the matter. Telling.
Since it was sent to the Senate in 2013 by a vote of 149 yeas to 137 nays, Manitoba’s Don Plett has taken up where Anders left off: invoking the fear his five-year old granddaughter would feel being in the same washroom as a person who is, as Plett so callously put it, “biologically male.” (Hate, it should be noted, is a learned behaviour.) But Plett didn’t stop there. No, he has also repeatedly suggested Garrison’s bill would empower pedophiles and sexual predators.
In a speech on the floor of the Senate, Plett, speaking of what progress meant to him, said, “it does not include jeopardizing women’s rights to privacy or feelings of safety. It does not include granting men access to women’s bathrooms, change rooms, shelters and sports teams.” He especially went on at length about children’s change rooms, high school locker rooms, and women’s bathrooms, “used by little girls as young as 6.”
Even if Senator Plett genuinely believed Bill C-279 was about public toilets (it isn’t), what he is doing is no less shameful: inferring trans people are sexual offenders and pedophiles. Not unlike previous attempts by the Evangelical set to infer same-sex marriage would lead to bestiality, or that gay men were mentally ill. It’s a shameful tactic by a hateful set.
And on this day, this weekend, Manitobans ought to remember what Don Plett has said and done—and the names of his Conservative colleagues from Manitoba who have aided and abetted his ignorance:
Senator Plett talks about progress. Real progress includes ridding our Parilament of trans-phobia, tossing these bums out at the next election.
Kris Ade is a former political advisor, communications consultant, debate educator and trained chef. You can find him on Twitter at @krisade.