Canada’s Bill C-16: Adding Gender Identity to Human Rights Code and Criminal Code

(Jordan Peterson before the Canadian Senate on Bill C-16)

June 19, 2017, Bill C-16 received royal assent, becoming law. In a nutshell, amended both the Canadian Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Code to include “gender identity or expression” to the books.

For the Criminal Code, it added “gender identity or expression” to the list of protected groups which violence against would be viewed as a hate crime (if that were the motivation for the offence.

For the Human Rights Code, “gender identity or expression” would be added to the list of protected grounds which discrimination against would be illegal.

In the above video, Professor Jordan Peterson (University of Toronto), claims that this bill will lead to “compelled speech”, and that the wording leaves the possibility that it will be abused. There are obvious flaws with the bill (more on that later). But here are the quotes from the HRC and CC, both before and after.

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ORIGINAL

2 The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

R.S., 1985, c. H-6, s. 2; 1996, c. 14, s. 1; 1998, c. 9, s. 9; 2012, c. 1, s. 137(E); 2017, c. 3, ss. 9, 11, c. 13, s. 1.

REPLACEMENT
Canadian Human Rights Act

1998, c. 9, s. 9; 2012, c. 1, s. 137(E)

1 Section 2 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is replaced by the following:

Purpose

2 The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

1996, c. 14, s. 2; 2012, c. 1, s. 138(E)

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ORIGINAL

3 (1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

REPLACEMENT

2 Subsection 3(1) of the Act is replaced by the following:

Prohibited grounds of discrimination

3 (1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

R.‍S.‍, c. C-46

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Criminal Code

ORIGINAL

(4) In this section, identifiable group means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 318; 2004, c. 14, s. 1; 2014, c. 31, s. 12.

REPLACEMENT

3 Subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code is replaced by the following:

Definition of identifiable group

(4) In this section, identifiable group means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability.

1995, c. 22, s. 6

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ORIGINAL

(i) evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor,

REPLACEMENT

4 Subparagraph 718.‍2(a)‍(i) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(i) evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor,

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Now for the problems:

First, what exactly is “gender identity”? On the surface, it seems to imply transgendered/transsexual people, who are actually “transitioning” from one sex to another. However, the bill fails to define or clarify this. Is it a transitioning person? Do they have to have completed it? Is there a certain standard?

Second, what exactly is “expression”, in the context it is being used? Would drag kings/queens or performers fall into this category? Is it someone who just dresses or acts in a less than usual manner? For this to be included into human rights and criminal code legislation, the wording needs to far more clear?

Third, if a person chooses to identify as anything other than male or female, are others obligated to address them as such?

Fourth, in terms of “having their needs accommodated” (with respect to the human rights code), what does this mean? Again, without specifying whether a person is actually transgender or just doing this temporarily, how would any employer or school be expected to be able to comply? Likewise, when looking at the wording “… without being hindered in or prevented from”, this is impossible to comply with, without more information.

Fifth, and regarding the Criminal Code, this seems incredibly dangerous to add. Hate crime laws are often not a good idea (as identity seems to be more important than the actual offence). But here, adding the vague wording “gender identity or expression” as a means of increasing a sentence does not seem wise.

Sixth, will these laws stifle legitimate concern and debate on the issue of transgenderism? The health and societal considerations — not to mention high suicide rates — are of a public concern to discuss. The science of “gender dysphoria“, the underlying medical condition, is still far from settled. If open discussion and debate can be viewed as “hate speech” or as “discrimination”, will this have a chilling effect on free speech?

Seventh, and referring to the above Peterson video, is gender supposed to be viewed from a biological or sociological perspective? (See the video).

Again, if this were specifically meant to protect individuals transitioning, and/or those with gender dysphoria, it would be a lot easier to support. However, the wording seems vague, and open to misinterpretation.

The public at large seems apprehensive about these changes, and with good reason.

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