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Panic over a new Canadian law
to protect transgender persons:

Transgender demonstration  1

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For almost a decade, various amendments to the federal Human Rights Act and Criminal Code had been proposed to protect transgender individuals and transsexuals in Canada. Some such bills had been introduced into -- and passed by -- the House of Commons. However, the Canadian Senate -- many of whose members were appointed by previous conservative governments -- had always killed them, until mid-2017.

Bill C-16 was introduced into the Canadian Parliament during 2016-MAY by the ruling Liberal Party. It was passed by the House of Commons in October by a vote of 248 to 40. 4 It was subsequently passed by the Senate with a vote of 67 to 14 and became law on 2017-JUN-19 -- a little less than two weeks before Canada's 150th anniversary. The bill amends two sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect individuals on the basis of their personal gender expression and/or gender identity. It also amends two sections of the Criminal Code of Canada that deal with hate propaganda, incitement to genocide, and aggravating factors in sentencing persons who have already been found guilty or pleaded guilty to a criminal act.

In all cases, the amendments simply add the phrase "gender identity or expression," to an existing list of protected groups, that already included: race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

It is very important to realize that in order for a person to be charged under these new phrases in the Criminal Code of Canada, they must first have committed a discriminatory act against one or more transgender persons. For example:

  • A landlord refusing rental accommodation,
  • Staff at a retail store or other provider of goods and services refusing to serve a person,
  • Inciting hatred against individuals, or
  • Promoting genocide against individuals,

on the basis of of the victim's gender identity or expression.

Human rights laws in Canada work very differently to those in the U.S. In many cases, a single federal law that is passed by the Canadian Parliament and given royal assent will affect people in all ten provinces and three territories. In comparison, similar matters In the U.S., often require that separate laws be passed in each state. This became obvious with gay marriage in 2005 when the Parliament of Canada passed Bill C-38. It legalized same-sex marriage across all of Canada. In the U.S., gay marriages were initially legalized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts during 2004. During the next 11 years, they were gradually made available in 38 additional states, the District of Columbia and the Territory of Guam. The U.S. Supreme Court finally issued its ruling in the lawsuit Obergefell v. Hodges in mid-2015, and legalized gay marriage across the country with the exception of American Samoa. (Most people in that territory are considered American residents, not American citizens. Thus decisions by the High Court do not necessarily apply to them.)

The amendments added phrases -- shown in blue below-- to:

  • The Canadian Human Rights Act:
    • Section 2 now states:

      "... 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."

    • Subsection 3(1) now states:

      "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." 2

  • The Criminal Code of Canada:
    • Subsection 318(4) now states:

      "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."

    • Subparagraph 718.‍2(a)‍(i) now states:

      "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." 2

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About transgender individuals and transsexuals:

A newborn's sex is typically identified by visual inspection of her or his body at birth, and is subsequently registered in the hospital records and on their birth certificate. A small percentage of children become transgender later in life and identify their sex differently from their birth-identified sex. Most sincerely view themselves as being of the opposite gender from that which appears on their birth certificate. In some cases this gender identity extends into adulthood. So, a "MTF" transgender person who was identified as male at birth will generally identify herself as female later in life, and will often adopt a female name and ask to be referred to as female, using personal pronouns like "she" and "her." The opposite is true of FTM transgender persons. A minority will identify as neither gender, intermediate between male and female, or switch between both genders from time to time.

Researchers have found structures in human brains that typically come in one of two sizes and neuron densities: one in male and the other in female brains. A transgender person identified as male at birth and who now identifies as female will generally be found to have female brain structures, and vice-versa. When they say that they have the brain of one gender, and the body of the opposite gender, their statement is literally true.

Many religious and social conservatives consider transgender person to be simply "gender confused." They are viewed as being need of prayer and/or counseling. Many blame incompetent or manipulative parenting, or sex-ed classes in schools as the cause of their confusion. Some conservatives prefer to call transgender persons by their birth-identified/biological gender, personal pronouns, and birth name while ignoring the wishes of the transgender person to be called according to their current identity.

Some reactions to the new Canadian law:

  • Some favored the law:
    • Before the bill arrived at the Senate, Senator Grant Mitchell, a Conservative, said:

      "[There’s an argument] that transgender identity is too subjective a concept to be enshrined in law because it is defined as an individual’s deeply felt internal experience of gender. Yet we, of course, accept outright that no one can discriminate on the basis of religion, and that too is clearly a very deeply subjective and personal feeling." 3

    • Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Liberal party, said:

      "Great news. Bill C-16 has passed the Senate – making it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity or expression." 3

    • Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Liberal party, said:

      "Proud that Bill C-16 has passed in the Senate. All Canadians should feel #FreeToBeMe." 3

    • Fae Johnstone, a MTF (Male To Female) transgender activist who promoted the bill, said:

      "Proving human rights cases has an extremely high burden of proof. The bill, frankly, was largely symbolic -- but a needed piece of symbolism." 6

  • At least one person had mixed views on the law:
    • Senator Linda Frum from the Conservative party, said:

      "I voted in favour of Bill C-16 because it is obvious that in a just society transgendered [sic] individuals should enjoy the same protections as everyone else. ..."

      "By amending the Criminal Code and Human Rights Act to include the words 'gender expression' as protected grounds (as opposed to 'transgender' as protected grounds) Bill C-16 effectively redefines what it means to be a woman from something biological to something defined by external appearance. ..."

      "It is guaranteed that it will be only a short matter of time before C-16 triggers litigation that will place a financial and legal burden on women who will need to prove that biological women (and transitioned transgendered [sic] women) have a right to women's only safe spaces and the right to sex-segregated activities.

      These safe spaces include prison cells, elder care facilities, abuse shelters or other intimate residential environments reserved for women." 5

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  • Some opposed the law; some were panicked:
    • In advance of the Senate vote, Professor Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto addressed the Senators in 2017-MAY, saying:

      "Compelled speech has come to Canada. We will seriously regret this. ... Ideologues are ... using unsuspecting and sometimes complicit members of the so-called transgender community to push their ideological vanguard forward. The very idea that calling someone a term that they didn’t choose causes them such irreparable harm that legal remedies should be sought [is] an indication of just how deeply the culture of victimization has sunk into our society." 7

    • Jeff Gunnarson, vice president of Campaign Life Toronto, a pro-life group/anti-abortion, said:

      "This tyrannical bill is nothing but social engineering to the nth degree, all in the name of political correctness." 7

    • Jack Fonseca, senior political strategist of Campaign Life, said:

      "Mark my words, this law will not be used as some sort of ‘shield’ to defend vulnerable transsexuals, but rather as a weapon with which to bludgeon people of faith and free-thinking Canadians who refuse to deny truth [about gender]."

    • Matthew Bernstein wrote an article in the Teddy Stick web site titled with the frightening heading: "Prison Time Handed Out For Using 'Wrong Gender Pronoun' As Bill Becomes Law." 8 The title is a prediction that the author is making. However, the phrase "handed out" implies that prison sentence(s) have already been been assigned because someone has referred to a MTF transgender person as a "he," or vice versa. This has not happened. Many casual observers will probably believe that some Canadians are rotting in jail already. He wrote:

      "Thanks to their new law passed, Canadians that fail to subscribe to progressive gender theory could be jailed with hate crime charges. In other words, accidentally saying 'he' instead of 'she' means jail and fines." 8

    • Rob Shimshock, writing for Liberty Headlines, wrote that the new law makes:

      "... it illegal to use the wrong gender pronouns. Critics say that Canadians who do not subscribe to progressive gender theory could be accused of hate crimes, jailed, fined, and made to take anti-bias training." 3

    • Other articles on the Internet that broadcast the false belief that "Canadians could be jailed or fined for using incorrect gender pronouns" can be read at Life Site News 7 The Daily Signal 9 The Daily Caller 10 and other conservative web sites.

    • A U.S. reader of the article in Liberty Headlines posted a comment to the article using the pseudonym "original ancestry." They said:

      "Maybe we should build that wall so the stupidity doesn't oooze [sic] over into our country. But first let's move the stupidity north where these ignorant, leftist, sick Individuals in America will fit right in. Than [sic] build the wall. Hey it will be like killing two birds witn [sic] one stone. The best of two worlds. Sick individuals gone from USA and a wall. Nice." 3

    • Another U.S. reader, Eileen Ross, posted:

      "I've been saying all along that there should be a separate island somewhere in order to confine this living garbage. Now we know, Canada!! It may not be an island, but it will do." 7

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Fact checking the assertion that calling a transgender male a "she" (or vice versa) will land you in jail:

There is absolutely nothing in the amendments that would criminalize a person referring to a MTF transgender individual by using the pronouns "he," "his," or "him." Similarly, there is no possibility of a person ending up in prison if they referred to a FTM transgender person -- one identified as female at birth who now identifies as male -- using "she" "her"or "her."

The Parliamentary description of C-16 notes that the amendment changes:

"... the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence."

The author of this essay believes that for a person to refer to a transgender person using the personal pronouns associated with their birth-identified gender might possibly be argued to be committing a biased act, but there is no possibility that it could rise to the level of an "aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence." Calling a MTF adult a male, or referring to them by the pronoun "he" or "his" may be insulting to a transgender person, in the same way that calling a person an idiot would be. But insulting a person is not a criminal offence; it is merely rude.

There is no indication on the Internet about how many people accept the statements by these conservative web sites and are terrifying of going to jail. Hopefully, it is few.

Jack Newsham, writing for CANADALAND said:

"In the same way that people aren’t routinely locked up for using racial slurs, it’s also extremely unlikely they’d be jailed for referring to a trans person who prefers to be called 'they' as 'he' or 'she.' Richard Moon, a professor at the University of Windsor who studies freedom of speech issues, said remarks have got to 'be really extreme in character' before they qualify as criminal hate speech.

Using a pronoun [that] a transgender person doesn’t like, 'as offensive and distasteful as it is, would likely not be something that could be prosecuted under the criminal code,' said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association who runs the group’s equality project. 'I would find it hard to believe' [that] a prosecutor would file charges on that basis, she said." 11

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Related topics in this web site that you may find interesting:

Transgender persons and transsexuals

A very brief explanation of why some people are transgender

Gay marriage in Massachusetts

Gay marriage in American Samoa

Gay marriage in Canada

The U.S. Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Photo by Giuseppe Milo of transgender equality demonstrators at the Dublin gay pride parade in Dublin, Ireland during 2013. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
  2. "Bill C-16: An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, as passed" Parliament of Canada, 2016-OCT-21, at:
  3. Rob Shimshock, "Hate Crimes for Using The Wrong Gender Pronouns in Canada," Liberty Headlines, 2017-JUN-17, at:
  4. "Transgender rights bill passes key Commons vote, heads to committee," The Globe and Mail, 2016-OCT-20, at:
  5. Linda Frum. "The big problem with Canada’s transgender rights bill," The Toronto Sun, 2017-JUN-17, at:
  6. . "For transgender Canadians, Bill C-16 is symbolic—yet meaningful," Macleans, 2017-JUN-19, at:
  7. Lianne Laurence, "BREAKING: Canada passes radical law forcing gender theory acceptance," Life Site News, 2017-JUN-15, at:
  8. Matthew Bernstein, "Prison Time Handed Out For Using 'Wrong Gender Pronoun' As Bill Becomes Law," 2017-JUN-20, at:
  9. Rob Shimshock, "Canadians Could Be Jailed or Fined for Using Incorrect Gender Pronouns," The Daily Signal, 2017-JUN-19, at:
  10. Rob Shimshock, "Canadians Could Face Hate Crimes Over Using The Wrong Gender Pronouns, The Daily Caller, 2017-JUN-16, at:
  11. Jack Newsham, "Fact Check: No, You Won’t Be Jailed For Using The Wrong Pronoun," Canadaland Show, 2016-OCT-07, at:

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Copyright Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2017-JUL-07, on the Summer Solstice.

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