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July 27, 2015

Trans Rights - Pride 2015

When hundreds of thousands turn out to see the 37th Annual Vancouver Pride Parade, they will not see representatives of Premier Christy Clark's Liberals marching in solidarity to support full and equal rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Participation this year requires signing the TEN (Trans Equality Now) pledge in support of the passage of provincial legislation ensuring Gender Identity and Expression are protected under the BC Human Rights Code.

The Globe and Mail quoted BC Liberal executive director Laura Miller writing in an email: "Vancouver Pride Society has drawn a line in the sand: Sign the pledge or don't march. As much as we might want to participate, we will not change our point of view to do so." The Liberal position, according to Miller and quoted in the Globe, is: "Every individual is equal. Every individual has the right to protection under BC's Human Rights Code, which is inclusive of transgender and gender-variant people. Where we differ is whether these protections need to be explicitly stated." That position is the same as was articulated by Attorney General Susan Anton in the Legislature on July 15. In response to a question from NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, she said: "The issue of gender identity and the human rights code of British Columbia is crystal-clear. Our human rights code protects all persons, no matter what their gender identity is, which I think is the issue at question. It is crystal-clear. The law is crystal-clear. They are protected. We can be proud of that in British Columbia - that our courts have been so clear about that, that we are so clear about that. The protections are there in the human rights code."

A debate has erupted on this matter with some in the media commenting as if anyone who wants to has a right to participate in the Vancouver Pride Society's parade. The Society responded with a release stating:
"The Pride movement started as a protest march to demand our rights as full and equal citizens, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity," says Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) President Tim Richards.
"While substantial gains have been made for Gays and Lesbians, Transgender and Gender-Variant people have been largely left behind," adds Vice-President Chrissy Taylor.
"The TEN Pledge returns the VPS to its roots and the Society is taking a firm and public stance in support of a marginalized part of our community," says Taylor.

If the Liberals are sincere about their position, the worse that could happen from amending BC's Human Rights Code is to introduce redundant language. Chandra Herbert has introduced private members' Bills to amend the Code four times. All he wants to do is add the words "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the prohibited grounds for discrimination in the code. According to research done by the Trans Equality Society of Alberta, seven provinces and territories explicitly protect "gender identity" or "gender identity and gender expression" in their human rights legislation. Links to the Human Rights Codes for those provinces are provided on the Society's website. Why would the BC Liberals resist following the lead of those provinces and simply add the words "gender identify" and "gender expression" to the prohibited grounds for discrimination?

Former Liberal cabinet Minister Colin Hansen appears on the CBC Early Edition on most Monday mornings. On July 27th he attempted to defend the government's position by claiming that adding a specific category such as Chinese to grounds for discrimination could actually weaken the protection for others. Clearly, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland did not find that to be true.

It is more likely that Christy Clark sees some political advantage in resisting amendments to BC's Human Rights Code. She already had other plans for August 2nd rather than participating in the parade, although her office won't say where she will be that day. Chandra Herbert was generous in his remarks saying that he hopes the BC Liberals eventually support his bill.