British Columbia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Suzanne Anton, announced on Wednesday, July 20, 2016, that the government will introduce a bill next week to amend British Columbia’s Human Rights Code [Code] to include “gender identity and gender expression” as protected grounds. This announcement reflects a change in the government’s policy, which for years maintained that it was not necessary to amend the Code because the language was already sufficient to protect the rights of transgendered people.
LGBTQ2 advocates had argued previously for the changes for a number of reasons, including that, practically speaking, without express protection, many transgendered people did not know that they were protected from discrimination under the Code and have supported the recent announcement as helping to broaden the understanding of gender identify by incorporating gender identity issues into the education system when children are introduced to the Code at school.
The proposed legislative amendments will bring B.C. into step with other jurisdictions across Canada. The federal government, for example, recently proposed to add gender identity or expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act. Seven other provinces and one territory currently have language protecting the rights of transgendered people in their human rights legislation: Alberta, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan.
Although it appears the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal had no difficulty recognizing and upholding the rights of transgendered people under the Code as it is currently drafted, it may be expected that the proposed legislative amendments will contribute to providing transgendered persons with a greater appreciation of their rights and, hopefully, increase clarity for employers in making sense of complex issues in the workplace.