Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-06-19 21:56 [p.29445]
Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and I think if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion.
I move:
That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House:
(a) the motion respecting the Senate Amendments to Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous Languages, be deemed adopted;
(b) the motion respecting the Senate Amendments to Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, be deemed adopted;
(c) Bill C-98, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be deemed to have been concurred in at the report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed;
(d) Bill C-101, An Act to amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, be deemed to have been concurred in at the report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed on division; and
(e) when the House adjourns on Thursday, June 20, 2019, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, September 16, 2019, provided that, for the purposes of any Standing Order, it shall be deemed to have been adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28 and be deemed to have sat on Friday, June 21, 2019.
View Carla Qualtrough Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Carla Qualtrough Profile
2018-11-21 15:27 [p.23674]
moved that Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be read the third time and passed.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to stand in the House of Commons for the third reading debate of Bill C-81, the proposed accessible Canada act.
Bill C-81 is, without any doubt, a game-changing piece of legislation for Canada, especially for Canadians with disabilities. It sends a strong message that our government is taking action to advance accessibility and inclusion. We are leading the way to make Canada a barrier-free country for everyone.
I am very proud of all the work we have done getting Bill C-81 this far. We have seen from the debate at second reading that everyone is wholeheartedly invested in presenting the best piece of legislation on accessibility for Canadians. I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and my distinguished colleagues for the work they have done to move this much-anticipated bill forward and for providing their valuable input to make it even better.
I am particularly thankful for the deliberate efforts of the committee to make their hearings accessible, both in person and through televised broadcasts. In addition to the standard captioning, sign language interpretation in ASL and Langue des signes du Québec were consistently available. This allowed more Canadians to have the opportunity to participate in hearings in real time and signalled Parliament's capacity to better incorporate accessibility moving forward.
Perhaps most importantly, I want to recognize the efforts of the disability community to make Bill C-81 happen. More than 55 witnesses testified and many more made written submissions. Groups like the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, which began in 2018 as a partnership of 56 organizations, have shown remarkable inclusive and intersectional leadership.
In particular, I refer to the valuable support and engagement of the alliance's leadership team, Spinal Cord Injury Canada, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society, Communications Disabilities Access Canada, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of the Deaf, the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. These organizations have been with us every step of the way since the beginning of this process. Their continued dedication to help us bring this historic legislation to life knows no bounds. I hope they see themselves in this bill, because it is truly theirs.
From the very first day of consultations right up until our recent committee meetings, we have heard informed and moving testimonies about the struggles that Canadians with disabilities face on a regular basis. We have also consistently heard the same key themes of what our legislation should cover, though sometimes with differing opinions on the approach. These key messages are that this legislation should be ambitious, that it should lead to more consistent experiences of accessibility, that it should apply to all areas of federal jurisdiction, that it should be enforceable, including penalties for non-compliance, and that it should have a mechanism for complaints and oversight.
Each of these key messages serves as the backbone of the proposed act. Bill C-81 creates a framework for developing accessibility standards, establishing and enforcing accessibility requirements and monitoring implementation. This framework is an effort to address barriers to accessibility. The proposed act strikes a balance between bolstering compliance and enforcement measures of existing agencies, such as the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, and creating new roles such as the accessibility commissioner and the chief accessibility officer. This would ensure broader accountability through complaints mechanisms, compliance and systemic monitoring and oversight.
This bill is designed to strengthen the system, better regulate accessibility, and bolster each sector's enforcement capacity and ability to manage complaints. This will help develop a system in which the Government of Canada and the industry are required to anticipate barriers before they can limit access to persons with disabilities.
Our government's objective moving forward is to get Bill C-81 passed. We know that we need to make this bill a law as soon as possible so that we can all get to work on building a truly accessible future for all Canadians.
There are certain things we can all agree on, one being that the realization of a Canada without barriers is long overdue. We all agree that Canadians need this legislation.
The proposed accessible Canada act would enable the creation of three critical new roles that would drive the advancement of accessibility in Canada: the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, the accessibility commissioner as part of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and the chief accessibility officer. I have been pleased to hear the overwhelming support for their creation, as these roles will allow for a Canada without barriers to be realized in an unprecedented way.
The new Canadian accessibility standards development organization, CASDO, would be a forum for technical experts, industry and Canadians with disabilities to come together to develop accessibility standards that would work for everyone. Once accessibility standards are developed, the Government of Canada would adopt them into regulations to make them law. Having regulations based on standards rather than enacting regulations directly in the proposed act would ensure that rules could be changed more fluidly over time to reflect new advances and best practices.
We want to make the Canadian accessibility standards development organization available to the provinces and territories, and even other countries, so that they can create and adopt standards in their respective jurisdictions. We want to show that Canada can be a world leader in accessibility and that we are prepared to work as a team to accomplish that goal.
The accessibility commissioner within the Canadian Human Rights Commission would be responsible for complaints, compliance and enforcement measures in areas other than those currently regulated. Finally, the chief accessibility officer would serve the important role of systemic monitoring and oversight. Responsible for producing a report each year, the chief accessibility officer would be able to identify trends and emerging issues across all agencies and areas of government.
We expect that CASDO, the accessibility commissioner, and the chief accessibility officer would be up and running within 12 months of the legislation's coming into force. We also plan that the first set of regulations under the legislation would come into force in 2020-21.
The significant and sustained culture change on accessibility that we need depends on getting everyone involved.
Here I would like to recognize the important testimony, debates and discussions that took place in committee. I am happy that the discussions initiated on the accessible Canada consultations continued throughout the parliamentary process.
Since the introduction of Bill C-81 in Parliament back in June, we have received over 120 proposals for amendments. Throughout this process, we have heard from dedicated community activists, experts and industry leaders. Each brought unique and thought-provoking perspectives about their concerns and wishes for Bill C-81.
Bill Adair of the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance spoke inspiring words about the disability community's perspectives during his committee testimony. Bill said:
We are counting on you to make changes that will have a significant impact on our lives. This is a huge responsibility. We've opened up, we've advised and we've taken a lot of time to present the right recommendations. Listen to us. This is your opportunity to be the change.
I am very eager to see Bill C-81 pass so that we can get to work on advancing the accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canada. I am also aware that there is a clear and sincere desire to move this bill quickly, and we will need everyone in the House to collaborate to get this proposed legislation through. Accessibility clearly transcends partisanship and clearly transcends any one government.
The changes made to Bill C-81 in committee advanced the vision we had for the law. The suggestions of stakeholders were incorporated into the bill in a spirit of collaboration and co-operation, the same spirit that has guided the evolution of the bill to date.
The testimony from witnesses and written submissions informed the 74 amendments accepted at committee. I am supportive of the changes not only because they came from the community, but also because I believe they have made this good legislation into great legislation.
I would like to highlight four key changes that were made at committee to strengthen Bill C-81.
First, the current purpose clause was amended to add communication as a priority area. We heard compelling testimony in committee that spoke to the impact of barriers to communication, particularly for persons with communication and language disabilities. This amendment prioritizes the barriers experienced by people with communication and language disabilities that can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities.
By making communication a priority in and of itself, we can guarantee a consistent, harmonized approach to addressing the barriers to accessibility faced by people with communication disabilities in every federally regulated sector.
Second, while legislation applies to federally regulated entities, we know that achieving a barrier-free Canada means that accessibility needs to extend beyond federal jurisdiction. Accessibility is an area of shared federal, provincial and territorial responsibility, and realizing a truly accessible Canada would require working with our provincial and territorial partners. Stakeholders have echoed the sentiment, stressing the need for collaboration to harmonize accessibility practices across the country and the importance of making sure that the minister responsible for these are required to work with provinces and territories.
Third, the disability community has made it very clear that accessibility is everybody's responsibility. The community asked for increased accountability and transparency on exemptions. Like stakeholders, I agree that exemptions should never provide a loophole from accessibility. This would be counter to the spirit of Bill C-81. That is why I am pleased that Bill C-81 has now been changed in two key areas: first, by placing a three-year limit on all exemptions; and second, by requiring that the rationale for any exemptions be published. We must bolster transparency in the exemptions process, and in doing so we would ensure that the public and the disability community can hold authorities accountable on exemptions.
I believe that stricter provisions regarding accountability and transparency strengthen Bill C-81.
Finally, I want to make clear that our intent with this bill has always been to hit the ground running on day one. I am pleased to see that an amendment was made to reflect this intent in the bill. It requires all bodies with authority to make regulations under this act to make their first regulations within two years of the act's coming into force. The establishment of these regulations would also trigger the clock for the five-year review of the act by Parliament. This will ensure that the review would begin by 2025. In like manner, there is no end date for accessibility. Accessibility requires consistent, conscious and continual effort. The bill also provides mechanisms that require people with disabilities to be at the table to monitor implementation and support meaningful progress, independent of the government of the day.
We listened to people in the disability community who told us that accessibility in Canada has been long outdated, and I know that we need to take action right away. That is why I want to reiterate that we are strongly committed to ensuring that this bill translates into significant progress in terms of accessibility in a timely manner. We are determined to do what it takes to accomplish that.
These approaches will help to ensure that we are operational as soon as the bill is passed. Encouraging a spirit of collaboration between our government and all people with disabilities was fundamental to informing the development of this bill.
For too long, Canadians with disabilities have had to fight on their own when it came to advancing their rights. By bringing in new measures to improve accessibility, with a focus on accountability and transparency, we are moving toward a new culture of accessibility. The accessible Canada act would work to put an end to the practice of exclusion. With Bill C-81, we can have a system where our institutions, not individuals, are responsible for enabling change. We can move on from the principle of “nothing about us without us” to simply “nothing without us,” because everything is about us.
As Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, and as a person with a disability, I could not but I know that with this proposed legislation, our goal of building a Canada without barriers, where people with disabilities participate fully and equally in their communities, is within reach.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2018-06-12 18:13 [p.20764]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to speak to Bill C-344, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act.
This private member's bill reminds me of a proverb, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. The saying is thought to have originated with St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote in 1150, “Hell is full of good wishes or desires.” An earlier saying occurs in Virgil's Aeneid. He wrote, “facilis descensus Averno” or “the descent into hell is easy.” This phrase has been used in the writings of Brontë, Lord Byron, Samuel Johnson, and Kierkegaard. For my NDP colleagues, Karl Marx used it in his writings. Even Ozzy Osbourne used it in his song Tonight and now we have it in Hansard.
I am sure the bill's author was well intended with this legislation. Who would not want a community benefit from government infrastructure or spending? In a way it is redundant. I want to read the definition as they have it listed: “For the purposes of this section, community benefit means a social, economic or environmental benefit that a community derives from a construction, maintenance or repair project, and includes job creation and training opportunities”, etc.
The very fact that government money is being spent in a community is obviously an economic benefit. The very fact maintenance or repair work is being done means that it is a benefit to the community. Government by its very nature does many things incorrectly but I am sure the government is not out there breaking up infrastructure, putting potholes in the road, or wrecking bridges with their spending.
Let us look at the two main problems of this legislation. Let me mention proposed subsection 20.1(2), under “Community benefit—requirement”:
The Minister may, before awarding a contract for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, require bidders on the proposal to provide information on the community benefits to be derived from the project.
It does not state the minister “will” or the minister “must” or the minister under these circumstances does it. It states “may”. Why would we allow a minister to interfere when there is no criteria? Why would we give a minister the power to decide when he or she wishes to require the community benefits? Why would we allow this?
Here is a good reason not to. Two words that we are hearing in the House right now are “clam scam”. The Minister of Fisheries is being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner. The finance minister has also been investigated as has the Prime Minister. The member for Calgary Centre has been investigated for using office resources for his father's municipal election, and the member for Brampton East was investigated for the scandal in India.
Let me get back to “clam scam”. The Minister of Fisheries interfered with the awarding of a very lucrative contract to a company owned by a brother of a sitting MP, and a former MP is on the leadership team of that company, as is a member of his family.
Here we are allowing a minister to interfere at will for no defined reason in awarding a government contract. I wonder if the fisheries minister is going to stand up and claim community benefits as an excuse for directing a contract to be awarded to a Liberal family member.
Here is another way we are on the path of good intentions taking us somewhere rather warmer and muggier than Ottawa in the summer. Under "Report to Minister”, the bill states, “A contracting party shall, upon request by the Minister, provide the Minister with an assessment as to whether community benefits have derived from the project.”
Again, there is no metrics attached at all here. There is no trigger for the minister to suddenly demand more work to be added to the contractor. Why is this a problem? It is the added burden of uncertainty for our contractors, the added burden of red tape. Why is this important? We are studying the effects of the government's procurement process on small and medium enterprises right now in the operations and estimates committee, also known as OGGO.
We have heard again and again from witnesses, from indigenous businesses, small businesses led by women, regular everyday businesses, that they are drowning under red tape, that the way the government sets up its procurement process excludes a large portion of our small and medium enterprises that just do not have the money to jump through all the hoops that the government requires for bidding on its contracts. They also say the same thing. The red tape and the bidding process makes it difficult and costly to participate, yet here we have a bill that will add random ministerial interference and random uncertainty.
This is what the procurement ombudsman has to say about our current process. This is from his annual report, “Reviews of supplier complaints”. One of the complaints is, “The methodology used for calculating the bid did not reflect the true scope of the project”. However, here we have, under Bill C-344, that the minister “may” decide to change the bidding requirements, not “will” but “may” at his or her whim.
Another complaint is, “The [system] used to evaluate bids had a negative impact on the Complainant's bid”. Again, we could have a bidder being required to submit information on undefined community benefits. What if someone puts through the community benefit as “I am hiring two extra people” but the minister decides that the point system is going to be “I want the community benefit to show a park added”? The uncertainty of the bill will hurt small and medium enterprises.
Another complaint is, “The federal organization did not provide enough time for the supplier to prepare and submit a bid”. Here we could have a person bidding on who has a small company and just enough resources to bid, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, the minister requires them to provide community benefit information, barring them from bidding.
“There was an inappropriate allocation of points regarding the scoring of a rated criterion”. We often use the point system for how we are awarding the bids. Sometimes it is based on low cost. Sometimes it is based on costs plus the amount of indigenous benefits. Sometimes it is costs plus work experience. This adds a completely unknown factor in.
These are all items brought up by the procurement ombudsman, and there are many more.
We had a visit from a parliamentary group from Vietnam to the OGGO committee. This committee that came and visited us from Vietnam was its version of the operations and estimates committee. We were chatting through interpreters, and one of them asked me if we had ever passed legislation without considering the cost on taxpayers because they had not. Members should keep in mind that Vietnam is a communist country. They were dumbfounded that we would be considering a law before we measured the impact on taxpayers. Can members imagine that a communist Vietnam is more concerned about our taxpayers than the current Liberal government?
We would think that surely the government would take a look and do a study of what the added costs would be, perhaps emulating what the communist Government of Vietnam would do. We did an ATIP request and asked the government if it studied the issue. We were told, “I regret to inform you that a search of the records under the control of ESDC has revealed that no records exist in response to your request.” Therefore, the official version is that the government did not study it.
We had the minister of procurement, PSPC, at committee. We asked her repeatedly, and her deputy, if they had studied the effects of Bill C-344 with respect to added costs to taxpayers, or added costs or difficulties with respect to the people bidding. Would it add costs? How it is going to affect small business people? How will it affect taxpayers? The deputy minister told us, with respect to Bill C-344, that it was merely info gathering.
Here we have a private member's bill trying to change how we actually procure from small businesses, which we know is a mess. It is bad enough that we have actually spent about three months studying the issue in operations. Here we have a bill that will allow the government, the minister, to interfere at will without any metrics on why. Then we have her deputy minister tell us that it was merely info gathering.
Why would we need a bill for info gathering? If it is just a bill for info gathering, why would we add this burden onto our small and medium enterprises, why are there added costs, and why would we even need this bill at all?
View Erin Weir Profile
View Erin Weir Profile
2017-02-13 16:24 [p.8861]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Drummond.
My ears were burning during the speech of my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, because he spoke about members of the House objecting to CETA based on the investor-state provisions. Having given several speeches to that effect, I thought it was a good opportunity to engage with the arguments that he brought forward.
The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan essentially made two arguments as to why investor-state provisions are okay. He said that we need to have some sort of adjudication of the provisions of trade agreements. He also said that we live in a society with rule of law, where individuals and businesses can sue the government, can take the government to court. At some level I actually agree with both of those statements, but I do not think either one of them supports the kind of investor-state provisions that we see in CETA and a number of other trade deals.
If we talk about the need to have some sort of adjudication process to enforce the provisions in trade agreements, that is very true. Almost all provisions of CETA are subject to a government-to-government dispute resolution system, and it would be entirely reasonable to have the investment provisions subject to that same type of dispute resolution where, if investors felt that their rights had been breached, they would convince the government they had a legitimate case, and the government would bring that case forward. That is how every other aspect of the deal works.
What is objectionable about the investor-state provisions is they set up an entirely separate process of dispute resolution just for investors. They set up an entirely separate tribunal process that is available only to financiers and property owners, not other parties that might have concerns or complaints or issues under the agreement. What this leads to is a lot of frivolous cases being brought forward under investor-state provisions, because there is no need for investors to even convince their own government that they have a reasonable case that is worth bringing forward. They can bring forward a case to kind of try their luck before the tribunal. They can bring forward a case just to harass a foreign government and try to push back on its democratic laws, regulations, and policies. The problem is not with having some sort of enforcement process; the problem is with setting up this entirely separate and much more powerful enforcement process that is available only to investors.
The next argument we heard from the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan was about the rule of law and how, in our current society, individuals and businesses can already take the government to court. Exactly, so why is it that we need to set up this entirely separate process for investment disputes under this agreement? There are functioning court systems in both Canada and the European Union. I think members would agree that both jurisdictions have legitimate judiciaries. Therefore, how does the existence of rule of law justify creating some sort of entirely separate process?
The original justification for investor-state provisions in NAFTA was that American and Canadian investors were suspicious of the Mexican judicial system and did not have confidence in the Mexican courts. Perhaps that was fair enough, but I really do not see how we would have the same sort of doubts or lack of confidence in the European judicial system. We really have not heard an answer as to why we need this special set of investor-state provisions in CETA.
To illustrate what I am saying about frivolous cases coming forward when we empower investors to directly bring these complaints without even having to clear them through their own governments, it is worth reviewing some of the obnoxious chapter 11 cases that have come forward under NAFTA.
We have the Ethyl Corporation case, where an American company was selling a gasoline additive that had actually already been banned in the United States. The Canadian government tried to ban it as well and Ethyl successfully challenged the Canadian government under NAFTA for lost profits, got $13 million U.S., and had the Canadian government repeal that ban.
There was the AbitibiBowater case where that company shut down its last pulp and paper mill in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The provincial government reclaimed water rights that it had given to AbitibiBowater to operate the mills, but then the company challenged Canada under NAFTA for the loss of its water rights, which it was no longer even using for the purpose they were intended. Well, the previous Conservative government paid AbitibiBowater $130 million to withdraw that NAFTA chapter 11 claim.
We have the current case of Lone Pine Resources. Like AbitibiBowater, it is basically a Canadian company that has registered itself in the United States. It has launched a challenge under NAFTA over a ban on fracking in the province of Quebec depriving it of potential business opportunities. It is claiming some $250 million from our country.
Members can see that these investor-state provisions make it very easy for investors to come forward with almost frivolous cases just to see if they can get a favourable decision, just to sort of intimidate governments into paying them off. We do not want to replicate and amplify this under CETA.
Finally, I would point out that these investor-state provisions are actually having a pernicious effect on domestic politics in our own country. We are starting to see this in the Conservative leadership race where two of the contenders, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle and the member for Beauce, are proposing to entrench private property rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Let us consider the arguments that the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston made in endorsing this radical libertarian idea. He said:
The lack of constitutional protection for the private property rights of Canadians means that the rights of Canadians can be treated as second-class under NAFTA. Canadians deserve the same property rights that foreign companies enjoy in Canada....
We see that the presence of these investor-state provisions in free trade agreements is causing this proposal to entrench property rights in the Constitution. Let us consider some of the consequences of that. We have heard from the Conservatives a lot of rhetoric in favour of pipelines, but the reality is that the construction of pipelines, railroads, or highways depends almost all the time on the government expropriating some of the land along the route. If every single landowner along the route had a constitutionally enshrined veto, no pipelines, railroads, or highways would ever get built. Therefore, I would encourage the Conservatives to think through the implications of enshrining property rights in the Constitution before they get too excited about the idea, and before their leadership candidates trip over each other too much in trying to be the most libertarian.
We have seen that the investor-state provisions of free trade agreements, including CETA, are not necessary, given that the agreements have a much more sensible government-to-government dispute resolution process already, and given that Canada and Europe already have functioning court systems. There have been many cautionary examples under NAFTA of frivolous cases coming forward with the Canadian government having to pay outrageous amounts of money based on very strange claims. Finally, we see that these investor-state provisions are having a corrupting influence on the political philosophy of our official opposition and are leading the Conservatives down this path of extreme libertarian ideas.
For all of those reasons, I am pleased to speak and vote against this bill.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2016-11-18 10:06 [p.6915]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for that.
I would like to use some of my time to respond to a persistent criticism of the bill. That is that it is redundant, unnecessary, and merely symbolic. Members raised this issue during second reading debate. They have argued that the bill is not necessary, because our federal discrimination law already provides trans people with enough protection. I acknowledge the perspectives of my fellow parliamentarians, but I believe that these concerns can be answered and that the bill is indeed necessary.
It was pointed out that under the current Canadian Human Rights Act, commonly called the CHRA, trans people may bring discrimination complaints using the ground of sex.
It is true that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has interpreted the existing ground of sex to cover some complaints brought by trans individuals alleging discrimination, but a person must be quite familiar with the case law and the workings of the CHRA system to know that this protection is even available. Canadians should be able to turn to our laws and see their rights and obligations spelled out clearly. We cannot expect trans people who feel they have been discriminated against to become experts in statutory interpretation just to advocate for their basic rights.
The CHRA system was originally designed to be a user-friendly, inexpensive, and accessible system. We can further improve access to justice for Canadians by ensuring that rights and obligations are spelled out clearly in the CHRA.
What is more, employers and service providers must also be aware of their obligations under the law. They too should be able to look at the CHRA and understand what is required of them. They should be able to understand what kinds of workplace accommodations they must provide to their employees. This area of the law is just emerging. Bill C-16 would serve the important function of clarifying and codifying it.
These are practical results, not mere symbolism. When similar amendments were made in provincial human rights codes, human rights agencies received inquiries from the public creating new opportunities to inform people about their rights and obligations.
Ontario's Human Rights Legal Support Centre reported an increase in inquiries about gender identity and expression, and there are similar reports from other provinces. After gender identity and expression were added to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Human Rights Commission reported a growing awareness that discriminating on these grounds is against the law. Commissions have confirmed that explicitly listing these grounds supports their mandate to inform the public of their rights and obligations.
We have also seen legal education respond to amendments such as these. Bulletins, newsletters, and textbooks are sent out and updated to account for statutory amendments. Training sessions and conferences are held to inform legal professionals and others of the new provisions.
That has been the experience elsewhere. We should expect the same when this bill is enacted. These are some of the tangible effects we hope to achieve with the bill. They are results, and parliamentarians have the ability and the responsibility to set them in motion.
I turn now to another reason for the bill: it would amend the Criminal Code to respond to the risk of violence and harm faced by trans individuals on an all too frequent basis.
For a better sense of these risks, I would refer the House to the Trans Pulse project, a research study of social determinants of health among trans people in the province of Ontario. Data for the Trans Pulse project came from focus groups conducted in three Ontario cities in 2006, with 85 trans community members and four family members, and from a survey in 2009-10 of 433 trans Ontarians age 16 and over.
According to this research, trans individuals are the targets of specifically directed violence. Twenty per cent had been physically or sexually assaulted for being trans, and another 34% had been verbally threatened or harassed but not assaulted. Many do not report these assaults to the police.
Let me now turn to the proposed Criminal Code amendments that are intended to address these risks and harms. First let us consider the aggravated sentencing provision that enables judges to properly recognize and denounce crimes motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate. This is found in section 718.2 of the code.
One of the important purposes of the aggravated sentencing provision is the condemnation of hate crimes. It is about recognizing that some people may be more vulnerable to crime simply because they are identifiable as members of a particular group. That can be because of race, religion, colour, or ethnic origin, to name just a few of the listed grounds. Bill C-16 would add explicit protection for members of the trans community.
We can see, again, that Bill C-16 is more than just a symbolic gesture. Adding the ground of gender identity or expression to the Criminal Code would explicitly condemn this type of hate crime. It would also clearly signal to police and prosecutors that they must be aware of the particular vulnerability of trans individuals.
Bill C-16 would also add gender identity or expression to the hate propaganda offences in the Criminal Code. This is by no means redundant. This amendment would fill a gap in the law. In the criminal context, clarity and certainty is of great importance. Criminal offences are interpreted narrowly. The hate propaganda offences currently protect groups identifiable on the ground of sex and other grounds, but there is no mention of gender identity or expression. We cannot assume that these offences would be interpreted to cover gender identity or expression without the amendment of Bill C-16.
Finally, some members have expressed the view that the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” are too vague and open-ended. It has been suggested that the addition of these grounds would lead to a flood of litigation.
I do not think this concern is warranted. Most provinces and territories now have explicit protection for trans and gender-diverse people in their anti-discrimination statutes. Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island all have gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds in their human rights codes. The codes in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories have the ground of gender identity. In fact, the Northwest Territories has had the ground of gender identity in its act for more than a decade. There has not been a flood of litigation in these provinces and territories.
I have also heard the suggestion that a definition should be added. Most of the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the CHRA do not have definitions. Commissions, tribunals, and courts elaborate the meaning of the grounds in a reasonable way. They clarify through the application of real-life examples, allowing the law to respond in line with its purpose. This does not mean that grounds are indeterminate. It does not mean that people can claim protection on a whim or for frivolous reasons. There are real limits to what any ground can mean, informed by the important purpose of the legislation and the social context in which it is being enacted.
It is time for Parliament to ensure that our laws provide clear and explicit protection where it is now much needed. I urge members to vote in favour of this bill.
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