Gen­der rights ex­tend to re­serves: min­is­ter

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - KRISTY KIRKUP

OT­TAWA — Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­sonRay­bould — a for­mer First Na­tions leader — says a pro­posed govern­ment bill that changes the hu­man rights code will ap­ply on re­serves, adding she hopes in­di­vid­u­als will see that it pro­vides ad­di­tional le­gal pro­tec­tions in the face of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The govern­ment’s bill, dis­cussed at the Se­nate le­gal af­fairs com­mit­tee on Thurs­day, is de­signed to ban dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of gen­der iden­tity or gen­der ex­pres­sion.

Wil­son-Ray­bould’s com­ments come after ex­perts spoke pub­licly to The Cana­dian Press about the link be­tween the in­dige­nous sui­cide cri­sis and dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple who are gay, bi­sex­ual, queer, trans­gen­der or what some na­tives are call­ing two-spirit.

Some in­dige­nous peo­ple, such as Ojib­waCree el­der Ma-Nee Cha­caby, use the term two-spirit to de­scribe car­ry­ing a male and fe­male spirit in their bod­ies at the same time and note the iden­tity was tra­di­tion­ally viewed as sa­cred.

Cha­caby, who came out in 1988, said she was bul­lied and beaten for her iden­tity, both by other First Na­tions peo­ple as well as non­indige­nous peo­ple.

Sen. Mur­ray Sin­clair, who spent six years doc­u­ment­ing Canada’s church-op­er­ated, govern­ment-funded res­i­den­tial school sys­tem, said evan­gel­i­cal foun­da­tions con­tinue to speak out loudly against tra­di­tional val­ues and be­liefs, par­tic­u­larly around two-spir­ited peo­ple.

Sin­clair also noted a un­doubted link be­tween dis­crim­i­na­tion and the men­tal health cri­sis plagu­ing a num­ber of in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

In­di­vid­u­als who feel they can’t fully ex­press them­selves and seek dras­tic mea­sures to al­le­vi­ate their suf­fer­ing un­der­score the pur­pose of the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, Wil­sonRay­bould said.

It is in­cum­bent upon Canada to pro­vide nec­es­sary pro­tec­tions to in­di­vid­u­als so they can be who they are, she added.

“The Cana­dian Hu­man Rights Act ap­plies on re­serve,” she said. “I hope that in­di­vid­u­als that live in in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties on re­serve that are two-spir­ited see this leg­is­la­tion as pro­vid­ing them with the pro­tec­tions to come out and be who they are.”

They should also know they are not alone, Wil­son-Ray­bould said.

“There are other peo­ple that ... iden­tify them them­selves the same way,” she said. “It is OK to be who you are and we as a coun­try need to sup­port the free ex­pres­sion of in­di­vid­u­als.”

The leg­is­la­tion pro­poses mak­ing it il­le­gal to deny some­one a job or to dis­crim­i­nate against them in the work­place on the ba­sis of their gen­der iden­tity or how they out­wardly ex­press it.

It would also amend the Crim­i­nal Code to ex­tend hate speech laws.

Some mem­bers of the up­per cham­ber, in­clud­ing Con­ser­va­tive Sen. Don Plett, have ex­pressed con­cerns about the bill, in­clud­ing the no­tion that the con­cept of gen­der ex­pres­sion should be pro­tected un­der hu­man rights laws.

Prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries have taken the lead on amend­ing hu­man rights laws to rec­og­nize gen­der iden­tity and gen­der ex­pres­sion, Wil­son-Ray­bould said Thurs­day, not­ing the fed­eral govern­ment must fol­low suit.

“There is a ne­ces­sity to en­sure ... that we con­tinue to have this dis­cus­sion on a na­tional level, to con­tinue to have this dis­cus­sion be­tween and among par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to en­sure that peo­ple un­der­stand the pur­pose of this leg­is­la­tion,” she said.

“I feel con­fi­dent in this place and time that this is some­thing that will move for­ward.”

ADRIAN WYLD, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Wil­son-Ray­bould. Gives no­tice to re­serves: rights ap­ply there, too.

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