Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 15, 2016 - 10:00 am

Bill would protect transgender people in Nunavut from discrimination

Amendment would add "gender identity" and "gender expression" to Human Rights Act

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Nunavut's Human Rights Act, upheld by the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal, could soon include transgender-specific language, like gender identity and gender expression. (FILE IMAGE)
Nunavut's Human Rights Act, upheld by the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal, could soon include transgender-specific language, like gender identity and gender expression. (FILE IMAGE)

Nunavut MLAs have given second reading to a bill that aims to protect transgender people from discrimination.

Bill 31, an Act to amend the Human Rights Act, passed its second reading Nov. 8, the last day of the Legislative’s Assembly’s fall sitting.

The bill would amend Nunavut’s existing Human Rights Act to include the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” to provide specific protection for transgender Nunavummiut.

Transgender is a term that encompasses people whose gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex—and may include people who are not exclusively masculine or feminine.

Bill 31 will now be referred to the standing committee on legislation before it goes for a third and final reading.

Should the bill get final assent, Nunavut would become the fourth province or territory to explicitly list both “gender identity” and “gender expression” in their own human rights legislation.

Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan’s human rights codes simply list “gender identity,” while transgender people in Quebec, New Brunswick and Yukon would be protected under the grounds of “sex” by their respective human rights commissions.

The federal government introduced its own legislation last spring, Bill C-16, to ensure Canadians are free to identify themselves and express gender as they wish, free from discrimination and hate.

Nunavut is one of two jurisdictions in Canada—British Columbia is the other—that relies solely on a tribunal for upholding its human rights act.

The Nunavut Human Rights Act was first passed into law in 2003, with the Coral Harbour-based tribunal opening years later.

It’s not clear how this amended legislation, if passed, would change rights for transgender people in Nunavut.

The tribunal has received at least one complaint related to transgender rights, when a Kugluktuk transgender women said the Government of Nunavut cut funding as she was undergoing a sex change.

Her complaint against the GN asked for $275,000 to cover treatment and for emotional pain and suffering.

But the case never went to a hearing, and a final decision was never made public.

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