Canada is set to become one of the first North American nations to provide antidiscrimination protections for transgender citizens. But for transgender Americans, Canadian bill C-16’s passing is bittersweet; it’s a sign that the U.S. is falling behind to its neighbor to the north.
C-16 serves as an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code, outlawing discrimination based on gender identity, expression, and trans status in federally regulated industries across Canada. That means trans discrimination is officially barred in a wide range of fields, from political office to the military.
C-16 also recognizes anti-transgender violence as a hate crime throughout the nation, requiring judges to “consider motivation by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity and expression as aggravating factors” during sentencing hearings. Previously, anti-trans violence was not categorized as a hate crime.
It’s been a long journey through Parliament for C-16. The bill previously passed twice in the House of Commons, but amid conservative senators’ concerns, C-16 faced several delays before earning a final vote in the Senate. With C-16 passing in a vote of 67 to 11, the bill has been officially adopted by the Senate, thus setting the bill to receive royal assent and become law next week.
For many transgender Americans, C-16 is a sign that North America is moving toward trans acceptance. But it’s also a stark reminder of the lack of trans progress under the United States’ more conservative Congressional representatives. As the U.S.’s trans activists cheer on Canada’s major LGBTQ win, many are also hoping that a bill similar in style to C-16 will pass through Congress.
Canada voting on fed protections for trans folk is amazing. The U.S. can't even get a vote to recognize us as human. #C16— Stray Adult™ (@SeansGengar) June 15, 2017
The Equality Act was reintroduced in Congress earlier this year, granting major antidiscrimination protections for gay, queer, and trans citizens across the U.S. But LGBTQ activists fear the act will stagnate as conservative representatives and senators continue to hold control over Congress.